South Indian Homemade Food
Traditional & Authentic South Indian Food: As Told By Our Local Shefs!
Most-used ingredients: Saravana Bhavan, Paradise Biryani
“We are either grinding (our spices), fermenting (rice + lentils for dosas + idli’s), or dry-roasting (chilis) our ingredients. That makes for a huge difference in flavor.”
On What Makes South Indian Cuisines Unique
Absolutely everything in South Indian cuisine is made from scratch. I come from Tamil Nadu — which neighbors the state of Kerala, the land of coconuts. Coconut is one of our most-used ingredients in the South. Every state will use it in a slightly different way, in Kerala, they will make theirs into a milk, in my state, we will grind it into a paste — in the end, it’s the same ingredient, but the way it’s added makes a huge difference in the flavors that come out in each recipe.
South Indian meals are highly balanced, you will always have a carb, a protein, and a green. And every spice or green we use has a medicinal property to it — to help your brain, to strengthen you if you are sick, to aid with digestion — that goes back to generations of Indians before us.
The South Indian Dinner Table
If I think about my childhood, there will be one hot box in the center. A hot box is kind of like an American casserole dish, but inside is a steel bowl with insulation to keep the food hot. Every dinner table will have a few hot boxes, there will be idlis, dosas, some sort of kulambu (curry) with mixed veg, onions, and tomato, and my favorite, a tangy, spicy, salty, chutney. For Tamil gatherings, meals are served on a large banana leaf at the center of the table, each dish has a very specific order, beginning with salt and ending with payasam (rice pudding) to drink. The order matters, and it makes sense because each builds off the other in flavor, digestion, and medicinal order. Now, every night in my household, we eat dinner together.
“Food is something that, for us, is like connecting to the soul. When I miss my family, when I’m sad, when I’m happy, food heals.”
On What Sharing South Indian Food With the Community on Shef Means
One thing I am really happy about is that I’m doing something that I was missing when I was pregnant or sick. I wasn’t able to get the food that I ate when I was growing up because we don’t have many authentic South Indian restaurants here and my family was back in Tamil Nadu. I know many people who are missing family. We miss our homes and being able to eat our mother’s food. I am happy that I am able to share that with people here. I received a review that said “I am pregnant and your food reminded me of my mom’s,” that comment reminded me of my purpose, it was an amazing full-circle moment for me.
Back in India, we didn’t have machines, refrigerators, blenders, or anything until the late 90s. So that meant that our produce was always fresh and that we would grind everything by hand in a attukal ammikal (a very large mortar and pestle. We had no ovens or stoves, so we cooked over the fire pit, and that gives such an amazing flavor. I feel really proud of what we have created as Indians. It’s spices, spices that so many people are familiar with around the world, but it’s the way we brought them to life that creates the unique flavors that make our cuisine special, and it is special to me to be able to represent that here in a new country.
Jackson Heights in Queens is an absolute must! You’ll find delicious Indian restaurants on every corner.
If you’re in Manhattan make sure to check out Curry Hill between Lexington Ave and 27th/28th Street. This block contains restaurants, markets, and shops from various regions across India.
While you’re in Curry Hill check out Pongal for delicious a South Indian meal.
Tips for Finding the Best South Indian Food in Houston
Don’t forget to stop by Keemat Grocers for all of your International grocery needs! High-quality spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and pantry staples can all be found here!
You’ll want to head over to Hillcroft Ave. for the best Indian food in Houston. This is our Mahatma Gandhi District and you’ll fin endless options from Naan to Biryani to Dosa.
If you have a hankering for Spicy South Indian fare then look no further than Shri Balaji Bhavan. This fan favorite has been spicing up Houstonian’s lives for over 20 years!
Tips for Finding the Best South Indian Food in Dallas
Andhra Mess is a must visit for a traditional but refined Indian ‘bhojanam’ (lunch served on a banana leaf). The elegant decor and great service make this experience even more special!
Don’t forget to check out Saravanaa Bhavan for specialty South Indian dishes such as steamed idlies or tawny dosas.
Shop traditional Indian grocery at Subzi Mandi, this Indo-Pakistani store covers all your grocery needs and offers Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepalese specialties. They have their own restaurant inside and offer a lunch and dinner buffet as well that you can indulge in as you take a break from shopping!
The Saravana Special Dosa at Saravana Bhavan is truly one of a kind, filled with yellow potato masala, chopped tomates, red onions, green chilles and topped with a special orange red powder made of chili and ground lentils. Accompanied with coconut, green coriander and tomato chutneys in addition to sambar, you won’t want to miss this iconic South Indian dish here in Sunnyvale, CA.
Have all your Indian grocery needs met at the many local favorite shops in the South Bay, including Madras Groceries, India Cash & Carry and Patel Brothers. Attached to Madras Groceries is Madras Cafe, where you can find South Indian staples ready made, including Dosas, Dahi Vada, Uthappam, Idly and Pongal-vada.
Never tried a dosa? Similar to a crepe in appearance, dosas are a flat bread made of fermented batter consisting of lentils and rice, served hot along with fresh chutneys and sambar.
Don’t forget to stop by Devon Market for all your International grocery needs! High quality spices, freshly cut meats, and pantry staples can all be found here!
You’ll want to head over to Devon Ave. for the best Indian food in Chicago. Known as “Little India”, you’ll find endless options from Naan to Biryani to Dosa.
For a fan favorite restaurant, be sure to check out Rangoli at their Wicker Park or Lincoln Park locations. The Gobi Manchurian is a must!
Be sure to check out Mayura (Sanskrit for elegance and grace), an incredible South Indian spot that specializes in the cuisine of Kerala, and is also a favorite of many LA shefs.
You’ll want to head over to Banana Leaf LA for some of the best authentic South Indian food in the city. The team at Banana Leaf strives to give away 5 free meals a day to support their community, and serves some of the prettiest and most natural food you can find in the area.
Definitely make time to stop by Little India on Artesia Blvd for some of the best markets and meals LA has to offer.
Tips for Finding the Best South Indian Food in Washington DC
Guru Groceries and Chaat House is a one stop shop for Indian and South Asian items – they also offer freshly made chaats like samosas!
Saravana Palace has an expansive vegetarian menu representing South Indian cuisine.
Agni South Indian Cuisine in Sterling is known for their South Indian thalis – the menu changes every day!
Samburna Indian Restaurant in Bothell is known for their Mutton Chetinad – you have to give them a try!
Kanishka is a one stop shop for vegetarian Indian dishes – be sure to try their popular Vindaloo!
Kathakali has a great vegetarian menu representing South Indian cuisine.
Tips for Finding the Best South Indian Food in Austin
Sangam Chettinad “The best south Indian delicacies we have had in a long time…!! Their dosas are exceptional and even the chutneys are very good. Traveled from San Antonio to eat at this place.” – Google Reviews
Austin Dosa “Excellent dosa. Very crisp and well roasted. Best south Indian food in Austin. It’s outdoors and good seating available and clean as well.” – Google Reviews
Nala’s “The best in the town. Felt being in my hometown after a long few years. Thank you guys for giving us our traditional taste of South Indian food.” – Google Reviews
Tips for Finding the Best South Indian Food in Atlanta
Aamar “We often stop here for some of the best food when in Atlanta! They are also some of the kindest people as well. This time it was excellent Chicken Bhoona, Samosas, and of course the best Garlic Naan! You’ll have to try their great food and service!” – Google Reviews
Swapna “The butter chicken is by far the best one I’ve ever had, their Naan is awesome, you really can’t go wrong with anything.” – Google Reviews
Botiwalla “Tamarind Glazed ribs are the best thing ever! Whenever friends or family visit, Ponce City Market is an absolute must. And within those lovely walls you will find this treasure; Botiwalla.” – Google Reviews