For any first time traveller, Tamil Nadu would appear to be nothing more than yet another normal Indian city. Apart from the bustling bazaars [local market], majestic temples, tea stalls, dusty roads clogged with auto-rickshaws and flock of cows, what people miss is the exquisite Tamil Nadu cuisine. This blessed land of the Dravidians is home to an array of the delicious dishes you would find nowhere else on the planet.
Whenever I make a visit to Tamil Nadu, India, and my belly cries for food, the first thing that comes to my mind is “Pulisadam” also known as Puliyogare [Tamarind rice]. It is one of the favourites and most popular food among the Tamil people and has a distinct flavour none like other. Pulisadam is mostly offered in Tamil Nadu temples as an offering for the devotees. As I recollect, I still remember my first delightful encounter with the Pulisadam. One fine morning recorded in my travel diary, I was busy exploring the city of Tiruchirappalli [Trichy] in Tamil Nadu. As I strolled the premises of the famous Sri Ranganatha Samy temple, I stumbled upon a Tamil girl dressed in a typical Tamil Nadu attire with Jasmine flowers tied to her hair. She appeared to be in her early 20’s and reminded me of my little sister back home. She had a big bowl of food which seemed to be rice, although it looked different, bright yellow in colour mixed with some peanuts as well. The girl was serving the same to a group of pilgrims, on plates made of dry leaves which I could not identify, I guess dried palm leaves, which are typically used for serving food in the Southern states of India.
Just when I was crossing her after a quick snapshot of hers, she called me up “Anna” [brother in Tamil]. I knew she called me up to offer me the dish. I was delighted by her call since I definitely was starving for food. She handed me 2 scoops of rice. I asked her what it was? She said “Anna, it is Pulisadam, a temple offering. Try it, I can see you are hungry”. Well! There she definitely got it right, I was indeed starving like nothing that I would have eaten the whole bowl in front of her. I did not even mind washing my hands. I made up a small bowl of rice [the way Indians eat] with my bare hands and eagerly stuffed it into my mouth. For a minute I did not speak, I closed my eyes and savoured the rich flavour. Tamarind was the predominant flavour. However, with my foodie’s tongue, I could also taste pepper, red chillies, sesame seeds, fried peanuts and coriander as well. I breathed a sigh of satisfaction and I found the little girl smiling at me. It added more flavour to my Pulisadam as well.
I finished the portion given to me and the girl already handed me another portion of rice. So nice of her I felt as I was not full and craved more of it. I thanked her with a mouthful “Pulisadam smile” and started off working on my next portion. In minutes, I finished and I was full. The girl asked for more and I waved a thankful “no”. I told her she exactly look like my sister and asked her name. “Bhuvaneshwari, Anna”, she replied. I got hold of a shawl from my rucksack. I brought it all the way down from Kashmir during my sojourn in Northern states of India. I handed over it to her but she refused at first. I said, “I bought it for my sister at home, let it be a gift to my sister at Tamil Nadu”. She offered me a smile back and folded the same before putting it into her handbag. I waved her a goodbye and left. Pulisadam already got settled in a corner of my foodaholic heart. Since then I never miss Pulisadam during my stay in Tamil Nadu.
As a travel and a food junkie myself I highly recommend you all foodies out there to personally try Pulisadam for yourself and let me know your comments. I bet you would find it super-duper delicious. You can easily learn the recipe as well from the local food joints. Else, ask your tour operator for a cooking class and they would arrange a perfect set-up to learn the different local dishes which you could use to surprise your family and friends back home. It is not just the Pulisadam that makes the Tamil Nadu cuisine so popular among foodies. In fact, there are much more on the menu. There are a variety of dishes such as the Pongal, the Thalapakkettu Biriyani, Tomato rice, Lemon rice, Coconut rice and much more. When you make a visit to the cities in Tamil Nadu, do try each one of these and possibly learn the recipe of the same.
Happy Travelling! Happy Food-ing!