Kodavas are a community who majorly inhabit the region of quite the popular holiday destination Coorg. They first find mention in literature traced back to the 2nd century AD. The community is renowned for their finesse over martial arts. With the growth of tourists travelling to the pretty and pleasant hill station of Coorg, there has grown a curiosity around the cuisine as well as travellers tasted the local food. Majorly a meat dependent community, their food sees its heavy influence. It also sees thalis and a range of other dishes that we will have a look at today. But did you know that the actual origin of the community isn’t absolutely known? So, do you think that they would be inventing these delicious dishes perched on the side of green plantations, overlooking a tuft of clouds above and a melange of delicacies on the dining table? Sigh. For now, we do not know that. But what we do know is that the food has a whole lot to try and below are some of the dishes that one certainly must not miss!
This features in the staple diet of the region. So, what is it? It’s a flat bread made using rice flour on a griddle. Served with chutney, you can enjoy this one in lunch or even as a healthy option to kickstart your day with a filling breakfast. Sometimes it is also prepared with leftover rice or idli rava, making a rather tasty use of the food remaining in your refrigerator! If you are planning on having this during your holiday, you may be lucky enough to eat this on top of a banana leaf. No, in this case it doesn’t make a difference to the taste but it certainly adds to the local charm, doesn’t it?
So, at my own place I have mostly eaten pumpkin in the form of a dry vegetable which is why I got curious about this one because the Coorgi dish kumbala curry is a form of pumpkin with a gravy. Cumin seeds and garlic make the gravy mildly spicy which is essentially made from coconut. The coconut foundation lends it a creamy base. In this come the chunks of diced pumpkin in a creamy yet spicy vegetable. It is usually cooked in turmeric oil which adds to the taste of it.
The Coorgi cuisine is quite dependent upon pork. This meat is again as good a part of their day to day regular food consumption. While it is prepared in various methods, the most notably well-known style of pork from the Kodava kitchens is the pandi curry. It is a spicy form of pork with a semi-dry curry. The distinctive flavour of this dish gives credit to an ingredient called kachampuli. What’s kachampuli you ask? Well, my friend it is the fruit of a tree called Garnicia Gummi Gutta which is used in many South Asian cuisines. Known as kachampuli in South India, its use is well adopted in Kodava dishes. For the pandi curry it works as a souring agent bringing the slightly spicy dish a twist of zing too. Meat lovers you are sure to relish this one.
Meanwhile, for the herbivores ones too there is richly prepared curry hailing from Coorg. It is called kootu curry which means vegetable curry. The innovative use of plantain, black chickpeas and yam makes this an immersive experience for the uninitiated. The preparation of this dish is all but expected on the occasion of festivals and celebrations. A combination of vegetables are tossed with chickpeas and then simmered down with a coconut and cumin-based curry. Lastly, roasted coconut is used to garnish the dish, adding to its explosion of flavours.
Okay okay, I’m guessing that by this point you have prepared yourself to be doused in the depth of a whole lot of curries! But wait a minute, what are you having the curries with? Roti? Rice? Come on, the Coorgis have something better waiting for you. Meet kadambuttu which simply described are steamed rice balls. Rice is soaked, then drained and after being rid of moisture it is ground coarsely. The softened rice is then giving this shape and steamed. The resultant fluffy balls make for the ideal companions for all curries whether spicy or tangy as they help you soak in all the flavours with each bite.
This dish is a vegetarian delight and one that I at least cannot get enough of! It stands for mushroom fry. The dish involves the use of dried red chillies, fresh green chillies and curry leaves. But the uniqueness to it comes from the use of coconut vinegar! This gives it quite the remarkable spin in its taste. Now as that is not a common household item, it is often also prepared with coconut milk and vinegar instead because you know jugaad. ? Heh, needless to say the dish still makes for a yummy one as you bite into the crunchy mushrooms which melt into your mouth.
Kaad Mango Curry
Another innovative delicacy coming all the way from the lanes of the hilltops at Coorg is the kaad mango curry. It involves the usage of raw mango, mustard seeds, curry leaves and jaggery! Yes, that’s quite an unexpected amalgamation of ingredients, right? But the result is undoubtedly one that has all us foodies smacking our lips and asking for more. The curry is a fine example of what you call sweet and sour goodness with its ripe and bright yellow mango-based tastiness brightening up your day.
And the last one is a….chutney! There’s so much that’s amazing about Indian food because across cuisines there’s all this variety and that can be reflected even in something as simple or basic as a chutney. If you think about it, its just an accompaniment to a main dish that dips into this for enhancing a flavour. But depending on which part of our country you are in, the sort of chutney you find on your table can absolutely vary. When in Coorg or a Kodava style restaurant, ask for the ellu pajji. This is a tamarind and sesame chutney which tastes nutty and tangy all at once, performing its key task of highlighting whatever you have it with.
I know a Coorg vacation is something that we’re all craving right now because its summer and well, Coorg would be nice and green and oh so pleasant. Here’s hoping that we make that visit super soon and make it even better with some good food. Happy hogging!
Click here to read about some of the best eateries in Coorg!