Chettinad cuisine is more famous for their non vegetarian food, but they do have a nice vegetarian spread too, which is rather spicy and tangy.
Tamarind and a whole lot of spices are some of the more important ingredients in this type of cooking.
S's maternal grandfather is from Chettinad. There is this really palatial ancestral house in Karaikudi, (which is considered as the capital of Chettinad) that he (the grandfather) was from, but had to leave because he chose to marry someone from another community.
A few years back, we were down in Karikudi for a wedding and it was a very different experience. All the women from the bride's side of the family were in green coloured heavy silk sarees and the ones from the groom's side were in red. This was the first time i has seen something like this at an Indian wedding, which otherwise has no colour code!
Chettiars were originally into money-lending, trading and even famous as diamond merchants down south. The diamond merchant bit was quite obvious at this wedding we attended. The women were decked with rows of diamond necklaces !!
The food was simply fantastic. The day after the wedding they have this whole non-vegetarian spread and they dont stop at just mutton, chicken and fish. Their cuisine includes a lot of other meat, the details of which I will skip for the sake of all the vegetarians reading this..
One of the really tangy vegetarian dishes is the Puli Kulambu (tamarind gravy)
This recipe is from Mallika Badrinath's "Classic Lunch Recipes"
Sending this entry to RCI: Chettinadu Vegetarian Cuisine hosted this month by Srimathi of Few Minute Wonders
What you need -
1/2 cup small onions peeled (1 regular onion would also do)
10 cloves of garlic
2-3 tsps of sambar powder
2 tomatoes chopped fine
tamarind the size of a medium lemon (or more if you like it really tangy)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
10-12 onion vadams (i used the readymade vadams for this)
10-12 curry leaves
What you do with it -
Soak tamarind in water for about 1/2 hour and extract juice
Heat oil in a broad frying pan and add fennel and fenugreek, chopped garlic, onions and curry leaves
Fry till onions are translucent and add chopped tomatoes
Stir till the tomatoes get pulpy
Add sambar powder, fry for a minute and then pour tamarind extract with 1 cup water
Add salt and boil till thick. Add more water if needed
Deep fry the vadams in oil till golden brown
Add to gravy and wait for one boil
Serve with hot rice and appalams