Closely bound by Tamil Nadu, the populous union territory of India was once a French colony. Pondicherry, as it was formerly known, became Puducherry in the year 2006 leaving the French name behind. Way before the French settled in the region, it was called Puttuceri which was a Tamil reference for new village. Now, if the names reflect the influence of diverse cultures how can the culture remain in a vacuum? The language, culture and cuisine, all have undergone several influences to evolve into their present-form today. The Tamilians and French alike, had made Puducherry their home for the longest period and the result was a convergence of cultures. 

The impact of the colonization is not just visible in the mustard villas and chic architecture but on the plate too. During the period of 16th and 17th century, Puducherry was invaded by Portuguese, Dutch and Danes for trade purposes. While their marks may have been washed off, it is the century-long colonization of the French whose reminisces you’ll still find in Puducherry. Along with this, the geographical proximity to Tamil Nadu has added to the fusion heritage and cuisine of the region. 

Right from the flavours to the spices used, the food in most Puducherry homes is an amalgamation of cuisines. Several Hindus converted to Christianity back in the day when Puducherry merged with India in 1954. The French brought in their way of cooking and eating, which changed the face of the plate. In today’s time, you’ll still find baguettes and croissants being sold on the streets. 

Imagine someone having dosas on one table while another table is being served Salad Nicoise and rillettes. Taking a stroll down the tree-lined streets of this erstwhile French colony, the contrast and merger of Tamilian and French tastes will be clearly visible to you. The use of minimum spices and oil in cooking Puducherry delicacies is inspired by the French, however, the tastes have been adapted to suit the palates of the people there. Commonly used ingredients in most dishes would be coconut milk, badam, poppy seed paste and more which not only lend the food a unique flavour but also help to bring down the heat. 

While the colonial influence lingers and finds place in restaurant menus, the southern flavours have also been well-received by the locals. Tamilians have had a major influence on the language and culture of the region, with soya dosas being sold on the street carts along with idlis and sambhar. The dosas are no stranger to the French roots and have been spruced up into crepes, served with meats and other curries. The nature of Tamil food ranges from spicy to mild depending upon the households, whether it is the present-day Catholics who turned to Christianity following their Hindu ancestors or the South-East Asians. 

The proximity to the Bay of Bengal gives Puducherry a taste of the seas. The creamy and slightly spiced prawn and crab curries are a hit in the region, Kadugu Yerra being one of the most well-known dishes. This spicy tomato prawn curry is a local favourite, cooked in coconut milk along with potatoes, fenugreek and mustard. One of the first Europeans to settle here were the Portuguese and just like Goa, they brought the vindaloo here too. This was adapted to suit the tastes of the local people here along with other dishes like Prawn Malay curry, which was a result of South East Asian influence. Vietnamese, in particular, are believed to have left their mark with chaiyos, a spring roll specialty from there. 

Alongside baked baguettes, tartines and crepes, the people equally relish the mutton sambhar and egg dosas with mutton rolls and samosas. This culmination of different flavours on a plate has given rise to a fusion Puducherry cuisine. Today, with the increasing globalization and availability of Western food, the traditional regional dishes are fast-disappearing from the foodscape in the face of pizzas and burgers.