The stereotype around the world that Indian cuisine is basically curry, and is very spicy, couldn't be further from the truth. Indian cuisine is in fact very diverse.

South India is comprised of five states, each having its own specialty. While Andhra Pradesh is said to have the spiciest food in the country because of the generous use of red chili, Karnataka has the Mysore pak, with generous amounts of sugar. The one food that ties them all together is rice. Rice is also the staple food of all these five states. 

Now, you must be thinking: Rice is so boring and tasteless! I do not disagree. However, if something is a staple food of five states (home to 252 Million people), someone inevitably finds a way to make it interesting. So, without further ado, here are six South Indian rice dishes you have to try.

1. Curd Rice

Curd Rice, called Thayir Saadam in Tamil, is popular throughout South India. This is the first "South Indian" rice dish that comes to mind for anyone who is even remotely aware of South Indian cuisine. 

There are multiple ways of making Curd Rice. You can either just literally mix curd and rice, or if you want to do something fancy, here is a recipe.

onion, cream, vegetable, salad, yogurt
Aashay Verma

Curd rice is best enjoyed chilled. It cools you, so it's an ideal meal on a hot afternoon. It is also surprisingly rather filling! You can also experiment — add sugar to sweeten it, or add some pomegranate (as shown in the picture). 

2. Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice, called Chitranna locally in the Karnataka state, is also mainly popular there. The delightful yellow color of the dish comes from turmeric powder. Peanuts add a crunch to the experience, with the lemon juice kicking in just at the right time to satisfy your taste buds.

bacon, cabbage, saffron, risotto, rice
Aashay Verma

As you can also see, the cilantro leaves' green is in perfect harmony with the yellow rice. Curry leaves add to the green color (and to the taste, in a fantastic way!) Check out the recipe for this lemon rice here.

3. Tamarind Rice

Was yellow too bright for you? Here's a completely contrasting color: brown. Isn't it amazing how rice is so versatile?

Tamarind Rice is known by more than one name locally — Pulihora, Puliyogare and Puliyodarai. Again, popular in all South Indian states, it is also made as an offering to God on auspicious occasions.    

chicken, rice
Aashay Verma

The color and the dominating taste of the dish is attributed to its main ingredient — tamarind! It gives rice a tangy taste your tongue will get addicted to after your first spoon. (See what I did there?) Peanuts are there to give the crunch factor. This is among the spicier rice dishes in South India. All in all, a great meal you can make at home. 

4. Mint Rice

How often do you see mint as the main ingredient in any dish? Most of us just have a type of mint in the gum we chew. Well, not anymore.

Mint Rice, also called Pudina Pulav or Pudina Sadam has achieved the impossible, like championing a dish with mint! 

brown rice, rice
Aashay Verma

This is slightly on the spicier side of the rice dishes (like Tamarind Rice). The crunchy taste of this dish usually is given by cashew nuts, not the usual peanuts. 

5. Coconut Rice

Coconut Rice is actually not unique to South India. Since both coconut and rice plantations are found all over the world, this dish is prepared across South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America. 

In India, it is usually prepared with basmati rice, a special variant indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. The coconut flavor is brought in using coconut milk.

meat, asparagus, risotto, vegetable, rice
Aashay Verma

The green garnishing is green chilli (not an insect, if you're wondering). Coconut rice is popular across South India. This dish gets its crunchy taste from mustard seeds and two types of beans (urad dal, chana dal).

6. Bisi Bele Bath 

Bisi Bele Bath translates to "Hot Lentil Rice" in Kannada, the local language of Karnataka, where this dish is most popular. Arguably the most spicy of all the dishes in this article, some variants of the dish can have up to 30 ingredients!

Traditionally, it is served hot with Papadum. But Bisi Bele Bath is definitely worth a try.

lentil, soup
Aashay Verma

This is by no way an exhaustive list. South Indian cuisine uses a lot of rice in various ways; these were just six of them.

It is important that you try the authentic version of these dishes the first time you taste them. Maybe even ask a friend familiar with these recipes to make it for you first, before you try to make it yourself. Trying a bogus-tasting South Indian rice dish can spoil it for you for life (yes, that was meant to scare you). 

Now, all this writing about these varieties of rice has got me craving some right now...