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TemperinG in Tamil Cuisine

The Tamil word for Tempering is "Thalippu".

Tempering is a very important part of Tamil cuisine cooking. For some dishes, like Poriyal, tempering is the only way to add taste as no other spices will be used.

For many dishes, tempering is the first thing we do. For eg: Varuval, Poriyal.
For some dishes, tempering can be done separately and added to the dish when it is cooked. For eg: Sambar, Rasam

In present day, Tamil cuisine and in general Indian cuisine, Tempering plays a major role. In Tamil cusine, there are various ways to Temper / "Thalippathu":

The following works well for Vegetarian dishes. For Non-Veg dishes, it may vary depending on the ingredients.

Simple way of Tempering is just follow steps 1 and 2.
Full fledged tempering is following all the below steps:


Take a pan or a fry pan and pour one or more table spoon of oil, depending on the dish and quantity you wan to make. Heat the oil.

Please take care not to over heat the oil.


When the oil heats up, add mustard seeds.
The mustard seed will splatter within a few seconds (max a minute).

Please take care not to burn the mustard seeds or over fry it.


When the mustard seeds splatters, add split white urad dal (ulundhu).
The Ulundhu will turn golden brown.

Please take care not to burn the mixture or over fry it.


Until this step, Please take care not to burn the mixture or over fry it.
When it turns golden brown, add asafoetida powder.

Within seconds, you can add other vegetables for the dish you are making.

If there is delay or if you feel, by this time, the pan contents are deeply fried or burnt out, then better to throw them away and restart again. This is very important because you will spend time cooking a dish just to end up having a bad taste of the dish.

Even though this process takes just a min or two, you must take care not to over heat it up or fry it or burn the mixture.

In traditional cooking, tempering is very important and hence we have a box with few compartments which will contain all the basic things needed for tempering. We call this box, anjarai petti.

For some dishes, tempering is very important. For example, Poriyal, the process of tempering adds taste of the dish.

Depending on the dish you make, other spices/lentils will be added in Step 3. For example, adding kadalai paruppu for lemon rice and turmeric.

The Tempering process will make a sound and send aroma around. The sound comes because of seeds like mustard will splatter in hot oil. When we hear the sound, we know, the kitchen is busy and we are going to get our food. This makes us happy. There are many references in Tamil movies that describes this. In the movie, "Minsara Kanavu", there is a song called "Poo pookum oosai" meaning "Sound of the flower flowering". In this song, there is a line "Thalikkum oosai", meaning "Sound of tempering" makes us happy.

Popular dish where Tempering is used:

Almost all vegetarian dishes will have a simple tempering - just steps 1 and 2.
Full fledged tempering will be done for some dish types like poriyal.

Spelling variations in Tamil name for Tempering:
Thalippu, Thalipathu, Thaalippu, Thalikkirathu, Thaalippu, Thaalipathu

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