Andhra Pradesh is to the South of India what Tabasco is to sauces. Incandescent.

One can’t expect any less from the state that has the distinction of being the leading producer of red chillies in India. Andhra Pradesh is also one of the largest rice producing states in India, second only to West Bengal. But there’s more. What exactly might one expect of an area surrounded by Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Orissa in the north, the Bay of Bengal in the east, Tamil Nadu to the south and Karnataka to the west? A marked influence from every bordering state, the wise might proffer. My answer would be simpler – magic on a banana leaf! 

The immensely popular Hyderabadi biryani serves as a fine initiation into the culinary moiety of the Andhras, with the constituent regions – the Coastal regions, Uttarandhra, Rayalseema and Telangana – also contributing to the state’s culinary blueprint. Be it the meat and seafood from the coastal regions or vegetarian fare from the greater part of the State, the attention to detail and presentation is of supreme essence. 

It is against the backdrop of the festive banana leaf plate that this attention becomes clear. Pulihora (tamarind rice/lemon rice) and garelu (vada) are placed at the top right where otherwise the pappu (lentils) and kurralu (curries) are served. It is also on these special occasions that sweets are served as a start to the celebratory meal. Spiced pickles and condiments – the pachadi and podi are placed to the left. Rice, also known as biyam finds pride of place at the very centre of the meal and is eaten with small amounts of neyi (ghee), pulusu (stew), sambar (thick lentil and vegetable soup), charu (soup with a consistency between sambar and rasam), rasam (clear, thin vegetable/non-veg soup) and majjiga (buttermilk). 

To everything there must be a balance and the last course of the Andhra meal accomplishes just that – a fine balance. To my mind, partaking in a classic Andhra feast is like drawing on energy from a kuchipudi performance. 

It’s as simple as heading to the Madras Pavilion at ITC Grand Chola, Chennai, to experience the flavours of Andhra Pradesh.