HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Tamil cooking: serwa

  • 9

I had kottu porotta for the first time at a Chettinad restaurant. The kottu was served with a yoghurt raita and some kind of gravy. I asked the waiter how to eat the kottu and he instructed me to pour the yoghurt and the "serwa" on top of the kottu. I liked the serwa and tried to google it in the hope of recreating it at home. I found only one hit that and on the site it said something like "serwa is served on the side with biryani." If you know what this is, can you guide me in the right direction? Is this a broadly cooked gravy or specific to the Chettiyars?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Googling is also leading me in the direction of the word "salna" which is reminding me of saalan (wet curry gravy in Urdu.) Maybe serwa is a synonym for salna? In what I am reading it says salna is served with kottu porotta and with biryani. Maybe I misheard the waiter and he actually said 'salna' and not serwa?

    1. I found myself totally overwhelmed by my ignorance when I read your post.

      So, I started looking. The site I found had a few pictures and one interesting Chicken Pepper Fry, recipe. This won't answer your quesiton, but might be useful for others here who find themselves in wonderment at not knowing most of the nouns you used.


      1. Maybe it was his pronunciation of "shorba/shorwa" (broth?), which would make sense given kothu parotta?

        Otherwise, this is not a term I recognize, though I know less about Chettinad cuisine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rasam

          I also thought serwa might be etymologically connected to shorba...

        2. I had kottu porotta for the first time at a Chettinad restaurant
          Wow. Noun wonderment, +1
          THIS is why I love CH. This is why I love food. Such awesome opportunities for learning something new!

          1. I think it might have been shorba/shorwa ... or saalan( the hyderabadis will use that term)
            some places also serve it with biryani, but essentialy the sauce in which the meat got cooked...

            But then I dont know much about Chettinad cuisine except that it is hot and spicy and yum.

            1. OK: updated reply.

              Apparently serwa IS a cooking-word among some Tamil subgroups. Here is a recipe for brinjal serwa from Viki's Kitchen, and I am guessing the author has Tamil Christian roots? So the dish is not specific to Chettiars unless Viki shares that heritage too or has learnt this from someone in that community?


              From the "dish"cription it looks like a wet (with gravy) side dish, aka "curry" :)

              Her blog is still active, so you could go to the post for Oct 11, 2012, where the dish is reference again, and may be post a question asking her about this term.

              Good luck, and if you do post there and get an answer from her, please do let us know.

              1 Reply
              1. And there's more! If you spell it as "serva" and search Google, there are lots of links to recipes for a dish from North Arcot, particularly from the Nawab's family/community (i.e. from the Muslim community royal families), and is an accompaniment to Biryani.

                Most recipes were for Brinjal serva, aka Brinjal pachadi or Brinjal chutney. Elsewhere in TN, pachadi is similar to raita, but I have heard the term used to describe chutney in Andhra and other adjacent regions.

                It's a rich, heavy dish, with eggplants simmered in a rich masala of ground garam masalas, whole spices, ginger garlic onion tomato, chillies, sesame, peanut, tamarind, etc etc etc. Similar to the mirchi ka saalan / baghara baingan recipe (but more liquidy)?

                I learnt a lot new today, thanks for raising the question!