Cardamom, coriander, turmeric, ginger, tamarind, asafoetida… the stars of Indian cuisine are many, and each has a unique personality that it lends unabashedly to every preparation. The spice trail is an exploratory journey through Indian cuisine the Chennai way.
The allure of the aromatic spices for the Dutch, French and English traders in Chennai set off a treasure trove of narratives back home and in Chennai itself. Mylapore, the oldest district in Chennai was home to the port for the spice trade from the days it traded with Rome.
Chennai has also long been the stronghold of regional speciality cuisines from all four South Indian states. Kongunad, Chettinad, Arcot, Andhra, Hyderabadi, Mappila, Udupi, Travancore, Syrian you can sample it all– and Chennai’s spice markets play an excellent supporting role to this end. Giving that very distinctive taste and flavour to south Indian dishes are spices like Molaga podi, rasam and sambhar powder, paruppu podi and many other masalas.
Why you will love itThis is one trail where you would love to explore the experiments with traditional spices al la ChennaiSussing out the allure for Chennai spices for the colonial tradersExploring inventive new ways to cook a dish
What you will experience
Standing cheek- by- jowl with the flower market, the spice market with its immense inventory of spices on sale is an aromatic assault on the senses. .
Walk into a Chennai kitchen and watch the magic play out. Savour the fragrance of myriad spices, working in harmony to make the meal memorable. And observe them do their bit – some sing, some shout out their presence and others seduce you ever so coyly. Listen to stories of seasonal produce, of handpicking local vegetables and of the people who grow them. Create a drool-worthy meal, sit back and relish every mouthful.
A quick take on what’s what for a recap when you get back home: Paruppu podi is a blend of roasted spices and lentils, often eaten with steamed rice and dollops of ghee or sesame oil;
molaga podi is a dry spiced powder made from mixed dals and sesame seeds; dahi mirchi or mor milagai is an accompaniment with khichdi, dal-chawal and curd rice. They are soaked in buttermilk during preparation, so their pungency is minimised