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Sweet Savouries from Tamil Nilam

No meal can be treated as complete without the desserts. The indulgent desserts of Tamil Nadu are exquisite and nutritious. Most are healthy preparations using less sugar and include healthy proteins like green gram and chickpea.

A typical full course Tamil meal consists of all six tastes or Arusuvai as called in Tamil. They are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Thus, no meal can be treated as complete without the desserts.

The indulgent desserts of Tamil Nadu are exquisite and nutritious. Most are healthy preparations using less sugar and include healthy proteins like green gram and chickpea. Some of the mouth – watering traditional sweets of Tamil Nadu are:

Payasam: A thick, creamy dessert, Payasam is ubiquitous throughout the state. Ingredients used mostly include vermicelli, rice, chickpeas or green gram with the base being milk or coconut milk. It is prepared during all auspicious occasions including festivals.

Rava Kesari: Brightly coloured with saffron (Kesar), this dessert is all buttery, inviting and similar in texture to sooji halwa.

Mysore Pak: A bewitching dessert, “king of all sweets” - made from gram flour, sugar, and fragrant cardamom powder roasted in oodles of ghee. It is then cooled and cut into squares. Meant for special festivals like Navaratri and Deepavali.

Paniyaram: A quickest sweet snack when one has a craving for sweet. It is made from idli batter that’s been sweetened with jaggery. Coconut and cardamom powder are added to highlight its taste.

Sakkarai pongal: Sweet pongal is a delicious South Indian dish made with rice, moong lentils, ghee, jaggery or sugar, cardamoms and nuts. It is traditional dish mostly made to offer the gods on special occasions & festivals. Sweet pongal is known as sakkarai pongal in Tamil. It is made in many traditional South Indian homes on the day of Makara sankranthi or pongal festival. The dish is said to have been prepared by our ancestors to signify and celebrate – abundance and prosperity after the harvest.

Ukkarai: A popular dessert served during Deepavali in Chettinad, it’s made of steamed green gram and Bengal gram flavoured with jaggery, coconut and cardamoms.

Kozhukkattai: Something similar to Modaka. It is a sweet dumpling made from rice flour and has a filling of coconut and jaggery. These melt¬in-the-mouth snacks are offered to Lord Ganesha during Ganesh Chathurthi.

Adirasam: A sweet delicacy bonding the household of Tamil Nadu and gorged during Deepavali. It is a deep fried snack made up of jaggery and rice flour. Very similar to “Malpua” of the north.

Aside from these, there are other sweets like the famous cashew-flavoured macaroons (found in the ports of Tuticorin), maladu, karollappams, thirvadhirai kali, mundrikothu, makkan peda, etc., to tempt and tantalize the taste buds.

It is knowing and appreciating the value of a cuisine that was perfected some time ago and has been gifted to us, only to be passed on again to the next generations makes for many of the heirloom recipes shared here.

So, next time you visit Tamil Nadu explore beyond idli, vada and sambar. Instead savour each regional cuisine that boasts of unique cooking methods and spices. They have been backed with heirloom family recipes, ancient culture and traditions, community history and external influences.

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