Chettinad is a foodie’s playground first, a tourist place later. Chettinad cuisine of Tamil Nadu has a sense of freshness, feistiness and twisted spices, which is what makes it so special. It also carries a sense of pride and is sacred to the Nattukotai Chettiars, also known as Nagarathars, originating from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. Although it is originally and predominantly vegetarian, the cuisine has morphed into something new and unexpected as the years rolled by.
Roots of the Chettinad cuisine:
Since the Chettiars were originally Tamil Brahmins, the food was majorly vegetarian in nature. Sea-food found a way on the Chettinad cuisine table due to the proximity of the Chettiars to the seashore, which later made way for other non-vegetarian options like chicken, rabbit and turkey. Now, some of the most popular dishes from the Chettinad cuisine are non-vegetarian.
The Chettinad Flavor Palette:
The Chettinad folks love how every dish from their menu crackles on the tongue before releasing its flavour. The go-to spice combo for any Chettinad dish includes fenugreek, clove, fennel, bay leaf, turmeric and cumin. Star anise, cloves, cardamoms and other dried flower pods play a distinctive role. Tomato and tamarind are responsible for tangy gravies. These freshly-ground ingredients are responsible for that spicy, redolent aroma that wafts in the room. All dishes revolve around this flavour palette rigorously.
The Chettinad serving style:
Your main course will always be served atop a banana leaf, with pickles, papads, buttermilk and rice always faithfully by its side. Did you know that Chettiars like to have their dishes served in odd numbers of seven or nine? They also have a meticulous position on the plate designated for each dish. Chettinad cuisine and its ways anything but regular, and that’s the most beautiful part of it all!
A few dishes in the Chettinad cuisine:
· Vendakai Varuval
· Vazhaipoo Kuzhambu
· Cabbage and Carrot Poriyal
· Chettinad Chicken