By Srinivasa Ramanujam | March 27, 2015
What is crucial for a quintessential Tamilian who happens to be a vegetarian? It has to be curd.
Curd is supremely underrated and most people elsewhere in India use it to end a meal. But ask most Tamilians and they’ll tell you that it could well be the meal by itself, provided you have a handful of rice.
This is what I was banking on when I headed to Sri Lanka recently on my honeymoon. “Don’t worry; if we don’t get vegetarian food, we’ll make our own curd rice,” I told my wife.
Only after I reached the interiors of the island nation (Dambulla and Kandy) did I realise that it was going to be a challenge.
Ask for curd (or ‘Muduvapu Kiri’, as our guide called it) in these areas, and you’ll be met with not-so-forthcoming glances from the shopkeepers.
Now, yoghurt is quite easily available here, but how do you mix that with rice and eat? Wouldn’t that be too sweet for our tastebuds? And thus, my search for curd started. I visited supermarkets – most of them had many brands of yogurt but no curd. The sole supermarket that had curd had it in an enormous bowl, which was too much for just the two of us. As a last resort, I even visited an army camp canteen… only to be turned away there too.
And then, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I ditched the driver-guide, and decided to check out the smallest shop in a village we were passing by.
“Thayir irukka,” I asked, in proper Chennai Tamil. The girl at the shop took one good look at me, and headed straight to the refrigerator. Out came a small cup of curd, along with an ‘extra fitting’. It was honey! “That you mix in curd and eat,” she said, in broken English.
Oh no, I wasn’t going to do that like the Sri Lankans. I wasn’t going to make the curd any sweeter and end up making it taste like yoghurt. I immediately checked out a hotel nearby, brought some rice, and mixed it with the delightful curd. Ah, dinner was good that evening.
After all, there’s nothing to beat curd rice for a Tamilian.