Royal recipes

A pavilion selling ancient Tamil food as part of the ongoing Sangam 4 festival, attempts to reinvent the recipes of Sangam Age Kings

September 10, 2015 04:56 pm | Updated 04:56 pm IST - MADURAI:

FORGOTTEN FLAVOURS: Varagu Arisi Kal Dosa. Photo: Special Arrangement

FORGOTTEN FLAVOURS: Varagu Arisi Kal Dosa. Photo: Special Arrangement

“Try the Angaya podi ,” offers S. Meenakumari, an organic farmer and independent researcher on royal cuisine of the Sangam Period. “It was an integral part of the Pandiya and Chola Kings’ food. The podi acts as an appetiser, stimulates digestion and was taken either before or after food with sesame oil,” she says.

Meenakumari’s “The Kings’ recipes” was the star attraction on the fourth day of the Sangam 4, the ongoing Tamil literary and cultural festival. Angaya Podi is a combination of spices and herbs including dry ginger, pepper, cumin seeds, toor dal, Bengal gram, Black gram, dried manathakkali keerai (popularly called as Black Night Shade) and coriander leaves. “ Angaya podi is still in use in the form of ‘Deepavali Marunthu’ in many places,” she says.

The spread also included Mohanakalavai (sambar) Varagu Arisi Kal Dosa, Kambu Paniyaram , Mutton Chukka, ground nut chutney and Mappillai Samba rice.

Mohanakalavai is the traditional sambar prepared with hand pounded toor dal. It has a distinct flavour when had with the Mappillai Samba rice. With more starchy and corny flavour to it, the samba rice tasted different to the ponni rice what people are used to. Also, the rice is rich in fibre content and is termed good for health. “During Sangam period the kings served half-boiled mappillai samba rice to their guests and that seemed to be the practice then,” she says

She discovered the recipes while browsing for the food of ancient kings. “I found out that emperors were beef eaters and served non vegetarian food to their guests that included quail, goat and deer meat. They were also lovers of millet food. They took millets either in the form ‘ kali ’, paniyaram or dosa,” she says.

Quoting Sangam literature, ‘ Porunaratrupadai ’, which has references on Karikal Chola’s food, Meenakumari registers the king’s favourite meat preparation which was cooked on direct heat. “The thigh portion of the goat’s or beef’s meat is cut into large dices, marinated with pepper, dry ginger paste, then roasted on fire with the help of skewers and finally tossed with arugampul (Bermuda grass) for flavour and served.”

The mutton chukka was the highlight of the evening. With liberal dose of pepper the dish tasted spicy and sold like hot cakes. “This recipe tastes good if prepared with Mecheri goat variety and in the earthen pot. It will take less than 20 minutes to prepare the dish,” Meenakumari says. “Rice cooked with chunks of flesh was primarily from Pandiya kingdom, as the kings relished the food and encouraged their cooks to have it in their daily menu.”

Varagu arisi kal dosa went well with ground nut chutney. The paniyarams made of kambu (Pearl millet) with sugarcane jaggery was another favourite. “ Paniyaram was popular during the Sangam period and it was called as Panniyam and it was primarily made of green gram. Also temples distributed dosas as prasadams and there are inscriptions such as those found in Tiruchendur that speak how people donated cumin seeds, pepper, mustard, millets and salt for preparation of dosas,” says C. Santhalingam, epigraphist and retired archaeological officer.

“The chukka was much in demand and got over before I could taste it. But the sweet paniyaram and varagu arisi kal dosa tasted good. Fond of millets, I used to make batter with equal portions of varagu , samai , thinai and kuthiraivali millets. It is healthy and people should have it at least once a week,” says J.E. Sangeetha, visitor to the festival.




Kambu : 100 gm

Black gram: 100 gm

Rice: 100 gm

Fenugreek: 10 gm

Jaggery: 50 gm

Groundnut Oil: 50 ml


Soak kambu, black gram and rice for three hours and grind it. Heat jaggery in water and remove the impurities. Add jaggery to the paste. Heat the pan and smear it with ground nut oil. Now pour the batter in the pan and flip the dumplings to let the other side get cooked. Serve the dish hot.

Mutton Chukka


Mutton: 250 gm

Pepper: 30 gm

Dry ginger: 10 gm

Sesame Oil: 50 ml

Turmeric: 5 gm

Cumin Seeds: 5 gm

Curry leaves: Few


Cut the mutton into large dices and boil the pieces with a pinch of cumin seeds, powdered pepper and turmeric. Keep it aside. Roast the pepper, cumin seeds and dry ginger and grind it. Put the pan on fire and pour sesame oil, sauté the mixture with curry leaves well and add the boiled mutton and leave it to cook for 10 minutes. Serve the dish.

(Note: It tastes better if cooked in earthen pot)

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