Tamil Nadu is famous for its deep belief that serving food to others is a service to humanity, as it is common in many regions of India. The region has a rich cuisine involving both traditional non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. It is characterized by the use of rice, legumes and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of flavourings and spices including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater.
Rice and legumes play a significant role in Tamil cuisine. Lentils are also consumed extensively, either accompanying rice preparations, or in the form of independent dishes. Vegetables and dairy products are essential accompaniments, and tamarind rather than aamchoor is the favoured souring agent. Rice is the chief staple as with the rest of South India.
This cuisine of the state can be broadly divided into Chettinad cuisine, Madurai/Tirunelveli cuisine, Nanjilnadu cuisine, Kongunadu cuisine and the Iyer/Iyengar cuisine.
The Chettinad region comprising Karaikudi and adjoining areas is known for both traditional vegetarian dishes like idiyappam, uthappam, paal paniyaram and non-vegetarian dishes made primarily using Chicken and mutton. Chettinad cuisine has gained popularity in non-Tamil speaking areas as well.
Madurai, Tirunelveli and the other southern districts of Tamil Nadu are known for non-vegetarian food made of mutton, chicken and fish.
Nanjilnadu (Kanyakumari district) region is famous for its fish curry since the region is surrounded by the three great water bodies of Asia: (Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal). Fish forms an integral part of life. Owing to its unique cultural affinity and the availability of coconut, coconut oil forms a base for almost all the preparations of the region.
Kongunadu cuisine is from the western region of the state. The natural crops of this region forms the main ingredients in this Kongunadu cuisine