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Jowar on your platter

Divyashri Mudakavi, Dec 5 2017, 14:35 IST
The thali in Dharwad has fluffy, soft jowar roti along with curries like badnekayi enagayi, chutneys, jhunkad wadi, pudi, menthe soppu, salad, and rice with curds.

The thali in Dharwad has fluffy, soft jowar roti along with curries like badnekayi enagayi, chutneys, jhunkad wadi, pudi, menthe soppu, salad, and rice with curds.

The rhythmic tapping of jowar dough on a flat surface signals that the meal is ready in any house or khanavali (traditional eatery) in the undivided Dharwad district. The thali (meal) of this region, the heartland of jowar rotis, invariably has fluffy, soft jowar roti along with curries like badnekayi enagayi (brinjal stuffed with spices and dipped in gravy), chutneys, jhunkad wadi (solidified gram flour with chilli), pudi (dry powder of a variety of lentils), menthe soppu (fenugreek leaves), a salad of tender cucumber, radish and onions, and rice with curds.

Though North Indian and continental foods have made their way into the urban areas, it is jowar roti (also called as bhakri), which reigns supreme in the kitchens here. Be it the soft roti or kadak roti (a crispy variant of roti with more shelf life) or the jolada nucchu (jowar flour stirred into semi-liquid form with vegetables) or jola baana (For this, jowar is first pounded and soaked overnight. It is then boiled and eaten with curds, onion, garlic and coriander), jowar is the staple food of the region.

Return of millets

Of late, a lot of people across the State have begun understanding the importance of millets in one's diet. But millets, which have strong connections with the soil and climate of this region, have traditionally been part of the food basket of Dharwad district. "Minor millets like navane (foxtail millet), haraka (kodo millet), sajje (pearl millet), baragu (proso millet), which are known for their nutritional properties, are used in a variety of dishes," says Professor Pushpa
Bharati, an expert on millets.

In addition to this, she says, the thalipittu (mixed flour roti), which is made from an assortment of lentil and cereal flours and known for its nutritive value, is also popular among the people of the region as breakfast food. The curry of sprouted lentils is an integral part of everyday meal. The region is also known for its pudis, which provide nutritional supplement. There are powders of gurellu (niger seeds), agasi (flax seeds), ellu (sesame), shenga (groundnut), putani (chana dal) and karibevu (curry leaves). Some of these pudis are sprinkled on salads, curries or stuffed into vegetables.

Festival food

The festival foods of Dharwad region are quite interesting. During Nagarapanchami, people prepare at least 20 types of undis (laddus) like shenga undi (groundnut laddu), godhi undi (wheat laddu), kumbalkai beeja undi (laddu with dried pumpkin seeds), antina undi (laddu of dry fruits, edible gum and jaggery), ellu undi (sesame laddu), tambittu (laddu made of chana and jaggery), navane undi (foxtail millet laddu), avalakki undi (beaten rice laddu), etc. Besides, they prepare aralittu (powder of popcorn made of a special type of jowar and eaten with milk and sugar or with stuffed dried chilli, curds), usuli (spicy mixture of sprouts), etc.

"All these dishes are highly nutritious and heat up your body in the rainy season," says Vishweshwari Hiremath, a food expert and member of Academic Council of the Folklore University at Gotagodi in Haveri district. She adds that during the month of Shravana, hoorana holige, hoorana kadubu (fried wheat dumpling stuffed with boiled pulses) and kucchida kadubu (wheat dumpling which is fried or steamed in water) and godhi huggi are a must. During Deepavali, snacks like karchikai, chakli, kodubale are common. These snacks are exchanged with neighbours, which in turn promotes social bonding.

Season's choice

Ramu Moolagi, a folklore expert, explains that many dishes here are season-specific. This is either based on the season's harvest or because they provide the nutritional supplements necessary for that particular season. For instance, during Sankranti people prepare huggi (kichdi made of rice and green gram), sajje rotti (bajra roti), shenga holige (groundnut holige), madali and mixed vegetable curry with carrot, peas and brinjal. All these ingredients are harvested in that season. Sajje is also known as winter food as it supplies the season's dietary requirements. This apart, every full moon day is celebrated in a unique manner here with varied dishes. For instance, on Sheegi Hunnime day, which falls in October-November, pundi palye (curry of pundi leaves), kucchida khara (steamed green chilli chutney), stuffed capsicum vegetable, sandige (papad-like crispy snack) and akki payasa (rice pudding) are prepared.

On Ellu Amavasye day (which falls in the month of December), traditionally people, in groups, go to fields and offer the harvest to mother Earth. They then prepare dishes like mixed vegetables, pumpkin, ellu holige (holige made of sesame) and undagadubu (dumpling made of jowar) and have them in the field itself.

In addition to the home-made sweets, the most popular ethnic sweet of Dharwad is the pedha. With a history of 175 years, it has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Though there are many major producers of pedha in Dharwad now, the unique sweet was originally prepared here by the Babusingh Thakur family, which had migrated from Uttar Pradesh in the 19th century.

For tea break, the people dive to road-side push carts, eateries or canteens which make girmit. It is a type of dry bhel made of puffed rice topped with onion, chilli and shev. This is often relished with mirchi or bhaji made of hot chilli. Savanur khara (mixture) is another favourite snack. Hubballi's Durgad Bail boasts of a legendary eat street serving many such snacks.

Dominated by the Lingayat population and influenced by the 12th century social reformer Basavanna, a large population of this region consumes vegetarian food. However, for those who love non-vegetarian food, the Savji community (SSK community) prepares tasty non-vegetarian foods like the akanee mutton biryani. The curries with grainy texture and Savaji masala go well with roti and kuska rice. Be it jowar-based recipes, various chutney pudis, badnekayi enagayi or kempu chutney made using the famed Byadagi chilli, eating what's in season and local crops lie at the heart of the food culture of undivided Dharwad district which comprises the present Gadag and Haveri districts as well.

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