Message in a meal

Message in a meal


The word ‘Malenadu’ means “land of hills”. The cuisine in this region is heavily influenced by the variety of fruits and vegetables available in the rich forests of the Western Ghats.

Ingredients like tender bamboo shoots (kalale), colocassia (kesave) leaves, turmeric leaves and raw jackfruit are abundant in the Sahyadri ranges. Steaming is the favoured the method of cooking. More often than not, there is minimal use of oil.

Some of famous traditional recipes are kotte kadubu, otthu shaavige, gasgase paayasa or kaayi haalu, kalale palya, maavina midi uppina kaayi, bamboo shoot curry and palya, jackfruit kadubu, dose and paayasa, halubai, akkitari kadubu, , kaayi holige, haalu payasa, kesavina soppina palya, gantu and gravy, thambuli, kaadu mavina hannina saaru, maaladi, kokam juice, kashaya, akki rotti, ragi rotti, rasam, huli, mulaka, thokku, karjikayi, attarasa, sasuve gojju, kayirasa, patrode, majjige huli, thokku, and thovve.
A typical Malnadu oota is served on a plantain leaf. The first to be served are usually two vegetable side-dishes or palyas, two types of kosambari, pickle, papad, sandige, balakada menasu, sweet-savoury gojju, hot-spicy chutney, bajji or bonda, vade or ambode with kayirasa.

The first course alternates between sweets and rice dishes. The second course is a set of curries to be consumed with rice. First comes thambuli  and then tovve, a mild lentil dish laced with ghee, majjige huli or vegetables simmered in a mild yogurt sauce, followed by huli, which is lentils and vegetables spiced with masala and tempered with ghee, mustard, asafoetida and curry leaves. This is followed by tili saaru (rasam), which is thin lentil stock that is spiced and laced with ghee and curry leaves. The meal also includes obbattu, rasayana, halwa and paayasa. The final course is rice and curds with pickle. Masala buttermilk concludes the meal.

Malnadu oota celebrates six rasas (shad rasa) — sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Hence it is good for health and digestion.  

Rice dishes include bisi bele bhath, vaangi bhath, nimebekaayi chitranna, maavina kaayi chitranna or puliyogare. Sweets include ginnu, tambittu, kadubu, karji kaayi, kajjaya, chigali unde, besan unde, sikkinunde, huggi, rava unde, hesarunde.  Paayasa is made from bele (dal), seyme akki or sabbakki, shavige, anna, jackfruit or soji. Pickle is made from mavinkayi and midi mavinakaayi (both mango varieties), amtekayi, nimbekayi, gaja nimbekayi, bettada nellikayi, tomoto, heralikayi and bitter gourd. Snacks include bonda, bajji, ambode, chakkuli, nippattu and kodubale.

Thambuli is a famous dish in Malnad and has medicinal value — it reduces body heat and prevents allergies. It is made with amla, doddapatre or ganike soppu, or kaki soppu. The traditional hot, spicy, tangy rasam is very good for digestion.  Rice, coconut, banana and arecanut are the main crops. There are hundreds of recipes that use these staples.

Palal thambuli

Ingredients: Butter — 1 tsp; jeera – 1 tsp; black pepper – 1 tsp; palak leaves — 4-6; salt to taste; grated coconut – ½ cup; curds or buttermilk – 2 cups; fried gram dal – 2 tsp; green chilli – 1.

For seasoning: Coconut oil, mustard seeds, broken red chilli.

Method: Fry palak leaves with butter, black pepper, jeera and green chilli. Grind with coconut, fried gram dal and a little curds. Mix well with salt and curds and season. Instead of palak, you can use doddapatre/ basale/ Brahmi/methi leaves.

Garlic thambuli

Ingredients: Garlic cloves — 6-8; ghee – 2 tsp; curry leaves – a few; red chilli – 2; methi seeds – ¼ tsp; sweet curds — 2 cups; grated coconut – ½ cup; fried gram dal — 2 tsp; salt to taste.

Seasoning: Oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, broken red chilli, a pinch of turmeric.

Method: Fry garlic cloves with ghee, methi seeds, curry leaves. Grind with coconut, fried gram dal and a few tbsp of curds.  Mix well with salt and curds and season. Garnish with chopped onion and coriander leaves.

Ginger thambuli

Ingredients: Ginger – 2 inch piece; ghee – 2 tsp; curds – 2 cups; grated coconut –1; salt to taste.

For seasoning: Oil, mustard seeds, broken red chilli and asafoetida powder, curry leaves.

Method: Fry finely chopped ginger in ghee. Grind with coconut. Mix well with salt and curds and season.