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Spicy South – The Cuisine of South India

Spicy South – The Cuisine of South India

Now and then it has been emphasized that India is the land of diversity and quite rightly so. It is inhabited by people following different religions, speaking different languages, having different customs and eating different kinds of food. Yes, India is diverse one the basis of food as each part has its own unique culinary culture.


The vast expanse of land in the south comprising of the four states namely Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have added a new culinary picture to the vast collage of the cuisine of India. The cuisine of these states is referred to as the South Indian Cuisine.

The South Indian cuisine reflects and climate and geography of the region. All the states of the south are coastal and have a hot and humid climate. The abundant rainfall results in good production of rice, vegetables and fruits. Andhra Pradesh is known for its largely vegetarian but spicy dishes; however there is abundant sea food in the coastal areas of it. Tamil Nadu has perhaps the spiciest cuisine referred to as the Chettinad cuisine. The style of Malabari cooking originates from Kerala and includes a lot of sea-food. Hyderabad, the home of Nizams has added another flavour to the South Indian cuisine by including dry fruits in all the dishes.

Let us go into the details of this cuisine.


South Indian cuisine is rice based. Rice is combined to various kinds of lentils to prepared dosas, idlis, vadas and uttapams. The rice used in the dishes is basically of three kinds:

  • Long White Grain Rice
  • Short Grain Rice
  • Round Grain Rice


Lentils are also an indispensable part of the preparations. Sambhar is an important preparation, a soup like dish to eat with dosa, wadas and idlis. The other lentil dish is Rasam which is primarily eaten with rice.

Cooking Oils

Coconut oil is synonymous with the cuisine of South India. Vegetable oils like sunflower and even ghee is used sometimes.

Important Spices

The important spices used are curry leaves, mustard, pepper, tamarind and chillies.

Now let us take a tour of this delicious cuisine from state to state.

Andhra Pradesh

The food of Andhra Pradesh is considered to be the spiciest in India. Chilli powder and tamarind are common spices used in the food imparting a tangy flavour to the food. The three regions in Andhra have their own signature dishes following a specific style. The Telengana region employs use of jowar and bajra based bread.  Seafood is more prominent along the Bay of Bengal coastline. Hyderabad, the capital city brings its very own style which is a fusion of the traditional Andhra dishes mixed with the Nizam’s style of cooking. Biryani and Kebabs are the most popular dishes. This style has its origin in the Mughalai style of cooking developed in Awadh. Some of the popular dishes of Andhra are:


  • Hyderabadi Biryani
  • Rawa laddu and Boondi Laddu (Sweets)
  • Thotakaru pappu (pigeon pea stew)

Tamil Nadu

The Tamil cuisine consists of both spicy and non-spicy dishes. Non-vegetarian food is also commonly eaten in the area except some Brahmin castes. Rice is the staple food of the region. Tamil cuisine consists of five categories. Firstly, gravy dishes mixed with rice. The dishes include sambhar, rasam and kadaiyals. Secondly, accompaniments are side dishes such as pickles, papads and poriyals.  Thirdly, standalone snacks such as vadas, bondas, bajjis and soups. Then there is dessert which includes sweet dishes such as payasam and kheer. Lastly, the fast food and light snacks which comprise of idlis, vada , pongal, upma etc. Tamil non-vegetarian meals consist of Biryani and meat gravies etc.


The cuisine is Karnataka varies all over the state. In North Karnataka for instance the staple grains are jowar and bajra. These grains make for the bread while lentils and eggplant are used for preparing various other dishes. A peculiar component of the Karnataka cuisine is the consumption of spicy powders along with a rice course.  In the coastal region of Karnataka seafood, coconut oil and coconut gain prominence. Rice is the staple grain and thus forms a part of every meal. Gravies are called “gassi” and are made up of chicken, fish and meat. Lentils and vegetables are cooked in coconut oil and are garnished with coconut as well. Popular dishes include appemidi,a pickle dish and saaru which is a rasam like preparation and is served with Rice.

The Corgoi cuisine is very different from the rest of the Karnataka and their preparations include the use of pork and meat. Kokum is generally used in their meals. Rice continues to be the staple grain here as well.

In South Karnataka also referred to as the Mysore cuisine the staple grains are ragi and rice. The dishes primarily consist of lentils, saaru and pickles. Curd is a part of every meal.

A famous outlet to relish the cuisine of Karnataka is Udupi hotels.



Most of the food in Kerala is vegetarian. The non-vegetarian food is popular only among the Christian and Muslim communities of the region. However irrespective of the kind of food coconut continues to be an inseparable component of their cuisine. Seafood is popular in the coastal regions.

The popular dishes include:

  • Olan
  • Nenderangai chips
  • Shrimp coconut curry.
  • Thalassery Biryani

So that was all you need to know about the South Indian cuisine. Make sure you feast on some of the dishes mentioned here when you visit any of the southern states of the country.

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