South Indian cuisine comprises dishes found in the five southern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. With its clever combination of flavours, colours, seasoning, nutritional balance, fragrance and visual appeal, each regional cuisine showcases distinct tastes and methods of cooking.

Ingenuity is evident in the wide ranging preparations of rice, the staple grain. It lends itself to biryani and lemon rice; it can be combined with lentils to make dosas, idlis, vadas and uttapams. There are the classic lentil dishes. Sambar or saaru is a vegetable stew based on a broth made with tamarind and toovar dal and tempered with whole spices and chillies. Each state has a different way of preparing sambar, and a connoisseur should be able to spot the difference between each state’s sambar dishes. Rasam, a hot-sour soup is prepared with tamarind juice or tomato, pepper and other spices.  Poppadums or deep-fried crispy lentil pancakes are traditional accompaniments to main meals.

Andhra Pradesh’s popular cuisine includes biryani, chicken korma and sheer khurma as well as traditional dishes like tamarind rice, chicken fry (kodi iguru), gongura mutton and chicken gravy (kodi pulusu). Karnataka features interesting examples of the diversity of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine; an example of the latter is the cuisine of the region of Coorg which is famous for its pork dishes. The cuisine of Chettinad is sometimes seen as constituting Tamil Nadu’s effortlessly cosmopolitan nature, with its easy integration of non-vegetarian cuisine into a rigidly vegetarian base. France’s largest colony in India, Pondicherry or Puducherry, is known for its extensive cuisine that includes typical South Indian delicacies like idlis, seafood specialities like fried fish, prawn bajji and parota and that lasting legacy of the French - freshly baked baguettes and crisp croissants with a steaming cup of coffee for breakfast. The rich intermingling of cultures in Kerala produces mouth-watering delicacies: appam and stew, ulli theeyal and meen vevichathu (red fish curry), along with Muslim Moppilah cuisine are well-loved.

The sweet taste in Ayurveda is considered an appetite builder, and a South Indian meal usually begins with a sweet. Meals are invariably followed by coffee and end with payasam, a milk-based dessert. Chewing on paan or betel leaf and betel nut after a meal is said to freshen the mouth and aid digestion.

Join ITC Hotels’ culinary magnate Master Chef M Rajan, as he takes you through the delectable cuisines and cultures of South India with Thenindia Unavu (South Indian Food Festival) at Hornby’s Pavilion from 16th to 23rd November.  The Ritu Menu at Royal Vega from the 15th to 30th November features the all-new winter inspired menu. To balance the metabolism in the new season, the sweet, sour and salty tastes are seen as vital for the much needed element of agni in the body. If you would prefer non-vegetarian fare instead, Karaikudi at Dakshin Coastal will be laying out specialties that celebrate a heritage town that takes pride in salt extraction and prawn cultivation.