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Keeping delicacies alive and dynamic

Traditional appetisers Traditional Udupi cuisine delicacies from fries, rice, chutneys to sweet and savouries.

The very mention of Udupi conjures up memories of delectable delicacies. The eateries with a Udupi tag spread across the country and the globe as well, is known for their vegetarian fare.

Udupi cuisine is believed to have evolved in the holy precincts of the temples in Udupi, particularly the famous Sri Krishna Math. The choice of vegetables and spices is limited, as many in the category are restricted in satvik food. Thus Udupi cuisine experiments with a narrow range of ingredients only to come out with a wide assortment of dishes and desserts.

Onion and garlic are a strict no in Udupi dishes. Even some vegetables like bottle gourd, a kind of brinjal, basale (a kind of leafy vegetable), drumstick and little gourd are not used in the traditional Udupi spread.

The vegetables not grown locally such as cabbage, radish, cauliflower etc., are alien to traditional Udupi spread. Garam masala is not at all used in the food here, albeit some ingredients are being used separately in some dishes. Due to many such taboos, the cooks had no other go than innovating. The outcome, however, is mouthwatering. Thus in a way, Udupi cuisine has flourished under restrictions.

Rice is the staple diet in this part, hence all accompaniments naturally go well with rice. Coconut is profusely used in many dishes owing to the abundance of coconut production in the coastal region. Even for payasam, coconut milk is used instead of cow’s milk. In fact, coconut oil is one of the factors that lend a distinct flavour to Udupi food. Buttermilk or curd-based dishes come in different varieties, perhaps, to counter the effect of the scorching heat of the coastal area. Though lemon is used, it is mostly tamarind that lends a sourness to the dishes.

Feast to the eyes

A Udupi spread on a plantain leaf with an array of colourful dishes is a feast to the eyes and the stomach. However, except the strictly traditional meals at temples and some orthodox families, Udupi cuisine too has seen some tweaks to appease the ever-changing palate of people. For instance, coconut oil may find a replacement sometimes. 

Usually, the food is relished on a plantain leaf sitting on the ground. On the tip of the leaf on the left-hand side are served salt and pickle. Pickle, most of the time, is of mangoes, prepared in different ways. Occasionally hog plum pickle too is served. Salads are touted as a healthy option in recent days, but they have been common in the Udupi spread since its introduction. There are usually one or two kinds of salads. Mainly salads are made of a split green gram or Bengal gram. Nowadays, salads are tossed with pomegranate seeds and sprouted green gram as well.
Sometimes, they are entirely prepared with sweet corns or cashew nuts.

Chutney occupies the next slot. It is either of only coconut or coconut ground with other vegetables or roasted lentils. On the other end, at the top, sit comfortably one or two sautéed vegetables called ajotno or ajadina. These known as palyas elsewhere are prepared with vegetables like beans, yam, ash gourd, brinjal, raw banana, tender jackfruit, etc. Depending on the vegetable, plain coconut or coconut ground with spices like chilly and mustard or cumin is added.

A rice bath called chitranna is served on the left side at the bottom. Deep-fried crunchy happala and sandige are placed next. At the right-hand side, a spoon of payasam is served. The array of varied hues is complete with the steaming of hot white rice at the centre. A tablespoon of semi-liquid lentil dish called tovve is served. Then comes a dash of ghee.

Now you are all set to savour the items served, one by one. As you taste the starters, comes the dish made with cooked brinjal mashed in curd. This is followed by a watery spicy pigeon pea-based item with tomato, sometimes without tomato too, called saaru (rasam).

Then, it’s the turn of sambars known as koddel, one with only pigeon pea and vegetables and another with ground coconut, lentils with vegetables like cucumber, ash gourd, etc. Menaskai that follows is a sweet, sour and spicy sambar-kind of dish made usually out of mango, bitter gourd or pineapple.

Once these spicy dishes are consumed, one craves for some sweets to soothe the taste buds. Sweets include different kinds of holiges, laddus, jilebi, etc., with some savoury items in between. Now, the payasam that was served just a spoonful earlier is served to the content of one’s heart. Payasam, also called paramanna, is made using different items. Usually, it is split green gram or Bengal gram. But paramanna with wheat pieces, small dumplings of rice called peradye is too prepared. If it’s the season of mangoes, then rasayana —
mangoes mashed in coconut milk sweetened with jaggery as a base is common to Udupi menu.

Now another curd-based recipe called kodakyana aka pulikajipu arrives. The sumptuous meal ends with curds and spicy buttermilk. However, it’s not all about the Udupi spread. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The other items include appa, vade, biskut rotti, and sweets like burfies, Hayagriva maddi, atthirasa, sheera and the dishes like avil (different kinds of cooked vegetables in ground coconut and buttermilk as base), baratha (tangy extract of raw mango with chillies and seasoning), tambulis (prepared with sour buttermilk) and saasmi, udnittu and many more.

Again, each and every item comes with several variations. Depending on the occasion, many additions and deletions are made to the menu. But whatever the case, it is a full meal always.

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