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Our ethnic cuisine

Taste of ethnicity - Nadar cuisine combines the rich culinary skills and history of the community

When an art lover looks at Michelangelo's David he/she sees not only an exquisite sculpture, but also how the sculptor's association with stone quarries and the muscled labourers has influenced his work. The same can be said of food too. It cannot but be influenced by the personality of the cook. So what happens when a community itself is represented through food? It's just awesome!

Along with mutton, prawn and potato, you get a taste of the tradition and the aspirations of an enterprising community in Tamil Nadu, the Nadars. To start with, a sip of pathanir tells you about the past. The Nadar link to palm tree sap goes right back to their Shanar roots and their traditional occupation of planting palm trees and living off the products.

The man who is showcasing this cuisine, Jacob Aruni, Kongunad food specialist, does not hesitate to acknowledge the contribution of the three housewives, Rani, Vimala and Sigappi, who helped him collate the recipes for the festival. And he has done it in style. The result: Vimalakka kari saalna, Sigappi vazhaipoo saatham and such! Between Vimalakka's and Sigappi' s dishes my taste buds were in a whirl. Finally, the Vazhaipoo rice won the crown by a small margin. Every dish has a distinct personality.

Coming back to Saalna, this ethnic version of stew has more than just mutton in it. It has a generous dose of history too. It's a testimony to the colonial impact on the community, whose fortunes improved in the 19th Century when cotton cultivation was promoted by the British after the American supply stopped, in the semi-arid tracts of interior Tamil Nadu.

This titbit ought to make that already delicious stew irresistible!

Even if you go merely by your nose and tongue, Sigappi kozhi serppu, Sattampillai meen kozhambu, cauliflower kothu idiappam and vengaya serppu will entrance you. Want more? Then there is the seductive Manohari or sautéed potato mash, and vendakkai mayakkal that truly live up to their names.

Seeranis and jaggery based sweets will complete the `mayakkal' job on you, at the end of the dinner. By - MARIEN MATHEW

Regional goes local - Away from academia, a professor chef enters the kitchen to gives an authentic taste of Nadar cuisine (By Paromita Chakrabarti)

Craving for a south Indian meal? Fingering down your takeaway's menu card for spicy chettinad chicken or idli sambar? Wait, you might like to step outdoors to test some local ethnic cuisine from down south, like what Tamil Nadu's coastal community of Nadars has to offer.

The Nadar food can quickly dispel any standard notion you may have about southern food. First, not all of south Indian meals are spicy.

Second, Nadar food, as consumed by the trading community, is generally mild in texture and offers a wholesome range of meat, fish and vegetables.

Chef Jacob Sahaya Khumar, who is a professor at Coimbatore's Cherraan's Arts & Science College, has taken care to rope in all the important features of a traditional Nadar meal. He visited their homes in southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala to come up with a wide selection of dishes after researching for nearly a year . ``In most of the masalas, dal is the common base, to which they add dried green chilly, ginger, coriander seeds,'' says Khumar.

Since the community lives close to the sea, fish forms a major part of their diet and most of their dishes are tempered with fish fat. We started off with the appetizers — Kanya Kumari Meen Varuval, deep-fried seer fish marinated in cumin-fennel paste, and Sigappi Yeral Varuval, which were again marinated prawns fried in coconut oil.

The seer fish tasted no different from the regular fried fish at home, but the prawns rolled in a chilly-flavoured batter melted in the mouth.

If you are a vegetarian, you could try Sigappi Payaru Thanni a mild mixed lentil soup or Poon kothu (deep-fried cauliflower florets).

For the main course, one can choose the soft Poritha Paratha and Vimla Akka Ka

For the main course, one can choose the soft Poritha Paratha and Vimla Akka Kari Saalna , a coconut-flavoured lamb curry that leaves you wanting for more. The Kyema Kothu Paratha, a variation of a chicken roll but filled with minced meat, would be thumpingly approved by protein fans.

For vegetarians, there is the Kovil Patti Mulangi Biryani, a unique biryani made with diced radishes, and served with Kaai Masiyal, a mild minced vegetable preparation that magically keeps all the flavours of vegetables like aubergine and cauliflower intact.

Nadar food - For that unique tang and an exotic cuisine from kitchens of the south

SOUTHERN SPICE Nadar cuisine stands out for its hand-pounded spices and herbs

Cuisine from the southern Tamil Nadu, Tuticorin, Madurai, Nagercoil, Virudhnagar and the vicinity stands out for its unique flavour that comes from usage of freshly hand-pounded spices, red meat and the spirit of innovation - as they toss popular dishes from the mainland and neighbouring Kerala with a typical Nadar touch.

Bringing the best of over 900 recipes that came out of the study of the region by Jacob Sahaya Khumar, head of the department, Cherraan's Arts Science College, Erode,.

Due to the research, we will be able to preserve the Nadar cuisine recipes in a docket form. Otherwise, it would have become extinct. People did not know that such an exotic cuisine exists," says a Chef .

Offering insights into the fare, Chef Khumar says, "there are six special masalas that go into the making of various dishes. The food is rich — mutton is a delicacy that is tempered with mutton fat. For desserts, rice flour fermented with toddy and sweetmeats made with palm tree jaggery are popular." So much for calories, but the cuisine offers a plethora of flavours — from a chicken made with garlic to bell pepper-flavoured meat vadas called Kari bondas.

Kaima kothu parotta is a meal by itself, mildly spicy and zestful churma with mince meat. For the experimental folks, worth the try Vimalakka kari saalna — a coconut-flavoured lamb curry that goes well with a Vrudunagar parotta or the banana stem, flower and fruit combined Thalai Vaazhai biryani.

Vegetables are used differently in the Nadar cuisine. Ever heard of a chicken and eggplant curry? Well, it tastes good. Kasa kasa thengai saalna is a vegetarian curry made with poppy seeds. Much like the yin and yang from Chinese culinary tradition, one finds khus khus offset with coconut here. The spicy cuisine is typically accompanied with rice wine. (By -SYEDA FARIDA)

Nadar food – Tamil Kings regional cuisine from South India. (By: SULEKHA NAIR)

Nadar cuisine, after all the European and the oft-heard popular Indian regional cuisines we had sampled, let's explore this. The Nadars, a business community, trace their ancestry to the Pandya kings.

Chef Jacob Sahaya Khumar, from Cheriaans Arts Science College, Kangayam, Tamil Nadu, says, it appeals to urban tastes. It does, largely due to its milder taste and a distinct flavour from the hot preparations of southern India. The spices used are dry coriander seeds and ginger. Chef Khumar has sourced about 800 authentic recipes.

Did you know, five Nadar families hold the secret to five authentic masalas which pep up the cuisine?

In a manner of thanksgiving, some dishes are named after the elder sisters (akkas)from these families. The Nadar cuisine veers towards non-vegetarian and lamb is a favourite, present in everything except desserts. The chef has ample varieties for vegetarians too.

Nadar cuisine begins with a jaggery sweet. Chef Khumar says this is so to satiate the taste buds. Also, sweets limit the quantity of food taken after it is consumed as the first course.

Among the starters, poon kothu , cauliflower florets marinated in Nadar masala powder which may be spiced up with one of the four chutneys served on the silver thali.

The saattam pillai kozhi varuval, deep fried chicken cubed marinated in masalas, is like a chicken pakoda without besan coating. Sip coconut water or butter milk and munch on pappads throughout the meal.

The soup, or charu, is had as a brunch traditionally.

The vegetarian soup, kaai kari rasam , a combination of mixed vegetable and tomato soup by Rani akka, left a lot to be desired. The Vimla akka kari saalna , a coconut-flavoured lamb curry is another treat. You can eat it with a deep fried poritha, a crisper version of the more familiar paratha and served differently. Or have it with appams or flavoured rice. There are many sea food dishes to choose from. Nadaresque has also included the latest trends of the mushroom fried rice.

End the meal with desserts like the kara patti seerani, made with black jaggery and rice flour. Or sip the delicious payasam. If food be the key to a man's mental make-up, check out the Nadar food to help tune your business acumen.

A sumptuous spread fit for kings- Chef Sitapathi of the Chancery Pavilion shares some ancient but delicious Nadar recipes with us Despite its rich culinary tradition, several south-Indian speciality cuisine are getting lost in the fast-changing world of global cuisine. One such little-known cuisine is the Nadar cuisine from Tamil Nadu. Nadars were the ancestors of the famous Pandya kings. They lived from 1529 AD in Madurai, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar, Sivakasi, Nagercoil and Pollachi. They were known for their culinary expertise and their food was considered special as they had served the Pandya kings who apparently were great fans of the Nadar dishes.

The Nadars also use a lot of coconut and coconut oil in their foods. Here are three recipes of Nadar food that you can try out.

Vendai Mocchai Mandi

Ingredients: Lady fingers (diced) 100 gms; Double beans ( soaked overnight ) 100 gms; shallots (peeled) 40 gms; Small onions (diced) 50 gms; Tomatoes (small diced) 40 gms; 3 green chillies slit; Till seeds 5 gms; Coconut 1; Cashew nuts 10 gms.

For tempering: Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Curry leaves, Gingely oil, Salt to taste, Tamarind juice 25 ml; Chilli powder 5 gms; Turmeric pwd 2 gms; Cumin pwd 5 gms; Coriander pwd 5 gms; Fenugreek pwd 5 gms; Ginger garlic paste 10 gms

Method: Boil the double beans and set aside. Heat oil , add the tempering and shallots and onions, sauté well add green chillies and ginger garlic paste. Add powdered masalas and mix well, add tomatoes and some water, stir well. Add the lady fingers and boiled double

beans. Add tamarind juice and ground paste. Add more water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the seasoning and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Vazhapoo Avaraikkai Masiyal

Ingredients: Banana flower 1 no; Flat beans 100 gms; Green chillies (chopped) 2 nos; Ginger (chopped) 10 gms; Onion (chopped) 50 gms; Tomatoes 40 gms; Coconut (grated) 20 gms ground paste; For tempering: Cumin seeds 10 gms; Mustard seed 5 gms; Curry leaves a few; Garlic chopped 10 gms; Fennel 2 gms; Gingely oil 25 ml; Salt to taste; Cumin pwd 10 gms; Coriander pwd 10 gms; Turmeric pwd 2 gms;

Method: Clean the banana flower and chop. Cut the flat beans into small dices and blanch. Heat oil and add the tempering with the fennel seeds. Add onions and chopped ginger garlic and sauté well. Add the powder masalas and little water stir well and add the tomatoes.

Add the banana flower and sauté well. Add the coconut paste. Mix in the flat beans and check seasoning. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves

Katthirikkai Murungaikai Piratal

Ingredients: Brinjal 3 nos; Drumsticks 2 nos; Onions 1 no; Tomato 1 no; Curry leaves a few; Peanut 10 gms; Coconut grated 20 gms. For tempering: Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Whole red chillies Ginger garlic paste 15 gms; Salt to taste; Gingely oil

Method: Dice the brinjals and cut the drumsticks into 2 inches. Chop the tomato and the onions, heat oil, add the tempering, add onions and sauté, add brinjals and drumsticks and sauté well. Add ginger garlic paste and the powder masala mix well. Add the tomatoes and stir well.

Add water and salt. Simmer it until the vegetables are cooked. Add ground masala, stir some time and check the seasonings. Garnish with chopped coriander the ethnic staple of kings and queens of eras gone by.

No onions, refined oil or boiled rice - at this food carnival, it is all about home-ground masalas (spices), extra dabs of ground pepper and fresh country vegetables. According to a culinary expert, "These ancient dishes are gradually fading away from our regular cuisine and festivals such as these will help for the younger generation know more about them."

Ethnic cuisine Apart from being healthy, it's interesting to see and taste the kind of food our ancestors used to live on. Even the biryani (rice cooked with meat or vegetables), chicken masala and mutton curry have their ancient substitutes in the ethnic cuisine.

And if one has a hard to please sweet tooth, then there are a variety of ancient sweet dishes to sample including paruthipaal and karupatty halwas. Says Chef-Nadaar and ancient cuisine, Jacob Sahaya, "The most popular dish is always crab simply because people love it. On the vegetarian side, it's country vegetables like broad beans and snake gourd that have the most takers.

Then there are sweets made of cotton seed milk that are popular."After all, this stretch of land around Sivakasi, Sattur and Virudhunagar of former Ramanathapuram Jillah is one of the driest across Tamil Nadu — a far cry from what it would’ve looked a century ago when cotton cultivation used to be its economy’s mainstay before it faced a climatic change and rains began des¬erting the place. Till 1920s, this southern Tamil Nadu belt used to grow cotton in a big way and Nadars established dominance in the Cotton Trade and export to Britain. But as rains lessened, it shifted to tobacco cultivation — till drier climate prompted Ayya Nadar and Shanmugam Nadar to establish match works units in 1940, and then diversify to crackers, again, as a cottage industry

Bsram B


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