Tamil Vegetarian Cooking

Dinner curry image by Rose from Fotolia.com

Vegetarians often embrace the culture and cuisine of India. It is estimated that a quarter of the population of India is vegetarian. Therefore, Indian cuisine is largely based around rice, legumes and spices, all vegetarian-friendly foods. Dishes and flavors vary throughout India. Northern Indian cuisine has been more strongly influenced by foreign foods, whereas southern Indian cuisine remains truer to its traditional roots. Tamil Nadu is one of India's 28 states. The ethnic and linguistic Tamil region is located in southern India and boasts a distinct, traditional Indian cuisine. The staple foods in Tamil are vegetarian.

Staples of Tamil Cooking

Most Tamil foods consist of rice, lentils and legumes. Traditionally, Tamil cooking has an extensive preparation and cooking process that blends the right spices together to bring out the best flavor. South Indian food is generally spicy and colorful. Rice may be prepared in a variety of ways, and often varies depending on the food the rice will be served with. Common types of rice in Tamil cooking include fried rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice and egg rice.

Main Entrees

Curries are among the most popular entrees in Tamil. The curries produced in Tamil vary greatly from "westernized" curries found in other countries, according to Tamil residents. Curries in Tamil often consist of rice, vegetables and spices. The curry flavor is created by blending spices, often including curry leaves, coriander, mustard seeds, pepper, cumin, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom.

Sambar is another dish common to southern India. Sambar is a broth made from tamarind and toovar dal, a legume. Vegetables such as okra, pumpkins, potatoes and tomatoes are cooked in the broth. Coriander seeds, chillies and lentils are also ground up to make a Sambar powder that is cooked with the vegetables. When complete, the Sambar has the consistency of a vegetable stew.

Side Dishes

Poriyal is a Tamil dish made by frying vegetables in a masala spice mixture. It often accompanies a main entree. Naan and roti bread are two bread staples served with meals. Naan bread is a flat bread popular throughout India, although it's more commonly consumed in northern India. Naan bread is cooked in a clay oven and resembles pita bread but is much lighter. Roti is another bread popular in Tamil cooking. Roti bread is an unleavened flat bread that is much thinner than naan bread.

Eating Etiquette

Tamil food is served on a banana leaf. It is believed that the banana leaf has medicinal and nutritional properties that transfer to the food. It is also tradition for individuals to eat a meal sitting on the floor, and consume the food with their right hands. After the meal, it is proper etiquette for an individual to fold the banana leaf over and wash his or her hands.

International Influence

Indian food is popular throughout the world, and it is usually easy to find an Indian restaurant if you're in a major city. Many English words have come from Tamil culinary terms. The popular term "curry" comes from the Tamil word "kari," which means sauce. The English word "mango" is derived from the Tamil word "maangaai."