Winter Curry Dishes from All Over India: Foods That Help Fight Cold Weather

Winter Curry Dishes from All Over India: Foods That Help Fight Cold Weather

Come winter and all parts of the country whip warming seasonal brews. The common ingredient in them all? Pepper

There is drizzle outside when we sit for lunch.

The menu is but‘s milagu kuzhambu (pepper curry) and hot rice. I scoop a pile of rice on my plate, add a splash of gingelly oil and two spoonfuls of curry. The drizzle turns into an even rain shower, and as I wolf the rice down, there is thunder and a howling wind. But I’m ready to handle the weather: the curry, a sour mix of pepper, pepper and more pepper, leaves my palate with a mild burning sensation typical of the spice. It keeps me warm inside, at least for a while.

Come winter and all parts of India start whipping winter curries that are specific to the region. In Tamil Nadu, milagu kuzhambu is a seasonal special. “In my childhood, my grandmother served this curry or pepper rasam with hot rice and appalam in the winter, ”recalls 74-year-old YouTuber Gita Rajamani, who runs the popular channel Agrahara Recipes from her home in Kallidaikurichi, Tirunelveli district. “Back then, in Sirkazhi, where I grew up, it sometimes rained for 15 days in a row and this curry was a daily item to keep warm,” she adds.

“In the winter, when the nights were dark and the stone mortar and pestle stored in the corner of the house were too cold to be kept idli dough, milagu kuzhambu came to our rescue, ”says Gita. Made with lots of tamarind, which Gita says is a “natural preservative”, the curry would be stored in a stone pot and was good to have for 15 days. “Pepper was the main spice in Tamil cuisine,” she points out. “Green and red chili were actually introduced to us by the Portuguese; but now we use more chili. ”

Pepper Rasam from South India which is very common and popular which can be served with steamed rice and ghee.

Pepper Rasam from South India which is very common and popular which can be served with steamed rice and ghee.

Pepper was used extensively in the winter, in curries and rasams. Betel leaves were used to keep the lungs healthy in cold weather, Gita points out. “I’m making one rasam with the leaves; time the ordinary tamarind rasam is done simmering, I put a betel leaf over it, turn off the stove, put the lid on and let the juice seep into rasam, ”She explains, adding that she will remove the magazine a little later.

In western Tamil Nadu, horsegram from and rasam are winter delicacies and in places like Coimbatore where the weather generally slopes towards the colder side, the lentils are cooked all year round. “In my household we do Kill a couple (valley) twice a week, especially in winter, as the dish is considered heat-inducing, ”says Dharchana Muruganandam, who grew up in Pollachi. “We make rasam with the water from has been boiled in; the dish has crushed shallots instead of garlic, ”she explains.

Gita says that horsegram can also be incorporated into one thogayal (thick chutney) by grinding the cooked lentils with onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic. “It is going well rasam, ”She says, adding that she spent several years in western Tamil Nadu before getting married. Gita remembers a Tamil proverb with a laugh: ‘Elachavanukku ellu, koluthavanukku kollu’, which can be translated to: ‘Sesame for the slender man, horsegram for the chubby man’, “because horsegram helps break down fat in the body”.

Childhood booklet

Food blogger Swayampurna Mishra has a treasure trove of lamb memories to fall back on every winter.

She says: “I am from Odisha and my mother made this amazing lamb curry when I was a child. I remember it was made every single Sunday through the winter: it was familiar and spicy and it would warm us right up. ”

Lamb curry

She adds that it admitted that making a child feel warm was not an achievement in her childhood home. “It’s not getting as cold in Odisha as it is in parts of the north, but I think all people from that part of the country remember their childhood lamb curry as a winter ritual.”

Milagu kuzhambu (pepper curry) recipe:


2 teaspoons tamarind paste, turmeric to taste, a sprig of curry leaves, 5 to 6 red chilies, a pinch of asafoetida, 1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon urad dal, 1 1/2 teaspoons toor dal, 2 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1 1/2 teaspoons peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, gingelly oil for sauté, salt to taste, jaggery to taste


Grate pepper and coriander seeds, toor and urad dal and red chili with two teaspoons oil. Introduce half a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds, cumin, asafoetida and curry leaves when the peppercorns start to spray. Turn off the stove. Now add salt to taste. Once the mixture has cooled, grind to a fine paste and add a little water. Heat four to five teaspoons of oil in a saucepan. Add the mustard seeds, and when they sprout, add half a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds, half a teaspoon of cumin, a pinch of asafoetida, turmeric powder, ground pasta, tamarind paste, jaggery and water to get the liquid consistency of a curry. Let it simmer until it thickens and the oil separates. Serve with hot rice.

(With input from Meghna Majumdar)


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