This Madras Week, treat yourself to these mouth-watering dishes

Four recipes from four different books celebrating Tamil Nadu's cuisine
This Madras Week, treat yourself to these mouth-watering dishes
This Madras Week, treat yourself to these mouth-watering dishes
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Celebrations are in order all through this week, as Madras commemorated its 377th birthday on August 22.  This year, skip the regular fare, and treat yourself to these local favourites. The News Minute handpicked four recipes from four different books celebrating Tamil Nadu’s cuisines.     

Nandu Kulambu (Crab in a seasoned sauce)

Serves 4

Crab is a delicious seasoned sauce. Served with rice, idli or dosai.


4 small soft-shelled crabs

1/4 cup finely chopped onions 

1/4 cup chopped tomatoes 

4-6 garlic cloves, halved 

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tamarind paste 

1/2 cup tomato sauce or puréed tomato 

Spice Powder 

4 dried red chillies 

1 tsp coriander seeds 

1 tsp fennel seeds 

3 tsp flaked desiccated coconut 


4 tbsp oil 

4-6 curry leaves 

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds


1. Wash and cut the crabs. Set aside.

2. Blend the spice powder ingredients to fine consistency.

3. For the tempering, put the oil in a wide pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the remaining tempering ingredients. Fry over medium heat till the seeds are light brown.  

4. Add the onions, tomatoes and garlic and sauté till onions are translucent. 

5. Mix in the turmeric powder. 

6. Add crabs and stir-fry gently for 1-2 minutes. 

7. Mix in the ground spice powder, salt, tamarind paste and tomato sauce or purée. Add 1 cup of warm water and cook for a few minutes, till the sauce is thick. 


Crabs come in various sizes from small, soft-shelled ones to king crabs. Adjust seasonings, water and tomato sauce according to the size of the crab. 

To clean soft-shelled crabs, use a pair of scissors to remove the gills on both sides (round part) near the claws. Flip over. Remove the vein in the centre of the crab. Cut off the eyes. 

Excerpted with the permission of Westland Books from “Chettinad Kitchen: Food and flavours from South India” by Alamelu Vairavan

Paithum Paruppu Vendhayam Dosai

Green gram-fenugreek seed pancake: from Tamil Nadu

Preparation time: 30 minutes 

Soaking time: 2 hours

Fermentation time: 4 hours 

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: 10-12 dosai


1/4 cup husked green gram (mung dal)

2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dana)

1 cup parboiled rice (ukda/sela chaval)

1 1/4 tsp salt or to taste 

1 tsp cumin seeds 

1/2" piece ginger, peeled and grated 

3-4 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped 

2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves 

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped 

1 sprig curry leaves, roughly torn 

Oil for shallow-frying 


1. Combine the dal and fenugreek seeds. Wash well and soak in water for 2 hours.

2. Wash the rice well and soak in water for 2 hours. 

3. Drain the dal and grind, till light and fluffy, gradually adding 1/2-3/4 cup water. 

4. Drain the rice and grind to make a smooth batter, gradually adding 1-1 3/4 cups water. 

5. Combine both batters in a large container. Add salt and mix well.

6. Set aside to ferment for 4 hours. 

7. Just before cooking the dosai, mix in the cumin seeds, ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves, onion and curry leaves. Add a little water if necessary, to make a thick batter of pouring consistency. 

8. Prepare a tawa and cook the dosai

9. Serve hot with any coconut chutney of your choice 


Mung is fabulously rich in minerals that prevent heart diseases and diabetes.

It is rich in potassium which keeps blood pressure at bay. 

It is also a good source of iron, zinc and magnesium.

Apart from being nourishing, mung is easy to digest. 

Excerpted with the permission of Westland Books from “Dosai” by Chandra Padmanabhan

Rava Kesari

Semolina Dessert with Saffron from Tamil Nadu

Serves 4-6

Soaking time: 20 minutes

Preparation time: 5 minutes 

Cooking time: 15 minutes 


2 tbsp ghee 

2 tbsp halved cashew nuts

2 tbsp seedless raisins (kishmish)


1/4 cup + 1/4 cup ghee 

1 cup fine semolina (rava/sooji)

1 cup sugar

2 cups full-cream milk 


1. Heat ghee for decoration in a deep frying pan over low heat. Add cashew nuts and fry, till golden. Drain and set aside. 

2. Add raisins to pan and fry till they puff up. Drain and set aside. 

3. Add 1/4 cup ghee to pan and heat through. Add semolina and fry over low heat, stirring all the while, till pink. Remove semolina from pan and set aside.

4. Combine sugar and milk in the same pan and bring to boil over moderate heat. 

5. 1 tsp powdered green cardamom 

A pinch of orange food colour (optional)

1/2 tsp saffron strands soaked in 1 tbsp milk for 20 minutes. 

6. Lower heat and add semolina gradually, stirring continuously. 

7. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, ensuring that no lumps are formed, till milk in completely absorbed. 

8. Add 1/4 cup ghee, powdered cardamoms, food colour (if used) and saffron-flavoured milk. Mix well and cook till mixture leaves sides of pan. 

9. Spoon into a serving dish sprinkle fried cashew nuts and raisins. 

Serve hot or chilled. 

Excerpted with the permission of Westland Books from “Southern Flavours-The Best of South Indian Cuisine” by Chandra Padmanabhan

Kanchipuram idli

Spicy steamed rice cakes from north arcot

You will need an idli rack to prepare this dish.

Makes: 20-22 idli 

Soaking time: 8 hours 

Fermentation time: 8-10 hours 

Preparation time: 40 minutes 

Cooking time: 40 minutes 

1 cup parboiled rice (ukdalsela chaval)

1 cup husked black gram (urad dal)

1/2 tsp black peppercorns 

1/4 tsp ginger powder (saunth)

1 tsp salt or to taste 

2 tbsp oil 

2 tbsp ghee 

1/2 tsp asafoetida powder (hing)

1 sprig curry leaves 

oil for brushing idli rack 


1. Wash rice and soak in water for 8 hours. Wash dal and soak in water for 8 hours.

2. Drain rice and grind to a coarse batter, gradually adding 1/2-1/3 cup water.

3. Drain dal, add peppercorns and ginger powder and grind to make a coarse batter, gradually adding 1-1 1/2 cups water. 

4. Combine both batters, mix in salt and set aside to ferment for 8-10 hours. 

5. The batter should be thicker than dosai batter, but have a pouring consistency. Add more water if necessary. 

6. Just before making idli, heat oil and ghee in a small pan. Add asafoetida powder and curry leaves. When curry leaves splutter, mix contents of pan into batter. 

7. Steam idli

8. Serve hot with vengaya sambar and tengai chutney. 

Excerpted with the permission of Westland Books from “Simply South – Traditional Vegetarian Cooking” by Chandra Padmanabhan 

Photographs by N Prabhaakkar, Michael Swamy and Alamelu Vairavan

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