Due in part to the migration of some 2 million Tamils to the west in the second half of the 20 century, South Indian cuisine has become one of the most popular around the world. Still, the food of the Tamil community, often vegetarian, as most people’s introduction to South Indian cuisine, is not necessarily representative of the region as a whole.
Unlike North India in states that rely heavily on dairy and livestock, South Indian cuisine is characterized by the generous use of curry leaves, coconut milk (yes, vegan!), tamarind and black peppercorns. Spread across six states – namely the union territories of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Pondicherry – the recipes are as varied as any other Thin, even dried red and green chillies, coconut and tamarind for a refreshing soup are often present.
The further south you go, the palate changes: curries get thicker, food gets lighter, and the coast tends to use coconut milk more, and—unsurprisingly – Big seafood. Meanwhile, states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are known for their spices, complex flavors and abundance of vegetables. When it comes to South Indian cuisine, variety is definitely not an issue.
Find some of the best dishes from South India below (although there’s plenty more to sample) below to help broaden your culinary horizons.