If you think that Indian food is all the same, then think again!

Northern vs Southern Indian Cuisine

Spicy, sweet, tangy, accessible, surprising: the foods of India are very much recognizable. The smells of strong spices mixed with veggies to create sauces of different thicknesses, deep-fried pieces of goodness, pulled coffee cooled and frothed for your own amusement…

The country of India is also huge. So huge in fact that it’s often referred to as a subcontinent. This means that southern Indian cuisine differs greatly from the food of the North. While we’re used to the tastes of Punjabi and Bengali foods, regions of the North, southern Indian cuisine foods have their own accents – and their own provinces.

Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala: they all have their own particularities.

Southern Indian Cuisine: Pulled milk for tea and coffee in Chennai
Pulled milk for tea and coffee in Chennai – Photo Cedric Lizotte

How different is southern Indian cuisine?

The infamous Madras curry

The city of Chennai, also known as Madras, its colonial name, is the home of the infamous Madras curry. Or is it? Actually, it’s an invention of English colonialists that wanted to bring a taste of India back home. Don’t look for it in Chennai!

Instead, head straight to one of the many, many restaurants and get yourself some of the …… curries in India. A good bet is Hotel Sennthur, on Mount Road, one of the main streets of the city. Chennai is famous for its thalis: many small dishes served with rice.

Yes, rice: as opposed to northern Indian, which serves different breads, southern Indian cuisine  dishes all served with rice. Mopping up the sauces using your hand has just become a little more challenging!

The Tamil thalis will often include sambar (hot-sour lentil stew), daal (spicy lentil curry), different kuzhambus (sweet-sour veggie curry) and various chutneys.

On the beach, you will find fresh fish sold on rolling carts and slathered in a sloppy red sauce, and small stalls that will fry them up for you while you wait, both feet in the sand.

In Chennai, you can also find the famous pulled coffee, prepared in front of you in a sock! It’s obviously not a sock, but it’s called this way because the filter used for the coffee looks like one, and the milk is pulled as high as possible, for the show of course, but also to cool down the drink to drinking temperature and to make it frothy.

Hotel Sennthur: Building No. 154, Anna Salai Mount Road, Club House Road Corner, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600002, India

Bangalore is international

Bangalore, the largest city of the province of Karnataka, is also a business hub for the whole region. This means that while the food of Karnataka is obviously present, there are many different international foods to be found there as well.

If the centre of Bangalore is old and falling apart, the outside layers and boroughs are much cleaner and more recent. This also means that you will find Western-style bars, Arab-style foods and East-Asian-inspired amusement. You can even find a couple of brewpubs that brew their own beer, including Toit and Bière Club!

Bangalore is also the home of one of the most famous southern Indian cuisine dishes, the onion parotha. It’s a thick bread made by hand and layered with onions and served with a couple of dipping curries. Try the one at Rajasthani Parotha Point on Food Street! Yes, it’s called Food Street!

Rajasthani Parotha Point: Food St, Visveswarapuram, Shankarapuram, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560004, India

Goa, the Catholic

You’ve probably noticed by now that most of the Southern Indian cuisine dishes presented here are vegetarian. That’s because observing Hindus don’t eat meat.

Goa, however, has the particularity of having many Catholic churches on its land, and many Catholics in the local community.

It also has the particularity of being the richest and smallest province of India. And its beaches are the main attraction.

That being said, Goa’s food is unique in the world . It has been said that the colonial Portuguese were the ones who introduced chillies in Indian food, which are now ubiquitous.

Its provincial dish is the vindaloo, a fiery hot pork curry served with rice. However it’s quite difficult to find, since Goa is such an international vacation destination. Actually, Goa’s best restaurant might even be Thalassa, a Greek restaurant in Vagator!

Thalassa-Mariketty’s Place, Small Vagator, Ozran, Vagator, Goa 403509, India

Kerala, communist, and the land of fruits and veggies

The South-Western province of Kerala is a land of delicious fresh vegetables and fruits. They’re eaten by themselves or in sweet and sour curries. Street stalls sell different fried foods and the activities proposed in this province are varied.

While you spend a day and a night in a hotel or a houseboat in the backwaters near Alleppey, the cook of the boat will have plenty of fresh kingfish for you to sample.

Jackfruit is easy to find and a special treat for whoever hasn’t tried it yet.

In Kochi, the 500-year-old Chinese fishing nets which are still in operation allow local fishermen to catch fish and sell their catch to the tourists at the port.

Along the beach in Varkala, many seafood restaurants display the catch of the day for you to choose and make sure the quality of the food is as fresh as can be.

All in all, Southern Indian cuisine is unlike any other.

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