India is a vast country with diverse geological regions, cultures and food. The food and the food habits of each region, East, West, North and South are completely different. The climate of each region influences the type of food eaten in that area.
In South India the climate is sultry and hot. They receive a good amount of rainfall and also fruits and vegetables are easily available. Their main food is rice, and the popular south Indian dishes are sambhar, rasam, dosa, idli, vadas, payasam etc and not to forget a range of chutneys. The chief spices and ingredients are lentil, tamarind, curry leaves, chilies, and mustard, cumin, cinnamon, etc. Coconut oil is commonly used.
All the spices and ingredients used in South Indian cuisine have dietary as well as therapeutic benefits. The food is hot and spicy and it has a blend of taste, aroma, smell, and seasoning.
Tamarind – This is a commonly used spice in South Indian cuisine. It is rich in dietary fibre and helps to excrete bad cholesterol from the body. It is anti-oxidant and is rich in iron, calcium, copper, potassium etc. It is also rich in a number of vitamins.
Turmeric –The rhizome of the plant is dried and powdered. It is a part of almost all South Indian dish, it adds colour to the food. It is a natural antibiotic and when added to food its healing ability is beneficial to the body. It has calming effect on the stomach, it is anti –inflammatory and kills inner parasites and also purifies blood.
Coconut – Grown in large quantity, coconut is the main ingredient of South Indian cuisine. Fresh grated coconut or its milk is used to make the curry thick, to add flavor and taste to a dish.
Cinnamon – This is the bark of the tree. It lowers LDL cholesterol, is beneficial for diabetes, it gives relief to people suffering from arthritis. It is a natural food preservative so when it is added to food it averts the growth of bacteria and prevents the food from spoiling.
Asafetida ( hing) – This has a pungent flavor and a strong taste. It is beneficial for respiratory disorders, flatulence, impotency etc.
Black Pepper – When added to food it improves digestion, it reduces intestinal gas, it is an anti oxidant and prevents the growth of bacteria in the intestines.
Cardamom – It helps to offset acidity in the stomach and when the powder of cardamom is sprinkled on coffee it act as an aphrodisiac. When added in food it improves digestion and helps to lessen stomach gas.
Cumin seeds – Cumin has a strong discrete flavor, it improves digestion, helps to cure heart burn and stomach pain. The seeds are anti oxidants and anti- flatulent, these help in digestion. These are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, calcium, vitamin E, A, and C etc.
Mustard seeds – Mustard seeds are used in almost all dished in South India. These add a pungent aroma to the food. These are used in vegetarian as well as non vegetarian dishes, and also in pickles and chutneys.
Mustard seeds are rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins. They are a rich source of B-complex vitamins, and vitamin E. It helps to lower blood cholesterol and regulate the metabolism.
All the spices used in South Indian cuisine are of pant origin. These prevent diseases and promote health. They also increase the flavor of a dish.