A non-veg fare, Mysore style

A non-veg fare, Mysore style

If time has stood still in the culinary space, it’s got to be in Mysore. For even today, earthen fires and grinding stones find their use in Mysore homes, observes Vinaya Govind 

Mysore is synonymous with traditional cooking. Taste and variety are a must in the cuisine that is served in homes where even to this day cooking methods haven’t seen a big change. There are households which still use the grinding stone to grind masala and chutneys and the pounding stick (onake) to powder spices for the puliyogare or vangi bhath. The earthen fire place (saude ole) still finds a place in the kitchen, where usually a coffee decoction continuously simmers. Serving coffee to all who call on the family is more of a courtesy than a formality. 

Even to this day, you find friendly neighbourhoods that are ready to play host to students and bachelors, a tradition that was in practice from the time of the Maharaja. You still have bylanes where the ‘ayah’ (grandmother) sells hot spongy idlis steamed on muslin cloth in the traditional idli vessel and not the idli cooker. And, she doesn’t make you feel the pinch. Soft set-dosas with onion and coconut chutney are also a speciality. Mysoreans love their traditional food be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The ‘mudde oota’ (ragi ball) is a must in homes whenever the curry is coconut-based or non-vegetarian. 

With military hotels which served non-vegetarian food more or less disappearing from the bylanes of Mysore, non vegetarian foodies are missing the much-famed ‘baadoota’ (non-vegetarian fare). Street food joints came to the solace of these foodies serving food the ‘military hotel style’. The mutton nalli (bone marrow) soup which is served with thin rice pancakes (chillae) is one of them. The bones are served along with a spatula to scoop out the marrow. The marrow is then stirred into the soup giving it a rich texture and taste.

There is also chaakna (strips of mutton /beef) barbequed with a sauce made of red chilly paste, salt, lemon and vinegar. It is served not only as an accompaniment for the ordinary dal-rice lunch or dinner but, also an evening snack.

It is a tradition to cook up a special cuisine typical to ‘Thanksgiving festival’ expressing gratitude to God and the forefathers of families just after Mahalaya Amavasya. On the platter for the day are vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that were once served and savoured by the ancestors of the family. Among the sweet dishes that are specially prepared is the til laddu, which is dipped in a batter made of maida and deep fried in oil. There is a sweet vada too that is prepared with blackgram dal. The dal is soaked for 2-3 hours and later ground to a fine paste with a little salt, a lump of jaggery and ripe banana. Spoonfuls of this thick batter are dropped into hot oil and fried till light brown. This is served as an accompaniment for the vermicelli payasam.

Here are two lip-smacking “Mysore Style” non-vegetarian dishes:

Mutton nalli soup

Ingredients: 1 dozen nalli bones. 

For the spice masala paste: ¾ cup of grated coconut, 3 tomatoes, an handful of chopped coriander leaves, 2 small pieces of cinnamon, 5-6 cloves, ½ tsp aniseeds, 8 cloves of garlic, ½ inch piece of ginger, salt to taste, and oil. 

For the tadka: 1 bay leaf, 3 medium sized onions (finely chopped). For dry masala: 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder. 

Method: Pressure-cook the bones in about 2 litres of water with 1 tbsp of salt for about 30-40 minutes (8-10 whistles). Grind together coconut, the spices and tomatoes to a smooth paste. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok, sauté the bay leaf, followed by the onion. Add the masala paste and fry till oil appears on the sides. Now, add the dry powders. Fry the masala for about a minute. Add the marrow bones along with the stock. Add salt according to taste. Allow the soup to simmer for at least 20 minutes so that the flavour of the masala is infused into the bones. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot with chillae (dosa), parathas, rotis or ghee rice.

Mutton kofta curry

Ingredients:  For the kofta: ½ kilo mutton mince, 3-4 onions chopped, 1 cup grated coconut, 10 cloves of garlic, ½ tsp turmeric, 10 dry red chillies, 1 inch cinnamon piece, ½ tsp salt, 1 cup fried gram. 

For the masala paste: ½ cup grated coconut, 3 cloves, 1 tsp each of red chilli and coriander powder, a handful of coriander leaves, 1 tsp poppy seeds, ½ inch ginger piece, 1 green chilly, 2 tomatoes.

Method: Grind together all the spices and salt mentioned for the kofta to a coarse paste without adding water. Add the mince and blend again till it forms a hard dough (This is best done with a grinding stone). Grease your palms with a little oil and roll small balls. Arrange these little meat balls on a plate. Do not pile them up (Add a little besan or fried gram powder in case your mince mixture has a lot of moisture).

 In a deep pan, heat some oil. Fry chopped onions till they are crispy and brown. Add the masala paste and sauté till the oil separates from the masala. Pour in three cups of water, add salt, and bring to boil. Now add the meat balls one after the other. Allow the gravy to bubble for at least five minutes and then stir the gravy with a ladle. (Remember: The koftas tend to disintegrate if you stir soon after you drop them into the gravy). Check salt. The koftas will be done in about 10-12 minutes. You can plate the curry with rice or ragi ball.

[Note: Adding small purple-coloured brinjals of field beans (avarekayi) is said to enhance the taste of this kofta curry.] 

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