South Indian Dishes: Four South Indian States, Four Food Trails Every Foodie Must Undertake 


Food is a universal way of understanding a place, a culture, a tradition. Sadly, when one think of South India, the only thing they can think of are the South Indian dishes, dosa and idli. However, there is so much more to the delicious food offered by Southern Indian states. So, if you are a traveller who thinks their trip to a city is incomplete without tasting and savouring the local cuisine, this article is just for you.

Southern India is mostly comprised of four major states: Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh

Looking for flavoursome South Indian dishes? Try Beef curry, toddy and other delicious affairs in Kerala

Aptly named God's own country, Kerala is beautiful beyond imagination. Coast, forests, backwaters and hill stations, this state has it all. And with such diverse topography comes a variety of cuisine and dishes, that have the power to tantalise all your taste buds. Coconut, rice, jaggery and Indian spices are the key ingredients in most Keralite dishes. In most traditional food in Kerala, seafood is the hero. Prawns, fishes, scallops and even crabs are almost a daily meal. Apart from exotic seafood, another meat that is available in almost all parts of Kerala is beef. Beef fry, beef curry and beef cutlets are very popular and even available on road side dhabas. Breakfast is mostly appam- made from fermented rice batter and the puttu made from steaming hot rice flour and an authentic vegetarian platter includes, rice, sambar, avial, pachadi, pickle, chips and payasam, served on a banana leaf. Apart from the food, the local drink, toddy is also a staple in most parts of Kerala. Made from the sap of Palm trees, it is said to give you quite a kick.

Some of the most popular restaurants for authentic Kerala food across the state are:

The north cliff in Varkala has a line of restaurants, serving fresh catch every evening. With one of the most picturesque sunsets in India and an elaborate choice of snappers, barracudas and swordfish lie temptingly for you to choose and enjoy! An elaborate dinner in one of the thatchy restaurants is a must-do while in Varkala.

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Varkala Cliff, Varkala, Kerala, India by Aakanksha Magan

Paragon in Kozhikode is one of the most popular joints around. Lunch time here is especially busy and it is quite common for diners to share tables. This is a perfect space for a hearty fill of Kerala or Malabar meal with South Indian dishes like beef ularthiyathu, mutton biryani and kadukka varuval on the menu.

Arul Jyothi has been dishing out both south Indian dishes and Kerala specials for years. One of the most famous vegetarian joints in town, it is particularly packed in the evenings. Piping hot coffee and dosas are perfect for an evening snack here.

Kozhakattais, dosas and chettinad chicken in the coastal towns of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is not just vada and filter coffee. They make the essentials of any food while you are in the state, but honestly, Tamil Nadu has more to offer than you can even imagine. From Coimbatore and Chennai to Madurai and Pondicherry, each and every place in Tamil Nadu boasts an exquisite cuisine that is unique to the place. Chettinad chicken, fish curry, kozhakattais and varieties of dosa are some of the items you'll find on menus across the state. Idli and sambhar is one combination that is available on every highway and city in the state and makes for a delicious breakfast or even a road trip snack. Some other favoured snacks are murukku, a fried delicacy made of rice flour and Urad dal powder and sundal, roasted chickpea chat. Idiyappam is another speciality of the state that is again made with rice flour, threaded into thin noodles and steamed. It can be eaten as a sweet dish with coconut milk or as a savoury dish with mutton/chicken curry. Last but not the least is jigarthanda, a must-try summer drink in Tamil Nadu. A speciality that originated from Madurai, jigardthanda predominantly consists of milk, almond gum, sarsaparilla syrup and sugar.

Some of the most popular restaurants for authentic Tamil food across the state are:

Ajnappar is a global chain, spread out across Tamil Nadu and with presence in Dubai, Singapore and Canada. It is known as the best restaurant to try some authentic Chettinad cuisine. Chicken 65, Mutton Chettinad are the dishes which regarded as the best in Anjappar. The dishes are prepared fresh and served steaming hot.

Photo of Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant Nungambakkam, Tirumurthy Nagar, Nungambakkam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India by Aakanksha Magan

Sulthan Restaurant, Madurai

Madurai loves its parottas and the city’s best parotta is easily the one served at Sulthan. Their kothi (minced) parotta ‘masters’ turn up the decibel levels to attract customers. Equally delicious is their biryani with tender meat and long thin basmati rice.

Murugan Idli Shop serves soft, fluffy idlis and a medley of chutneys and powders as accompaniments. Also has kuzhi paniyarams, a cousin of the idli made on a cast-iron pan. They also have a branch in Singapore.

Tamarind rice, bisi bele bhaath, uppittu and more delicacies of Karnataka

Food in Karnataka is as varied as the different corners of the state. Each region has a special way of preparing food and signature dishes popular through out India. The key ingredients in most of the meals are rice, jowar and raggi. Udupi in Karnataka is believed to be the birthplace of dosa. Kosambari is a salad that is authentically prepared, with different varieties through out the state. Some typically classic Kannada dishes include Bisi bele bath, Ragi rotti, saaru (rassam), idli - vada sambar, neer dosa, Ragi unda, koli saaru (chicken curry - Kannada style), maamsa saaru (Mutton Curry - Kannada style), and Uppittu (upma - Kannada style). The very popular and uber delicious Mysore Masala Dosa also traces its origins back to Mysore in Karnataka. Kesari Bhath and Mysore Pak are among the favourite sweet dishes in Karnataka. And the hilly district of Kodagu is particularly famous for delicious and varied pork dishes, kadumbutt (round balls made up of rice), and spicy meat preparations.

Some of the most popular restaurants for authentic Kannada food across the state are:

This charming restaurant in Malleshwaram is one place that takes their cuisine seriously. Exclusively catering to those who want to taste authentic Kannada food, you’ll find recipes that came right from agrarian Karnataka. And the delicacies are served in the traditional manner-on a banana leaf, completing the ‘authentic’ experience for you. It will also be a good idea for you to check out occasionally if they are holding an organic food festival- something they are wont to do sometimes.

MTR is one of the most popular restaurants in Bangalore and it is worth a visit. Breakfast here has limited options but the idli served with two types of chutney just melts in your mouth. Other than that, for lunch, you get to taste some traditional curries, the kind of which is rarely prepared with such deftness.

Mahesh Prasad is a place you must go if you a typical South Indian dining experience is what you are after. The decor is simple but the food is uber delicious. Their doors are open all day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a nice cup of tea. On this menu, look beyond the usual idlis and dosas and try the Khara Bhath, Vangi bath or Pongal.

Hyderabadi biryani and other delights of Telugu cuisine in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

The three different regions of these two states make for three very distinct type of cuisines. You can find a variety of seafood in coastal Andhra, whereas in Telangana you will find some amazing millet preparations and ragi is a popular ingredient used in the semi-arid region of the states. Andhra food is one of the richest and spiciest food in India with heavy reliance on red chilli in every dish. Rice is also a major ingredient here, resulting in the world famous Hyderabadi biryani. Pappu (kind of a lentil), tomato, gongura (a leafy plant), and tamarind are largely used for cooking curries. Ulava charu, a famous soup made from horse gram and Bommidala Pulusu, a fish stew is a specialty of coastal Andhra Pradesh. Uggani, masala borugulu (a local snack), ponganaalu (wet rice flour fried in oil), and liberal use of carrot, onions and chilis make for the unique cuisine of the semi-arid regions of the state. Attirasaalu (rice-based vada using jaggery), pakam undalu, (a mixture of steamed rice flour, ground nuts, jaggery), Borugu Undalu (a sweet variety made corn of jowar and jaggery) and rava laddu are some of the sweet specialities in Andhra.

Some of the most popular restaurants for authentic Andhra food across the state are:

Bamboo Bay in Vishakhapatnam is not only picturesquely located, it also serves some of the best seafood in the state. Here you will find typical Andhra preparations of prawn, fishes and crabs. The idyllic setting, with a beautiful sunset in the background, and the delicious food by the sea make for a wonderful evening in Vishakhapatnam.

Minerva Coffee Shop is a local gem of Hyderabad, popular amongst tourists and locals. The scrumptious and authentic Indian dishes served here are a delight to the taste buds. Open all day-round from breakfast time to dinner, this casual haunt has one of its major draws in South India’s tiffins, a collective name used to describe an array of inviting snack pastries like the dosas or the idlis.

Bawarchi is often touted as Hyderabad’s finest biryani-serving restaurant. Despite the popularity and the consequent waiting time, the service is exceptional and incredibly swift. Start with some of their delicious Mughlai starters – perhaps the kebabs – and then move on to the biryanis, which are very much worth the wait. Both the chicken and mutton biryanis are well known, and their kheer complements them perfectly as a dessert.

So now you know that there is more to South Indian cuisine than just dosa, however it is still a major component in all the cuisines. Have you enjoyed any of these dishes? Share with us your experience of authentic South Indian cuisine right away!

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