I wanted to make this post sometime in this lunch menu series. When I posted the North Indian meals itself, I was so much tempted to do this South Indian Meals post. As I wanted to find thalavazhai ilai(Banana leaf) and I very rarely go to Little India to get vazhai ilai, I was wondering when I am going to do. Then last week when I went to Mustafa, picked this thala vazhai ilai, in a pack of two and brought home so carefully as such without getting torn. Though I bought it in the pack, I was worried if it would be fresh and if it would be torn or not. I opened eagerly to see it was bit old and starting to turn yellow. But still was good enough to serve the food!
And Vj was so busy with his office work for about a month and working day and night without good food or sleep. Thank God, now he is back to a routine working time as usual. So I thought its the right time to cook, as well as make post for this series. In our family, my mom MIL makes such spread if someone comes home for eating lunch (especially if they are coming for first time) and also they make a simpler version when its festival time.
There are certain things followed when it comes to serving this meals. That I have never noticed or knew the correct way of how to serve a proper Tamil full meals in Thalavazhai ilai. After coming here to Singapore, I rarely attend weddings also to know how its served. Now after two marriages happened in our family and serving lots of food too, with lots of 'seniors' to help me around, I never learnt it. I think, next time I should learn it. Its high time I learn this.
When I was browsing a cookbook that my mom gave me when I got married, it had a rough explanation about serving food in banana leaf. Though I din't understood it fully, I could get an idea about it. If you are wondering what is there to learn serving food in vazhai ilai, yes, traditionally there are certain things to be followed. That is which dish goes where in which part of the leaf. Though I have not exactly placed the dishes, I have atleast given a rough idea what goes where. Ah, I should have done this post when I was there at Chennai in June, for my BIL wedding. It would have been easier
Firstly, we serve the meals in Thalai vazhai ilai which means the top part of a banana leaf. In a clean banana leaf, first in the top a thayir pachadi (curd + vegetable) , a varuval(deep fried vegetable), a kootu, a poriyal (mild vegetable with coconut, dry), a curry (spicy vegetable), vadai, a pickle and salt as shown in the pictures.
In the top left hand side part sits a tumbler with water. These all are in the above part of the banana leaf. And one more important thing is, leaf has to be laid in such a way that the broad part of the leaf should be to the right hand side of one who is sitting to eat.
In the below part of the leaf, towards the left hand side you can keep a fruit, which can be served at the end of the meals as its supposed to be eaten after finishing the meal. And in the middle, or towards the right hand side, hot steamed rice has to be kept. Over which in a side, getti paruppu (thick dal) which is always served to begin the meal with. It should be topped with melted ghee (not in forzen state, it should be clear). We have a habit or mannerism of separating a small part of rice everytime rice is served and then mix and eat.
As they eat the paruppu sadam, sambar has to be served on the other part of the rice along with the sambar veggies. After paruppu sadam, again enough rice if needed and more sambar topping for it. After sambar, if any kuzhambu and then rasam. Each time rice is offered if needed, appalam as well. After rasam is finished and let them swipe all the rasam to a side of the leaf and payasam is served. Vadai can be offered more if they need.
Lastly rice and more(buttermilk) is served. After that which the fruit has to be eaten to finish the meal. Our elders needs vetrilai paaku after meals and we keep that as well ready in a plate - vetrilai, paaku and sunnambu. That's the way to end a complete south Indian Thamizh style meals.
Above all, everything has to be served with a smile in your face, which is very important. It will compensate even if your cooking is not good ;) so SMILE and serve!
And the menu is increased or decreased depending upon the occasion. For festival times when we cook for our own family, we do not elaborate the meals. We keep it simple with a poriyal or curry, kootu, sambar, rasam and vadai, payasam, appalam. That's it. And for offering God, we serve only paruppu and avoid sambar as we include onion in it and only a poriyal without onion. Others are only for people at home ;) And I am sorry for the long post, as the meals is elaborate, even I wrote so much ;)
South Indian Meals recipe
So coming to today's lunch menu, it needed a total time of 2 hours for cooking the whole spread. Here is how I prepared, cooked the lunch, just to get an idea. Vegetables I cooked - plantain/ vazhakkai - poriyal and varuval, seppankezhangu/ arbi - curry, cabbage - kootu, vendakkai/ ladies finger - sambar.
- Urad dal for vadai should be soaked 3 hours prior to grinding.Also sago for payasam I prefer soaking for easy cooking. So I soaked dal and sago for payasam when I prepared breakfast itself and ground for vadai after I finished all works and chores and entered the kitchen for preparing lunch. I made vadais with only 1/2 cup of urad dal, so ground in mixie itself. Its easier when you have lots of works to do. And kept inside the fridge.
- Soak tamarind for sambar and rasam in hot water.
- Pressure cook dal and arbi in a big pressure cooker, kept separately in two containers. In another small cooker, I cooked mung dal with finely chopped cabbage for cabbage kootu.
- As these two gets cooked, I did the other cutting works. Plantain for poriyal and keep immersed in water, ladies finger for sambar, 1 onion and tomato for sambar and 1 tomato for rasam, 1 onion for curry, 1 onion for vadai.
- Kept ready other things like curry leaves, green chillies and red chillies as needed for cooking.
- Extract tamarind juice and kept ready for rasam and sambar. Grate coconut.
- Grind for thayir pachadi - I made nellikkai thayir pachadi, this time with dried gooesberry powder that my mom gave it to me. We call it nelli mulli powder. Just we have to grind it along with coconut, green chilli and asafoetida and mix with beaten curd for thayir pachadi. And then grind coconut and things needed for kootu.
- Now stove work starts. First temper for thayir pachadi, paruppu, kootu. You can temper and keep it in the respective vessels even if the dish is not ready and mix later once ready.
- Then keep rasam in the kadai itself and then fry the ladies finger for sambar and set aside, then temper for sambar and prepare sambar. Rasam over and sambar half done!
- As the sambar is kept for boiling, by now the other cookers will be ready to open. Prepare koou in other stove.
- Peel seppan kizhangu for curry and keep ready. Reserve some dal for paruppu and mix turmeric and salt with it and mix with tempered and paruppu ready!
- In the kadai prepare poriyal and then lastly curry. As the curry is kept for browning, sambar would have been done. You can keep rice in cooker now.
- Now lastly prepare payasam and mix every thing needed for vadai and make vadai when everything is over. In the same oil, fry appalam and more milagai (if needed).
We are done with preparing the meals! Here is what I had in my meals I prepared and the recipes:
- Nellikkai thairpachadi recipe
- Getti Paruppu (Dal)
- Vazhakkai varuval
- Vazhakkai Poriyal recipe
- Seppankizhangu curry (Arbi curry)
- Cabbage kootu recipe
- Vendakkai sambar
- Medhu vadai recipe
- Sago javvarisi payasam recipe
- Thakkali thokku recipe
With rice, appalam, banana also in the leaf as seen. The seppankizhangi recipe is similar to my potato curry recipe. So you can refer that!
You can change the menu according to the availability of veggies, just browse through the recipe index!
These are only my understandings upon the south Indian Thamizh thalai vazhai ilai saapadu.
Happy tummy! Have a great weekend!