India, bustling and beautiful, offers countless historical and cultural experiences. Colourful clothing, rich history, and new connections are just some of the amazing things you’ll discover as a visitor. One of the most important, captivating, and diverse things about India is it’s incredible cuisine.
Characterized by regional ingredients and rich flavours, Indian cuisine is a highlight to locals and visitors alike. Dishes vary regionally due to the availability of ingredients, customs, and preference.
Our Madurai site is located in the region of Tamil Nadu, India. Locals hold the historical belief that serving food to others is an important service to humanity.
Rice, legumes, and lentils are common staples throughout Tamil Nadu, and nearly every meal is served with a side of rice. Vegetarian and meat-based dishes are both equally as common. Some of the most popular meats are chicken and fish, while tamarind and coconut are used to flavour to vegetarian dishes. Some meals are traditionally served on banana leaf to add flavour and visual appeal, especially for special occasions. There’s so many unique dishes and variations- much too many to list!
Masala (a spice blend) is commonly used to add a fiery, complex flavour to dishes. Masala contains a variety of spices such as coriander, curry, cumin, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, and nutmeg. Masala in the Tamil Nadu region is always freshly ground. There’s no one recipe for masala- usually, it’s an individual household secret!
On a visit to our Madurai Sponsor site, we got the incredible chance to sample their cuisine first-hand. Families at St. Theresa’s Primary School held a food fair, where they prepared their favourite dishes for the elementary school’s staff and Canadian visitors. They were excited to share, and we were equally as excited to taste!
Families proudly hung colourful posters with names and explanations so visitors could learn more about the dishes. Some of the most popular dishes were biryani (spicy rice,) dosas (savory pancakes,) sambar (a thick, lentil based stew,) Meen Kozhambu (hot and sour fish stew,) and Masala Vada (crispy fritters.) You could feel the pride and effort that went into preparing the food in every bite.
No meal is complete without dessert. We finished the food fair with a traditional pairing of tea and other desserts, including Boorelu (sweet, deep fried balls flavoured with coconut and cardamom.)
Want to try your hand at a few of these delicious dishes? We’ve gathered some simple recipes you can make in your own home (to find some of the more uncommon ingredients, check the international section of your local grocery store):