Karadantu of Gokak

Karadantu of Gokak
The moment someone says Gokak, all we can picture is the beautiful waterfalls and karadantu. The beginning of making of the unique sweet karadantu can be traced to Dundappajja Kalaburgi from Gokak, who used to sell sweets in the local market there during the pre-independence era. Back then, the sweets were made of gram flour, jaggery and ground nut.

The delicacies were a real hit with the local population. But it was when a customer suggested that this sweet could be made tastier by adding jaggery, that it laid the foundation for Dundappajja Kalaburgi to prepare karadantu.

A sweet and apt decision taken that day has now turned into a massive business in Gokak. Fried in pure ghee, karadantu is a unique and flavourful combination of jaggery, raisins, cashew nuts, almonds, kaarika (dried dates), copra, peanuts, nutmeg and other such dried fruits and spices. Although Dundappajja is no more, the brand 'Kalaburgi Karadantu' has stood its ground in the region.

With its sticky nature, oiliness and attractive colour, it must be mentioned that jaggery is the heart of karadantu. Jaggery is sourced from places like Kolhapur and Karhad while ghee is exclusively got from Belagavi, as are the almonds, raisins and cashew nuts. The antu (binder) and kaarika are got from Hyderabad and copra from Arsikere, says production unit in-charge Subhash Kalaburgi.

A good batch of karadantu can be made only if the jaggery is boiled to a certain temperature before melting it out. Even a small variation in temperature can ruin the entire batch. Once the right consistency is obtained, grated copra and kaarika pieces are added to the mixing equipment. Subsequently, the rest of the dried fruits are added to the mixture.

They are then immediately poured onto food grade aluminium trays. As it is said, it is important to hit the karadantu when it is hot to set it right.

Each tray can hold upto 30 kg of the sweet. Patting down this hot mixture can be a hard thing to do. Rubber or plastic gloves melt due to the heat, so they can't be used. So, water is smeared on the hands while the mixture is patted down gently. Maruti Mamadupara, who has been assisting the Kalaburgis for 30 years, says that this all comes from learning and experience. Karadantu makers feel the necessity for developing machinery at different stages of its making.

The mixture is left for a day in the tray after being flattened. This is so that all the ingredients can bind together from the stickiness of jaggery. The following day, they are cut into bars using a slicing machine and packaged into quarter and half kg packs. The karadantu, made from so many ingredients has a lot of nutritional value. It has high protein, iron and fibre content. It is a great source of nutrition especially for teenage girls, pregnant women and new mothers. It is also good for sportspersons and wrestlers.

Earlier, the binding agent and good quality dry fruits used to be available in plenty. However, these days, there has been a decrease in the supply of such ingredients. There are three outlets for selling these in Gokak. Around 60 to 70 kg of karadantu is sold everyday. There are three varieties of karadantu that are prepared:

Regular: These are made from ghee and dried fruits.

Special: They have an addition of pista and almond

Royal: These have pistachios, figs, walnuts.

So one can take a pick from these delicious varieties when in Gokak.

Shailaja Bellankimath
(Translated by Deepika Nidige)

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