Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Traditional South Indian Meal

I can't remember the last time I was so excited about something. When I saw Cynthia's blog post about this Great Vegan Vegetarian Project, I knew I had to be a part of it. After all, just about everything I cook and post on my food blog, The Singing Chef is vegetarian. If I were to exclude curd/yogurt from an everyday meal of mine and use only vegetable oil instead of clarified butter, all my traditional meals turn vegan too.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to think about which dishes to post on this blog. I only have to think of which category of “vegetarian” to post them under. And I have to remember to take pictures of the food I cook. Most of the time, since I’ve already posted something on my blog, I forget to take a picture. Now that I am part of a new blog, I shall remember to do so.

For the last three weeks, I cooked more traditional food than I did in all the time that we’ve been married. And now I really wish I had taken more pictures for this blog. My debut post for the Great Vegan Vegetarian Project is a simple everyday meal that is prepared in my home. This is something that my mother prepared with amazing regularity and never tired of; even though it was rather alien to the stuff she grew up on. Passed on from my grandmother to my mother, and through me to all of you.

Rice is the staple food of Tamil Nadu, one of India’s four southern states. My father belongs to this state and a fair bit of cooking that I do is representative of his family traditions.

On an average day, our meal would be rice, sambar, rasam, curd, and a vegetable dish. On rare occasions, especially when the sambar was not going to be enough for everyone, my mother would make a chutney like preparation called Thogayal/Thuvayal. I make it pretty often, even when there is more sambar than we can eat over two meals.


One of the weekend meals when my in laws were visiting was this Turnip and Onion Sambar, Tomato Rasam, Brinjal Curry and Onion Chutney. Home made curd to mix with rice is always around to end the meal. The recipes for these dishes are on my blog. The only variation to the sambar was the addition of peeled and cubed turnips and the use of regular onions instead of shallots.

Our first course is to mix hot rice with sambar (a thick lentil soup of sorts with tamarind, vegetables and spices) and eat it with the vegetable preparation on the side. Our second course is to mix some more rice with rasam (a sort of clear soup prepared with the water which is used to cook the lentils). This is also eaten with the vegetable preparation on the side. We end the meal with some rice mixed with curd, eaten with a spicy pickle. On days when the chutney is prepared, our first or second course is rice mixed with the chutney and a little bit of ghee or oil.

These meals usually come together in about an hour (including chopping time), usually less and are proof enough that Indian cooking is not as time consuming as one might think. Here is a similar meal that comes together in 30 minutes. The next time you cook for a vegetarian friend, do remember that there's much more to a vegetarian's life than french fries.



So thrilled to see your first post!

What is the difference between sambar and rasam?


sambar is a thick gravy and rasam is thin like clear soup


Thanks Nirmala.

Cynthia: I'm thrilled myself. I added a paragraph that describes these dishes.


Liked the last line!

  © by 2008 Modified by Cynthia Nelson

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