The one overwhelming characteristic that sets Indian cuisine apart is the rich and layered blend of spices and herbs that results in a delightfully wide range of complex flavours. So ingrained is spice in our imagination and so inspired are we by its qualities that spice, as a lingual term, has come to define the essence of that which enhances our experience of living.

As key carriers of aroma, spices define Indian cooking. The volatile oils present in spices have a way of combining with the six rasas to create flavour, building upon and expanding the canvas of gastronomic possibility.

This month, ITC Hotels showcases two distinct regional South Indian cuisines. The culinary tradition of the Chettiars reflects the interesting history of the community. Having lived in proximity to the sea, Chettinad cuisine includes a variety of seafood. When the community settled in the Tamil Nadu hinterland, it began to include a variety of meat dishes as well. Using locally sourced spices like the star anise, pepper, kalpasi (stone flower) and maratti mokku (dried flower pods), the Chettiar community has also adapted foreign ingredients and preservation techniques like sun-dried meats, berries, salted vegetables and pickles in brine to enrich the culinary repertoire of this well-travelled community.

The cuisine of Andhra Pradesh and the Telengana region has roots in Persian and Afghan cooking, giving the dishes a spicy zest. A confluence of several influences, Indian and foreign, the cuisine blends the class and refinement of North India with the sauce and spice of the South.

Come and discover the Chettiar cuisines of South India, and the treasures of its family kitchens through February 15 at ITC Maratha’s Dakshin Coastal. You can also learn how every spice and every flavour has evolved over the ages in Andhra Pradesh’s glorious culinary history with Chef Sundar, from February 17-26 at Madras Pavilion at ITC Grand Chola.