Explore The GI-Tagged Cuisines From Tamil Nadu

Renowned for its culinary richness, Tamil Nadu boasts an impressive array of Geographical Indication-tagged foods, showcasing a harmonious blend of heritage and innovation
Crispy Ooty Varkey served in a bowl
Crispy Ooty Varkey served in a bowlTamil Nadu Tourism

Tamil Nadu is a culinary wonderland that transcends ordinary gastronomic experiences. Its vibrant and diverse food scene offers a delectable array of dishes for festivals, gatherings, and everyday cravings. Renowned as a haven of gourmet treats, the State's opulent food traditions offer a flavour fiesta that unfolds like a symphony for the taste buds. At the heart of this culinary extravaganza, the use of rice, lentils, coconut, and spices, with meat and legumes play vital roles to elevate each dish to a culinary masterpiece. Experience the authentic flavours and palate-popping wonders of Tamil Nadu by seeking out dishes that proudly wear the Geographical Indication (GI) badge – a marker of unique products that reflect the qualities and culture of the area they come from. As you travel across Tamil Nadu, you can sample a wide range of dishes ideal for every meal, from breakfast to lunch and dinner.

Here, we have curated a list of a few GI-tagged cuisines from Tamil Nadu that you must try at least once in your lifetime:

Ooty Varkey

A distinctive delicacy from Ooty is the flavourful nibble, Varkey. It is a unique crispy snack borne out of a blend of diverse ingredients including wheat flour, salt, sugar, ghee, vegetable oil, mava, and water. The mava that goes in the snack is prepared from bananas, semolina, maida, and sugar. In addition, the characteristic properties of water and weather in Ooty give Varkey a peculiarly unique taste that you will not find elsewhere. Varkey is primarily a biscuit consumed with tea during snack hours. The texture of the biscuit is crusty and crackly on the first encounter with your mouth. You can also have it whenever you feel the taste buds tingling, as it is quite easy on the stomach.

The origins of Varkey go back to the 1800s during India's colonial rule, with both the British and Indian aristocracy enjoying it at tea parties and general meetings.

Cumbum Paneer Grapes hanging in a vineyard
Cumbum Paneer Grapes hanging in a vineyardAppu M S

Cumbum Paneer Grapes

The city of Cumbum, also known as the 'Grapes City of South India,' has a mouth-watering reason behind that moniker. The plump and delicious Cumbum Paneer Grapes that are grown in this region are the reason behind the moniker. These grapes are also often referred to as Paneer Thratchai, Kambam Grapes, or Muscat Hamburg. They are renowned for their quick growth and early maturity, which ensures their round-the-year availability. These grapes are beloved for their citrus flavour and purple-brown texture. They are a rich source of vitamins, tartaric acid, and antioxidants and are used to produce wine, spirits, jams, juice, and raisins. The agricultural climate and perfect soil conditions of the Cumbum region make it ideal for the cultivation of Paneer Thratchai.

Food enthusiasts will be thrilled to learn that Cumbum is a haven for the fruit as it constitutes 85 per cent of the grapes grown in Tamil Nadu. They were introduced to Tamil Nadu by a French priest in 1832. 

Thoothukudi Macaroon

Thoothukudi Macaroon
Thoothukudi MacaroonVKS Impex

Thoothukudi, also known as the 'Pearl City,' is a port town rich in history, famous for the eponymous Thoothukudi macaroon. The scrumptious Thoothukudi macaroon uses cashews, egg whites, sugar, and only a slight pinch of salt for its preparation. The abundance of cashews in this port city is a delightful improvisation in the macaroon. The luscious delight is consumed as a snack that has just the right level of sweetness and melts on the tongue. The crunch of the cashew lingers on as you salivate for long after the sweetness has receded. These dry cakes are found in abundance and treated with much fondness among the foodies with a sweet tooth in the State.

The Portuguese introduced macarons, which now feature an Indian twist, blending European elegance with indigenous flavours, and are treated with fondness and pride.

Srivilliputhur Palkova

Srivilliputhur is renowned for its traditional milk-based sweet called Palkova. It is a palatable preparation made from milk and sugar and has a distinct taste owing to the earthy milk found only in the region. The procedure of preparation, which is now about 75 years old, involves simmering milk for long on firewood stoves until the milk becomes half in content. For travellers with a sweet tooth, Palkova is a dessert not to miss when in Tamil Nadu.

Srivilliputhur Palkova is said to be a dish that tests people's patience as it can only be cooked perfectly on a low flame.

Erode Manjal

The city of Erode boasts of a certain turmeric absolutely unique to its area. The turmeric is known after the name of the city, as Erode Turmeric, or Erode Manjal. The spice is popular and sought-after for its exceptionally high content of curcumin and its usage in traditional Ayurveda medicines due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant attributes. It is the region's warm climate, moderate rainfall, and well-drained soil that make the factors favourable for the bountiful cultivation of turmeric. Travellers and food enthusiasts can experience the sting of the Erode Manjal in the various non-vegetarian and vegetable dishes.

Erode Manjal occupies more than 70  per cent of turmeric grown in Erode. It covers a whopping landmass of 50,000 acres across Tamil Nadu.

Palani Panchamirtham

In the town of Palani is a grand temple known as the Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple. This temple offers a unique prasad that is famously recognised as Palani Panchamirtham. The name is derived from "pancha" which translates to "five" and "amirthan" which means "delicacy." The five delicacies combined to make a memorable prasad are banana, cardamom, jaggery, ghee, and honey. The texture of the prasad entails sweetness and is prepared without adding a single drop of water during the whole process. It is a semi-solid affair with a consistent taste and no artificial additives. The delicacy is revered in the area as it is a religious offering made for Lord Dhandayuthapani Swamy, the presiding deity of Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, situated on Palani Hills.

The prasad is believed to have come into existence in the 9th century AD as references to the prasad were found in canonical Tamil literature such as Nakkeerar’s Thirumurugattrupadai and Arunagirinathar’s Thiruppugazh.

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