South India

On India’s southern peninsula, the Deccan plateau separates the coast of Andhra Pradesh on the Bay of Bengal from that of Karnataka and Kerala on the Arabian Sea. On the high, dry plains, chiles, legumes, tea, and oil seeds like mustard are cultivated, while shorelines are rimmed with coconut palms, mango trees, and rice paddies, as well as plantations where black peppercorns and other spices flourish. The lure of the region’s fecundity is strong; the south is home to some of India’s oldest ports, and across the region, farming and trading have given rise to vibrant cooking reflected in the complex vegetarian food of Tamil Nadu, the meaty biryanis of Andhra’s capital, Hyderabad, and watery Kerala’s fish curries. The area’s beloved peppery soups—tamarind-based rasam and the spicy lentil-based stew sambar—embody the southern dictum that you must “eat the heat to beat the heat.”