The Secret Tastes of South Indian Food

Snack food in South India is just a treat to the senses. I always look forward to tiffin which is an old British term that is now used in the South for the snack hours between meal times. Where ever you happen to be there is always an array of tasty savory snacks usually made from rice flour combined with lentils. Each dish is served with Sambar which is south Indian daal, Chutney made from fresh coconut and often Rasam tamarind daal. A real treat for the hungry visitor.

So here is a guide to some delicious south Indian food all of which must be tested at least once. With so many places to visit in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu your trip there would not be complete without enjoying these tasty snacks.


This has to be my favorite snack food in India. The best way to describe them is a thin savory pancake made from rice and lentil flour and shallow fried in a pan. When they are stuffed with spicy potatoes they are called masala dosa. Dosa has been a staple food of the south for centuries and can even be dated back to the 5th century. So this takes on a new meaning of a recipe being handed down from generation to generation. Like most foods, there have been adaptions and today you can find so many different versions of the dosa such as the paneer dosa, butter roasted dosa, Rava dosa, tomato dosa, paper-thin dosa, and the list goes on.

I have eaten dosa all over South India and so many have been fantastic but one of my favorites that stands out has to have been during my stay in Munnar. I think I must have been pretty hungry that morning before my jeep trip to Kumily but I ate at a popular vegetarian restaurant called Saravana Bhavan after a recommendation. The place was crowded but the dosa I ordered was served quickly on a banana leaf with a really tasty and fresh sambar and chutney.


Idli now I don’t know why but I find this to be quite a quirky snack. It is very popular and can be found on all menus of the south and there is no surprise here that it is also a very old food from around the 10th century. It has changed since then though. It used to be fried but today this snack made from rice flour spiced with pepper and asafetida and resembles in shape a small disc is steamed. It is a very light snack and is usually served with sambar and two types of chutney.


Another one of my favorite foods in the south is the uttapam. It can be described as a vegetable pancake usually with onions, green chillies, tomatoes, and coriander and enjoyed on the side with sambar and chutney.


This is another very old snack food and some say possibly the oldest in India originating in Tamil Nadu. Resembling something that looks like a doughnut but tasting very different. They are eaten as a snack or at breakfast with sambar and chutney. Like the dosa, there are so many variations of the vada that it is almost endless. The most popular is the uddina vada but then you have the masala vada, bonda vada, keema vada, and vada pav to name only a few.


These are deep-fried balls made from gram flour and potatoes and are sold by street vendors for snacking. There are also sweet versions that are very similar to doughnuts. Savoury bondas are often spicy and can be filled with vegetables and are usually served with fresh lime juice.


South Indian food is a wonderful blend of flavors, seasonings, colours, and fragrances and is a perfect way to enjoy the vibrancy of the south

About Peter Rhody

"Loving India is a passion of mine. I have enjoyed several long journeys to all corners of the sub-continent, completed my B.A and M.A in Asian studies, studied languages such as Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit, written on the Hari Krishna movement, lectured on Indian culture and history in university, advised others on their trips to India all the while preparing my next visit to India. There are so many places in India I love and want to always go back to but my favorite destination has to be the holy city of Varanasi. Here you can feel the living pulse and the beating heart of the center of religious India with its overwhelming spirituality and history and just for being a true microcosm of India itself "

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