Cuisine of Kongunadu

One day as I was flipping through a tamil weekly magazine I came across the recipe section which was written by Chef. Jacob Sahaya. The word "Kongunatu Samaiyal" caught my attention and I read the article. AaHaa!!!! I was suprised to know that there was so much more to this cuisine and wanted to find out more.

"Namakku coimbathur pakamunga".....meaning I am from Coimbatore, the heart of Kongunad. "Kongu" literally means "nectar" or "honey". As the name suggests the land, the people, the tamil slang and the food are just as sweet.

Before we go to the cuisine, let us know a little bit more about the region as it helps understand the food.

Coimbatore known as the "Manchester of South India" is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu as it is a heavily industrialised city with textile factories, engineering firms, automobile parts manufacturers, health care facilities and technical educational institutions.

Industrialisation began during the 1880s with the textile boom in 1920. In 1888, Sir Robert Stanes founded the Coimbatore Spinning and Weaving Mills known as Stanes Mills and a coffee curing factory in Trichy road thus kick starting the industrial journey of Coimbatore.

Film industry: Everyone knows that Kodambakkam is the hub of "Kollywood" but the roots of South Indian film began in Kovai in 1917, when Swamikannu Vincent, a railway engineer, built the first cinema in South India, the "Variety Hall", now Delite Theatres. His son Paul Vincent introduced talking motion pictures in South India.

Educational institutions: Coimbatore is known as a educational hub and is home to state owned universities like Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Bharathiar University, Avinashashi Lingam university. The first engineering college in the city was started by G.D. Naidu as the Arthur Hope College of Technology in 1945. Later it became the Government College of Technology, Coimbatore. PSG College of Technology [1951], The Air Force Administrative College [1949] , Coimbatore Institute of Technology (CIT) [1950], Coimbatore Medical College[1966] are a few examples to show the standard of education  available in this region.

History of Coimbatore:
"Irulars" and "Kossavars" were the first tribal groups to occupy this region. During the 9th century came the Cholas .....standing testimony to their influence is the "Koniamman Temple" which still stand high.
In the 1550s, the military governors [Nayakars] of the Vijaynagara Empire took control of the region. After the Vijayanagara Empire fell in the 17th century, the Madurai Nayaks established their rule in this region .The Nayaks introduced the Palayakkarar system under which Kongunadu region was divided into 24 Palayams.

In the later part of the 18th century, the Coimbatore region came under the control of Tipu Sultan. After Tipu Sultan,the British East India Company annexed Coimbatore to the Madras Presidency in 1799. Coimbatore played a prominent role in the Second Poligar War against the British in 1801, as it was the area of operations of Dheeran Chinnamalai.

How was the name evolved???
The present name is a derivation of "Koyanputhur" after the 12th Century Irula chieftain Kovan or Koyan , who ruled the region around the city during the reign of Kulothunga Chola 1. This information is present in the 16-18th Century poem Cholapurvapattayam.  This evolved and became Koyambuthur or Koyamuthur and then anglicized as Coimbatore. 

Kongunad Region: It comprises of the present day Coimbatore, Salem, Erode, Tirupur, Namakkal, Dharapuram, Nilgiris, Kangeyam, parts of Tiruchy and Dindugal.
The region is blessed with enormous wealth because of the hard work, vision and innovation of the people of this region.

Agriculture: Cotton, Banana, Coconut, Palm, Mangoes, Tumeric and Pulses.
Textiles : Kovai ,Tirupur, Erode, Pallipalayam, Tiruchenkode, Kumarapalayam, Karur, Bhavani, Aathur, Gobi and Namakkal.

Sugar : Coimbatore [in 1912 the first sugarcane breeding centre was started in coimbatore which pushed the india to the top position in sugar export], Erode, Gobi, Pollachi and Karur.
Silk : Gobi [first automated silk reeling unit in the country] and Erode.
Poultry farming: Namakkal
Automobile parts : Salem, Namakkal, Tiruchenkodu, Karur.
Milk production: Erode [Aavin].
Edible Oils: Erode.
Tumeric: Erode [Asia's largest market for tumeric].
Educational Institutions: Kovai, Rasipuram, Salem, Erode.

Kongu Cuisine:  Basically it is a collection of recipes from all the different towns of this region over centuries . The facts about the food is from Chef. Jacob Sahaya who has reached new heights in his career.Good luck to him.
Cuisine speciality:
  • Traditional way of cooking.
  • No marination of non vegetarian items.
  • Tumeric is always used [fresh or roased and ground].
  • Use of oil and chilli is less
  • Use of unpeeled potatoes use and milk in curries.
  • Use of coconut shells to cook meat gravies easily. 
  • Use  of "Coparai" (dry coconut) in curries and gravies rather than fresh coconut 
  • Use mangoes to prepare various sweets 
  • Cook delicacies using various cereals such as rye, bajra, jowar for their main course.
  • Consume butter milk and sweet as the second last course and rasam as the last.
First time in cooking: 
  • "Venpongal" and "Kottu" recipes to crop up.
  • Drumstick leaves used to make ghee from butter.
  • Concept of "Pickle Making" using gingelly oil was conceived here as sesame crop was cultivated in Arachalur, Erode and Nathakadaiyur.
  • 'Jasmine Idlis', which has a special character of regaining its shape and texture even when pressed
  • "Vadagams" prepared by drying meat . 
  • "Panchamirtham" : From the region of Kulithalai and Pollachi were the special type of bananas were grown known as "Viruppachi Vazhaipazham". This was developed in the temple kitchen, where expert chefs prepared a dish which speaks for itself. It contains viruppachi plantains, kandasari sugar, dates, kalkandu [sugar candy],cardamom and ghee.
  • "Kali" prepared from use pulses like maize, ragi, bajra was from the region of Karur, Kangeyam and Palladam.
  • Pathaneer Halwa / Payasam and Illaneer Halwa / Payasam took shape here.
Kongunad special : few recipe names:

  • Pollachi yeral masala and pollachi mutton kuzhambu.
  • Thandu keema urundai.
  • Karur mutton kuzhambhu.
  • Keeranoor mutton kuzhambhu [mutton + vegetables]
  • Karimeen kuzhambhu [ fish + mutton].
  • Pallipalayam kozhi varuval [chiken +pallipalayam special masala]
  • Nathakadaiyur nandu masala [crab masala].
  • Attakatti yeral masala.
  • Aathur kozhi kuzhambhu .
Vegetarian recipes:
  • Benian [speciality of muslim cuisine ]
  • Mushroom thirattal [mushroom + groundnut masala].
  • Ellu kara dosai. 
  • Ragi roti.
  • Pallapatti kathirikai masala.
  • Kathamba saadam.
  • Kuchi kizhangu avial.
  • Salavu kuzhambu [use of herbs like thithili]
  • Drumstick leaf adai.
  • Karur kaai kurma.
  • Pachapuli rasam [tamarind + onion].
  • Nila kuzhambhu.[curry prepared with potato, colocassia, yam and sweet potato]
  • Kollu masiyal [horsegram boiled and ground to a paste along with spices]
  • Payiru thirattal [whole moong dhal+groundnut paste +onion +pepper]
  • Kaalaan parangi kari.
Enough is enough ......let us see some of the varieties.

Arisi Paruppu Saadam

kalkandu pongal 

Scribbled by Reva.
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