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 The Traditional Way Of Serving a South Indian Meal

  Last Updated : Oct 26,2018

The Traditional Way Of Serving A South Indian Meal

The holistic South Indian meal experience is not just about cooking and eating – because, one of the salient features of South Indian cuisine is the importance paid to an intermediary step, namely, serving… with love and care. In fact, if you pre-serve all the dishes of a South Indian meal on a plate and place it in front of an orthodox South Indian, he or she will feel very offended and ask if you are serving them a ‘railway meal’!

Food is an important part of South Indian culture and there are guidelines for every aspect of it – right up to how the food should be served and of course, the unsaid rules about how the served food is to be consumed. It is good to follow these guidelines because they ensure that you reap every drop of the satisfaction that comes out of cooking a good meal and watching loved ones savour it!

A traditional South Indian meal is typically served on a freshly plucked banana leaf or “vazha ilai”. The sappad or food that is served on a banana leaf (even the size of the leaf varies from one community to another) is displayed like an identity card. One look and a guest will know the community, the status, the exact wealth of the family, and from where they originate. Normally, the required size of the leaf starting from the tapering (narrow) end of the leaf is cut, washed and used for lunch. (The rest of the leaf may be cut into required sizes and used for “tiffin” or other lighter meals, but normally, a leaf without the tapering end is not used for serving the main meal, especially during auspicious occasions.) The leaf is placed before the diner such that the tapering end of the leaf is on the left hand side.

First, a drop of the payasam is placed on the right side of the leaf (when seen from the diner’s side). Thereafter, the food is served on the leaf starting from the pacchadi (raita) Doodhi Pachadi which is served on the top right corner. This is followed by the curries Avial and then the pickles Ginger Pachdi, along the top of the leaf. On the left hand side, one has the heavier accessories like vada Dal Vada, sweets Pineapple Sheera, mixed rice ( Lemon Rice, Coconut Rice etc.) etc. Then, the main course begins with the serving of dal Kerala Parippu, rice and ghee, with Sambhar and Rasam. And then, the payasam Moong Dal Payasam is served in a cup made of dried banana leaves or on the main leaf itself, followed by Curd Rice and buttermilk.

After finishing the meal, relatives and friends normally gather outside the dining hall or in the front yard, and chat over a slight digestion-aiding snack of bananas and betel leaves and nuts.

Well, you guessed it right… who can resist a refreshing siesta after such a heavy meal!

the traditional way of serving a south indian meal

 by Tarla Dalal
Pachadis are the South Indian equivalent of raita, and commonly there are two types of this accompaniment. The ones made with tamarind as the base are usually spicy, while the ones made with curds as the base are are normally bland. However, here is a unique Doodhi Pachadi, made with cooling bottle gourd and curds, perked up with myriad chat-pata ingredients like ginger, green chillies and onions too. A traditional, aromatic tempering offers the perfect finishing touch to this creative pachadi, making it a true tongue-tickler. Serve it fresh, before it becomes watery, with a full-fledged South Indian meal, or as a simple Accompaniments to Parathas or mixed rice dishes like Coconut Rice or Tomato Rice Enjoy how to make Doodhi Pachadi recipe with detailed step by step photos.
 by Tarla Dalal
This mouth-watering South Indian curry is nothing short of a delicacy with its unusual combination of veggies, flavoured aesthetically with a mildly-spiced coconut paste. Do not chop the veggies too finely when making Avial, because the veggies should retain their shape and vibrant colour after cooking. This makes the Avial look very appetizing! Pleasing to the palate, with the mellow flavour of coconut and fresh curds, Avial can be enjoyed with Jowar Pyaz ki Roti instead of the plain wheat flour rotis .
Ginger Pachdi is an appetizing South Indian accompaniment that combines the pungency of ginger with the tanginess of tamarind and the rustic sweetness of jaggery. Being sweet, sour and spicy, this chutney-like accompaniment is sure to make you eat an idli or dosa more than you usually do! Once the chutney is cooked, pour the tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chillies over it. Do not add it earlier while cooking, because adding it in the end retains the crispness of the mustard seeds and curry leaves, improving the mouth-feel and aroma of the Ginger Pachdi. You can make a batch of this chutney and keep it for 4-5 days. You might also like to try other South Indian accompaniments like Mysore Chutney and Malgapodi .
You will love the exciting crispness of these delectable Dal Vadas. Made with a coarse paste of soaked chana dal perked up with onions, ginger paste and the whole traditional team of flavour enhancers, these vadas have a unique, rustic texture and warm, hearty flavour that will strike a chord with most people. Take care to deep-fry these vadas on a medium flame. Otherwise, they will quickly turn brown outside before they get cooked inside. These deep fried vadas are sure to satiate you in a tasteful way, have them for Evening Tea Snacks accompained with Green Chutney or Tomato Coconut Chutney .
 by Tarla Dalal
There are many reasons people steer away from making sweets at home, the top two being the time taken to make these sweets and the risk of not getting it right! Here is a tongue-tickling dessert that overrides both fears. This exciting Pineapple Sheera sends your taste buds into a tizzy with its tangy flavour and rich consistency, while still being very easy to prepare and ready to be served within minutes!
 by Tarla Dalal
Rice is the much-loved staple food of South Indians. The day begins and ends with steaming hot rice, which is enjoyed in different ways. In a traditional meal, the rice is relished with soupy rasam or spicy sambhar. Or, the rice is mixed with tempering and flavouring ingredients to make delectable preparations like Tamarind Rice Peanut Rice or Lemon Rice. Such one-dish rice meals are called as variety rice, mixed rice or rice bhaat in South India. They make a convenient meal on a busy day, and are just perfect to carry in the lunch dabba as they taste awesome even after a couple of hours. Here is an authentic recipe for Lemon Rice, a traditional rice dish with a refreshing citrusy flavour. It is also made as part of the many-course traditional South Indian meal. Check out our article on how to serve a traditional South Indian meal. Enjoy how to make Lemon Rice recipe with detailed step by step photos and video.
Simple yet rich, the Kerala Parippu is something beyond explanation – an experience to be savoured. This authentic Kerala dal recipe uses common, everyday ingredients, yet it is addictively tasty when had with freshly steamed rice ! Cooked moong dal is flavoured with a paste of coconut and onions, and a traditional tempering made in coconut oil. This gives the Kerala Parippu an energetic flavour and enticing aroma. Nonetheless it is very easy to make, and can easily be included in your everyday cooking plans. You can also try making the Kadala Curry and Bhindi Onion Stir-Fry .
 by Tarla Dalal
Like idlis and dosas, Sambhar is also an all-time favourite that is almost synonymous with South Indian food! From the smallest roadside hotel to the classiest Indian restaurants around the globe, ‘idli, Vada, Sambhar’ is a very popular breakfast combo! So, here is how to make the perfect Sambhar to match the perfect Idlis / Dosas / Appe . Loaded with vegetables and dal, this flavourful side-dish is very sumptuous and tasty, leaving no doubt about why it is so popular. You can relish it not just with the innumerable South Indian snacks and Breakfast dishes, but also with a plain bowl of hot rice topped with a dollop of ghee or laced with til oil. The best part about Sambhar is that, while it tastes best when hot, it is quite enjoyable even after a few hours, so it can be carried to work, or prepared in advance on a busy day.
There is no place like home, and nothing as soothing as homemade food! In short, a south Indian would say, “Ah, Rasam!” The homeliest of South Indian recipes, Rasam is a thin lentil soup perked up with tamarind pulp and chopped tomatoes, a traditional spice powder, and a simple seasoning of mustard seeds and curry leaves. The aroma of fresh roasted spices that surges out the pot as soon as the seasoning is added, is enough to draw everybody to the table. Enjoy rasam like a soup or have it with Medu Vada , Idli or Rice .
South Indian festival menus are just not complete without Moong Dal Payasam. Considered as one of the most auspicious offerings to God, it is made during most pujas, and is served as the first item on the plantain leaf during a traditional meal. Moong Dal (Pasi Paruppu) Payasam is made by sweetening moong dal mash with jaggery. The mixture is thinned with coconut milk and flavoured with cardamom and other spices. Dry roasting the dal before cooking gives a rich aroma to the payasam, while coconut milk gives it a pleasant flavour. Enjoy this payasam warm. You can also try other payasams like Paal Payasam , Almond Payasam , Semiyan Payasam and Carrot and Cashewnut Payasam .
In South India, the Kheer and mithai are served at the start of a meal. It is the Curd Rice that comes at the end, as a flavourful and soothing finish to a traditional spread. At the same time, it is also a comforting one-dish meal that is satiating and refreshing, with its cool flavour and homely aroma. Many people consider Curd Rice to be the best dish to carry along to school, work or travel. Easy to make, this wholesome dish is made by mixing rice with curds and tempering it with mustard and green chillies. Allow the rice to cool slightly before adding the curds, to avoid the curds from splitting. Plain curd rice can be had accompanied with Lemon Pickle or Mango Pickle. Enjoy how to make Curd Rice recipe with detailed step by step photos and video below.
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