The highly developed and sensitive palates of the Tamilians are well chronicled in the Sangam classics. They believe that food should ideally cater to all the six tastes - bitter, pungent, sweet, salty, sour and astringent.
Tamil Nadu has a wide variety of delicious food both for the vegetarians as well as the non-vegetarians, though most of it is made of grains, lentils, rice and vegetables. Spices are added to give a distinctive taste. Rice has been the staple diet of the Tamilians, an inculcated habit, due to the large-scale cultivation of the crop in the state.
Chettinad cuisine, a speciality in Tamil Nadu, is famous for its hot and spicy non-vegetarian food. A part of the Mudaliar community is non-vegetarians and its cuisine is delightfully spicy without being too hot. Wet masalas are generally used, the main ingredients being fresh coconut paste and ground ginger-garlic.
Grind cumin seeds, peppercorns and ginger to a fine paste. Wash curry leaves and pat them dry. Heat the ghee in a kadai.
Season with mustard seeds, curry leaves, whole red chillies and toovar dal. Mix together cumin paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and add a cup of water to prevent the masalas from scorching.
Cook the masala for two to three minutes. Add three more cups of water and bring to a boil. Add jaggery and tamarind pulp and simmer on slow heat for another four to five minutes. Serve hot.
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