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Chicken tikka masala, korma, balti, rogan josh - we all know a good curry when we see one. Or do we? Indian curries are a familiar sight in restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets all over the world, but the most famous dishes originated in north India, Bangladesh or Pakistan. Sumptuous curries from the southern Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are largely unexplored beyond India.
Alok Anand, executive chef at Southern Spice restaurant at the Taj Coromandel hotel Chennai, helps us choose ten of the best south Indian curries you’ve probably never heard of.
1) Mirkapaya mamsam, Andhra Pradesh
“This mutton preparation is a treat for those who have a spicy palate,” says Alok Anand. “It uses three different chillies in three different forms - green chilli paste, dry Guntur chilli powder and chopped fresh red chilli.” The result is a wonderfully piquant and tender lamb curry with a potent yet silky sauce.
2) Natu kodi pulusu, Andhra Pradesh
A country-style preparation from Andhra Pradesh, traditionally cooked in mud pots, which impart a lot of its unique flavour. Natu kodu pulusu is a chicken-on-the-bone curry with dried coconut, chillies, tomatoes and yoghurt, and is a popular festival dish.
3) Kozhi ishtew, Kerala
This mild chicken and potato stew from Kerala uses coconut milk to give it a light and creamy texture and appearance. The subtle blend of spices combines green chillies, cinnamon, green cardamom and cloves to give the sauce a delicate flavour that’s typical of this part of south India.
4)Tomato pappu, Andhra Pradesh
A speciality of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, this tomato and lentil recipe combines chillies, shallots, mustard seeds and a hint of asafoetida to create an intensely flavourful dahl. A speciality of Southern Spice restaurant since 1997, it is ideally served with ‘pesarattu’, a green mung dahl pancake. “Although traditionally it’s a very thin dahl, our recipe is thick, rich with ghee and flavoured with brown garlic,” says Chef Alok Anand.
5) Aleppey fish curry, Kerala
This delicately flavoured curry from the coastal town of Aleppey in southern Kerala is rich with the produce of the region - seer fish, coconut (oil and milk) and green mango. It combines a gentle blend of spices with green chillies to give it body. “In keeping with our philosophy of using ingredients from source, we use turmeric from Kerala to prepare this curry,” says Chef Anand.
6) Usilampatti kari kozhambu, Tamil Nadu
From Usilampatti in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, this boneless lamb curry is similar to many of the ground coconut curries of south India - only without the coconut. The dry and arid land yields few coconuts, so poppy seeds are used instead. Still, it’s ideal with parotas and idiyappam or string hoppers.
7) Kori rotti, Karnataka
A traditional dish from the coastal region of Mangalore in Karnataka, kori rotti combines chicken curry (kori) and crispy wafers of dried rice paste (rotti, not to be confused with roti flatbread). The coconut-rich curry is boldly flavoured and packed with spice, thanks to a healthy quota of fiery red chillies.
8) Gummadikaya majjiga pulusu, Andhra Pradesh
A vegetarian favourite in Andhra Pradesh, this curry uses white pumpkin, also known as winter melon or ash gourd. It’s gently spiced with chillies and mustard, and the sauce is given body with tomatoes and buttermilk.
9) Sankara meen kozhambu, Tamil Nadu
A speciality of the Chettinad region, this red snapper curry in an aromatic tomato sauce is brought to life with tamarind pulp, fenugreek and gingelly (sesame) oil. “The curry matures and gets better overnight, and has pickling properties because of the tamarind, mustard seeds and fenugreek,” says chef Alok Anand.
10) Gongura pappu, Andhra Pradesh
Another star dish of Andhra cuisine that gets the best of local ingredients. Gongura is a sour green leaf similar to sorrel, and here it is combined with toor dal lentils, green chillies, mustard seeds and tamarind pulp to make a wonderfully aromatic dal.