Kongunad cuisine


Fifty towns, one cuisine

Deccan Chronicle

Chef Soju Philip | December 08, 2013, 13.39 pm IST

The vast and historical region of Kongunadu has a major role to play in Tamil Nadu’s rich culinary repertoire. It is next in popularity only to Chettinadu cuisine in the state. If Chettinadu cuisine revolves around Karaikkudi, Kongunadu cuisine boasts an exquisite collection of recipes from a vast region, which comprises of more than 50 towns in western Tamil Nadu. Places like Coimbatore, Salem, Erode, Pollachi, Nilgiri, Ooty, Kangayam, Palani and Udumalpet form a major part of the region which had an agrarian culture and fertile land. No wonder then that the cuisine of the region depends on local vegetables like brinjals, drumsticks, bottle gourd, ridge gourd, coconut and meats such as chicken and mutton.

There is no seafood as there is no sea shore and major use of pulses, nuts and dry coconut distinguish the taste of the region. Freshly ground turmeric imparts a particular flavour and the dishes are flavourful and as only nominal amount of oil is used, it’s quite healthy while being palate-friendly too.


  • The cuisine is an exquisite collection of native recipes from more than 50 towns in western Tamil Nadu
  • Farming is the major occupation of the region, so locally grown vegetables and meats like chicken and mutton are used
  • No seafood delicacies
  • Delicate uses of spices, mainly freshly ground or powdered
  • Liberal use of dry coconut and pulses.

Elaneer Payasam (tender coconut payasam)


  • Tender coconut 2
  • Sugar 100 gm
  • Thin coconut milk  2 cup
  • Thick coconut milk 1 cup
  • Fried channa dal 1 tbsp
  • Cashew nut 1 tbsp
  • Milkmaid  2 tbsp
  • Ghee 1 tbsp


  • Cut the tender coconut and reserve the water.
  • Scoop out the flesh from inside and chop.
  • Take half the coconut flesh and make it into a paste along with tender coconut water.
  • Mix the coconut paste, sugar, thin coconut milk and simmer on low flame for three to five minutes, till it thickens slightly.
  • Add the Milkmaid and finally the thick coconut milk. Don’t boil, but heat it thoroughly.
  • Fry the dal in hot ghee and pour over the payasam. Check the sweetness and remove from fire and allow it to cool. Preferably serve chilled.

Kongunadu chicken curry


  • Chicken 1 kg
  • Mustard seeds 1 tbsp
  • Curry leaves 1 sprig
  • Onion  2
  • Turmeric ½ tbsp
  • Tomato 2
  • Green chilli 4-5
  • Coconut oil 25 ml

​For ground masala (roast and ground):

  • Coconut 50 gm
  • Poppy seeds 1 tbsp
  • Red chilli  3-4
  • Coriander seeds  2 tbsp
  • Fennel 1 tsp
  • Cloves 3-4
  • Cinnamon 1 stick
  • Garlic 1 pod
  • Peppercorn 1 tsp
  • Onion 1


  • Fry the red chilli, coriander, sliced onion, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, poppy seeds and coconut in a little oil till the rawness is gone. Grind to a fine paste.
  • Cut the chicken into small pieces.
  • Heat oil, splutter the mustard seeds, add curry leaves, slit green chilli and sauté chopped onion till soft. Add chopped tomato and turmeric powder and fry well.
  • Add the chicken pieces and sauté well, add gound masala and enough water, cook till the chicken is done, adjust the seasoning and remove from the fire. Garnish with curry leaves, slit green chilli and serve hot with steamed rice.

Muringakkai puli kolambu (drumstick tamarind curry)


  • Drumsticks (cut into small pieces) 5 nos
  • Onion 30 gm
  • Curry leaf 1 sprig
  • Mustard seeds 1 tsp
  • Tamarind 1 tbsp
  • Jaggery 1 tbsp
  • Gingelly oil 3 tbsp
  • Oil 20 ml

Fry and grind

  • Shallots (chopped) ¼ cup
  • Tomato (chopped) ¼ cup
  • Channa dal 2 tbsp
  • Urad dal 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seed 1 tsp
  • Curry leaf 1 sprig
  • Red chilli 3-4
  • Coriander seeds 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric ½ tsp
  • Grated coconut ¼ cup


  • Heat a little oil, fry the channa dal, cumin and urad dal. Add curry leaves, red chilli, coriander, shallots and sauté well. Add tomatoes and turmeric and finally grated coconut, sauté lightly. Allow it to cool and then grind to make a fine paste.
  • Heat a little oil in a kadai, add mustard seeds and curry leaf, sauté chopped onion and add the asafoetida.
  • Add the ground masala, sauté well and add drumstick with enough water to cook.
  • Soak and squeeze the tamarind and add to the curry. Add little jaggery and salt to taste. Simmer till the oil floats on top. Remove from fire and serve hot