South Indian Food Recipes – Learn a Few Healthy Indian Dishes

south indian food recipesThe southern states of India – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – form a coastal belt. They have a hot and humid climate with much rainfall. Hence rice  is the staple food of the South Indians and most of the South Indian delicacies are made using lentils and rice. There is always a good supply of fresh vegetables and fruits that form the basis for healthy, tasty meals. Try out some simple, healthy fall recipes in this course.

A few ingredients that are commonly used in South Indian cuisine are tamarind, turmeric, lentils, mustard, freshly scraped coconut, fenugreek seeds, asafetida and curry leaves. Each of these are used in accordance with their ayurvedic properties. For tempering and roasting, traditionally coconut oil is used. Today, however it has expanded to use vegetable oils such as sunflower or canola. Ghee or clarified butter is served daily with the midday meals and breakfast. Learn more about cooking the ayurveda way with this course.

South Indian Breakfast Recipe

South Indian breakfast is simple, delicious, nourishing and at the same time an easy to prepare affair. South Indians call their breakfast Nashta or Tiffin. This varies from region to region, state to state. A simple yet healthy, sumptuous and appetizing south Indian breakfast that is common to all the four South Indian state is Idli, Sambhar and Chutney. On festival days or on special occasions, Medhu Vada (a kind of soft, salted, spicy doughnut made using black gram), and Kesari (a succulent sweet dish churned out of semolina, saffron, loads of sugar and of ghee and sprinkled lavishly with raisins and roasted cashew nuts) are also served. You can learn more about Indian cooking with this course – including commonly used spices and recipes.

Today we take you through one of the most commonly relished breakfast recipe – idli and sambhar- which is easy to prepare and which can really be eaten as a snack at any time of the day. Idlis are soft, spongy, steamed rice dumplings. Sambhar is a kind of lentil soup with generous portions of vegetables. Idli and sambhar are most often accompanied with a spicy cocunut chutney. Ready to get started? Let’s go.

How to Make Idlis

  1. Idli Rice -2 Cups
  2. Black Gram lentil- 1/2 Cup
  3. Rice Flake -A fistful
  4. Water and salt as required.

Wash and soak the rice and black gram dal seperately. The rice should be washed a couple of times while the black gram needs to be cleaned only once. The reason is if you wash the lentils many times, it loses its binding property.

The rice needs to be soaked for at least 4 to 5 hours. It’s recommended that you soak it overnight and grind in the morning. Whereas, black gram needs to be soaked only for half an hour. Grind the lentil in your mixer-grinder into a fine paste with even consistency.

Mix the ground rice paste and the gram paste, and add salt. Use a ladle to mix the lentil and rice batter well. If the batter is thick, add water to bring to a fluid consistency.  The mixture should be of the consistency of  porridge.

Pour this mix into a large container and leave it to ferment. Take note that the container should be large. The reason is when the batter ferments it doubles in volume.  Normally it takes 6 to 8 hours to ferment at  110 Fahrenheit. You can leave the container in your oven (with the oven switched off!) overnight to ensure a consistent temperature environment.

Once the batter is fermented, use a ladle to mix it well. If you feel it is still thick, add a bit of water to bring it to the right consistency.  Traditionally, idlis are cooked in metallic molds which are gently lowered into the idli cooker or rice cooker. You can also cook in microwave using heat resistant plastic idli molds.

  • Using pressure cooker– Grease the idli mold with clarified butter or vegetable oil. Use a ladle to pour the batter into the molds. Gently, lower the molds into the pressure cooker which contains boiling water at the bottom. The  water should not reach the bottom of the mold. Do not put the weight or whistle of the pressure cooker. You can see the steam coming out of the nozzle at full pressure. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes at medium heat.
  • Using microwave– Add water in the base of the idli maker and pour the batter in to the molds. Here you need not grease the molds. Gently place the idli molds on the idli cooker base which has water. Cover the idli maker and place it in the microwave. Set the power to full and timer to 5 minutes. Insert a knife or a fork to see if the idlis are done. If it comes out clean, it’s done else keep it for another 2 minutes more.

Being steamed, Idli’s preserve all the nutrients of rice, and are gentle on the tummy. Learn  healthy cooking fundamentals with this course. Idli is usually served with piping hot sambhar. This is gravy prepared with red gram lentils and lots of vegetables and shallots. Let’s take you through this recipe.

How to Make Typical South Indian Sambhar

Sambhar is a thick, spicy lentil soup with a ton of vegetables in it. The recipe of sambhar varies from region to region, with family recipes passed on across generations. Here’s a simple, popular recipe for you.

  • 2 tbsps coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsps red gram lentil
  • 3/4 tbsp Bengal gram lentil
  • 3/4 tbsp split Black gram lentil
  • 4-5 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp pepper corns
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 5-7 fresh curry leaves
  •  ½ cup of mixed vegetables diced and washed and well cooked (carrots, radish, turnips, potatoes, pumpkin and 2 green chilies slit)
  • 1 ½ cups Red gram lentil  (cooked well to make a pulp)
  • ½ cup diced Shallots

For Tempering

  • 1 tbsp- Oil
  • 1 tsp- Mustard
  • 1 sprig – curry leaves
  • 2 tsp – finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Tamarind extract made from tamarind of 1 lemon size

To make the masala, you need to dry roast all the dry lentils in a thick bottom pan. When the lentils release their flavors and turn golden, remove and keep them aside.  Now roast the coriander seeds and red chilies for a couple of minutes. To this add, pepper corns and cumin seeds. Roast them in a pot on a medium flame. Remove from the fire and allow them to cool. In the same pan put the curry leaves and roast for less than a minute. If you are using fenugreek or mustard seeds, ensure that they are brown and splutter. But do not allow them to burn.  In a blender put all the ingredients including turmeric powder and asofetida and make a powder. You can even make a larger portion of this Sambhar masala and store in an air tight jar for later use. Most South Indian households have a huge stashes of Sambhar masala stored and ready to use.

In a heavy bottom pan, add the oil. When it becomes hot, add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. To this add shallots and curry leaves and sauté till it becomes soft, transparent and slightly brown.  Now reduce the flame and add the sambhar masala and sauté it for a couple of minutes. When the color changes, add the tamarind extract. It will deglaze the pan. Allow it to boil before adding the mashed lentil. Mix well. Add water to make to get thick soup consistency. Add the cooked vegetables and allow it to boil for 5 to 10 minutes in high flame.  Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.

You can serve sambhar with not only idli but even with plain rice.  If you’d like a more visual help, check out this course to learn how to make sambhar, and a ton of other great south indian dishes.