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South Indian Supper

South Indian Supper

If you like the fragrant stews, rich curries, and nourishing dals of the Indian cuisine familiar to most Americans, then you'll love the lesser-known dishes perfected by cooks in southern India. "South Indian Tamil Brahmin cuisine is mainly vegetarian and is based on the concept that food shapes the personality, mood, and mind," explains Viji Varadarajan, author of Samayal: The Pleasures of South Indian Vegetarian Cooking. "Food is always cooked with a great deal of attention to the balancing of nutrition, flavor, texture, and variety." The spicy dishes on the following pages may require a little sleuthing in a natural foods market or a trip to an Indian grocery store. But once you've assembled the ingredients, the recipes come together quickly and easily—with spectacular results that'll wow any dinner crowd.

Ghee Whiz!
Clarified butter, or ghee, is an Indian cooking staple. Because the milk solids are strained out, it can be kept at room temperature and used for higher-heat cooking than melted butter. Buy it in cans or jars from natural food stores or Indian groceries, or follow these easy steps to make your own.

1. To make 2 cups (32 Tbs.) ghee, melt 1 lb. unsalted butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foam forms on top. Slowly bring melted butter to a boil, making sure it doesn't brown around sides of saucepan.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 to 6 minutes, or until foam disappears, liquid turns golden, and small brown bits begin to appear in bottom of pan.

3. Strain through fine mesh strainer into heat-proof container to remove brown bits. Discard solids, and cool ghee. Store up to 1 month at room temperature.

Set the Scene

• Decorate the table with flowers floating in a bowl of water, an oil lamp or candles, and images of Ganesh or Buddha.

• Serve food in earthenware bowls and platters that contrast the colors of the food. Set out small bowls to hold individual servings of sauces and chutneys. For an authentic meal, you can also serve the food on banana leaves.

• Complement the main dish with basmati rice and prepared pappadams (crisp, wafer-thin bread), and serve hot, sweetened chai and coffee.

• Set out a platter of bananas and mangoes for dessert.

Simple Substitutions
Can't get to an Indian grocery to stock up on ingredients? You can still prepare South Indian recipes by substituting the following for these items:

• Red lentils for urad dal (ivory lentils)
• Gold lentils for toor dal (split pigeon peas)
• Vegetable oil for ghee (clarified butter)
• Any dried red (spicy) chile for red Kashmiri chile
Turbinado or light brown sugar for jaggery
Onion powder for asafetida powder


Comments on this Article

I am very happy to read your articles it?s very useful for me,and I am completely satisfied with your website.All comments and articles are very useful and very good. Your blog is very attention-grabbing. I am loving all of the in turn you are sharing with each one!? <a href="" title="Spices">Spices</a>

Ever since the March 2009 issue where this menu was published arrived at our house, we've been talking with our friends Chris and Leslie about making it for dinner sometime. Well that "sometime" finally arrived and was this past weekend. We made all the recipes, and had a fresh mango for dessert. What a totally delicious meal! A couple comments - It was nice to be able to print the recipes from the website so I didn't have to get the magazine all dirty or fuss with trying to photocopy the magazine pages (I dislike having to flip pages while cooking) I noticed that the Ivory Lentil pancake recipe online did not include the lentils in the ingredient list. Fortunately we were able to get it from the paper magazine - but if you are reading it online and it hasn't yet been corrected, you will need 1/2 cup of ivory lentils. Because we live in rural Maine where only a limited amount of access to international ingredients, I went online about three weeks ahead of time and ordered the special ingredients, which we wanted to use instead of substitutions. I noticed after we were all done that my jar of Jaggery powder was still unopened. I don't actually see Jaggery powder in any of the recipes, but seeing what you listed as a substitution, I wonder if that was supposed to go into the carrot chutney as "sugar". I found lots of great websites to get Indian ingredienct, and chose one where I could get everything so there was just one shipping charge. We used white sugar in the carrot chutney (what I always assume a recipe means unless something different is specified in the ingredient list) - but we just could not bring ourselves to put a full cup of sugar into that amount of carrot. We used about 1/4 cup and it was DELICIOUS - and plenty sweet. The recipes were all pretty easy to prepare, as well. Thanks for a great menu, and a great magazine.

hi i just came accross this site, now. i am so pleased you have included a South_indian meal in your list. i am an active food-blogger and i have recently launched my free ebook on ONAM recipes, based on vegeterian recipes. you are free to check this page of mine here - warm regards abraham and susan

Finally! A great piece of info on South Indian cuisine... Thanks!

Hi,I am sending a south indian vegetarian dish: VANGI BAATH OR EGG PLANT RICE Ingredients: 6 long chinese egg plants light in color 2 onions finely chopped, 1 teaspoon grated ginger 1 teaspoon red chilli powder 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1/2 teaspoon cinamon powder 1 tablespoon coriander powder 2 cloves crushed 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoon cooking oil 1 teaspoon ghee 2 cups basmati rice,cooked Handful of chopped green coriander leaves Preparation: 1. Wash and cut egg plants 2" long,1/2" thick. 2. Cook basmati rice in a rice cooker,1 cup raw rice with 2 cups water ratio. 3. In a skillet put 1 tablespoon oil,little ghee,cumin seeds,turmeric powder,grated ginger,cloves and stir in a medium heat.When the cumin seeds turn brown, add chopped onions,chilli powder,coriander powder cinaman powder and stir well.After onions turn golden brown add the cut egg plants and put the salt,stir well and cover it for 3 minutes to cook,stirring now and then till the egg plants become tender. To this add the cooked basmati rice,cooking oil and stir well the egg plant rice. 4. Garnish with chopped green coriander leaves. 5. Onion raitha: mix finely copped onion,salt with low fat plain yogurt 6. Serve hot vangi baath with onion raitha. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Really Very Good. It is a good piece of information mainly for South Indian Tamil Brahmin family will like it very much