Reviving Karnataka cuisine

Suresh T Venkataramana

Having grown up in Bengaluru, I wasn’t aware of the vastness of Karnataka cuisine. I grew up having the usual idli, dosa and bisibele bath and didn’t think there is much more to explore. 

It was in 1997, when I joined the culinary world, that I realised it’s potential. 

Many years since then, I went on an expedition to learn the different cuisines offered by the state. I spent about two and a half years researching and came back with more knowledge than I imagined. Towards the end of the study, I learnt that the best tasting dishes had the simplest recipe. 

We tried everything the localities had; all of which were homemade. Each of these places had their own unique tastes, cooking styles and community-based stories.  

When we were in Mangaluru, we learnt about dishes that were made in communities there. 

The Catholics made a lot of dishes with pork; they even have a dish made with pigs blood. The Beary Muslims of the region made ‘kalathappam’, a rice cake made of ground rice, water, coconut oil, jaggery, fried onions,
coconut flakes and cardamom powder. The biryani they make is also different. They use a lot of red chilli and green chilli with spices that is ground to a smooth paste. 

The way things are prepared in Coorg is magical to watch. They use ingredients that are available in their backyard. Most of them grow their own raw materials too, a practice that they have been following for generations so that they will have stock in the winter. 

We also visited a forest where descendants of Africa dwell; it was in such a remote place that we had to walk to get there. They also have their own livestock, grow their own vegetables and still hunt for food. Their food was simple. 

So, everything from the chilli to the pepper used in Coorgi food is available within their arms’ distance. 

The main reason for our research was to not just learn but also know what all we can bring back to Bengaluru.

We wanted to know more about the forgotten dishes and learn about those that can be revived.

Similarly, this week’s recipe, ‘Mandakki Menasinakai bajji’, is street food from Dharwad. If you walk in the streets during the evening, you’ll see many of them making hot bajjis.

It’s quite simple to make and I hope you make them at home and give me your feedback too.

Recipe: Mandakki Menasinakai bajji

Ingredients

For mandakki

- Puffed rice, 500 gm

- Onion chopped, 75 gm

- Tomato chopped, 75 gm

- Green chillies as per taste

- Coriander leaves, 10 gm

- Lemon juice of one

- Salt as per taste

- Roasted channa powder, 20 gm

- Curry leaves, 10 

- Oil, 30 ml

- Mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp

- Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp

- Sugar, 1/2 tsp

For bajji

- Besan flour,  100 gm

- Rice flour, 30 gm

- Salt to taste

- Chilli powder, 1 tsp

- Cooking soda, 1/4 tsp

- Garlic crushed with skin, 5 cloves

- Ginger finely chopped, 1/2 inch

- Lemon juice of one

- Turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp

- Bajji chillies, 10

- Oil for frying

For coconut chutney

- Fresh coconut grated, 75 gm

- Fried gram, 10 gm

- Green chilli,  3/ as per taste

- Garlic, 3 cloves

- Tamarind, lime-size

- Coriander leaves, 3 gm

- Salt to taste

For tempering

- Oil, 1 tbsp

- Mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp

- Dry red chilli, 3 

- Channa dal, 1/2 tsp

- Uradh dal, 1/2tsp

- Curry leaves, 10 to 15

Method

- Soak the puffed rice in water, and squeeze and strain.

- Mix roasted channa dal powder, sugar and salt and keep aside.

Make the masala

Heat oil and add mustard, cumin seed and curry leaves. Once the curry leaves crackle, add chopped green chilli and chopped onion. Let the onions turn translucent, add turmeric powder and chopped tomatoes, cook till the tomatoes are soft, check for seasoning. Mix the puffed rice with the onion and tomato masala and finish with lime juice and garnish coriander. 

For the Menasinakai bajji

- Make a slit in the chilli lengthwise, remove the seeds.

- Mix salt, chilli powder and lime juice, apply on the inside of the chillies (optional).

- Mix together all ingredients for the batter with water, the consistency of the batter should be such that it should coat the chillies. 

- Once oil is hot dip the chillies in the batter and fry till golden.

For the chutney

Grate the coconut. Add to it slit chilli, deseeded tamarind, fried gram, chopped coriander leaves, garlic, and grind to a paste.

 

Note: Do not use too much water. 

For the tempering: Heat oil, add mustard seeds, channa dal, urad dal. Once the mustard seeds stop crackling, add red chilli and curry leaves.  Pour over the coconut chutney and mix.

 

 

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