Pandi Curry is cool, but Coorgi cuisine has other stars, too. Photo courtesy: Rituparna Das/Creative Commons
When people think of Kodava or Coorgi food, they usually think of pandi curry. Indeed, there are few things as delicious as a pandi curry, which is easily the star of Kodava cuisine.However, to think that pandi curry is all that there is to Kodava cuisine is to have but a blinkered vision. Vegetables are not something non-Coorgis associate with Kodava cuisine, but one of more popular dishes among the locals involves the use of tender bamboo shoots, or baimbale. The most succulent shoots are the ones harvested just after the first rains of the monsoons. “The actual process of getting the bamboo ready for consumption is an elaborate process, and it takes close to three days,” says Rohini Bopanna, who hails from Polybetta, in Coorg. Tender shoots, when about two feet high, are cut and then chopped into small pieces. They are then soaked in water overnight. The water has to be disposed off carefully as it contains tiny fibrous matter that can puncture your throat. The bamboo is again soaked in water for 48 hours to allow for fermentation. “These bamboo shoots have an interesting flavour,” says KC Aiyappa, owner of the popular restaurant, Coorg, in Bengaluru. “They are salty, tangy and have a crunchy texture.” The iconic dish involving bamboo is baimbale curry, where the bamboo shoot pieces are cooked with coconut, mustard, cumin, chillies and garlic among other ingredients, resulting in a spicy, tangy vegetable gravy dish that is best enjoyed with akki rotti (rice chapati) or boiled rice.
Tender bamboo shoots go into the making of baimbale curry. Photograph courtesy: coorgchronicles.blogspot.in
And, it is this humble akki rotti that is the closest rival to the pandi curry in the pantheon of Kodava cuisine. “Rice is the staple cereal in Kodava cuisine,” says Kaveri Subiah, a native of Ammathi. “It is eaten at practically every meal in some form.” In Kodagu, the local rice that is used is called Sannakki. Boiled rice is usually had at lunch and dinner, and a variety rice dishes, including string hoppers, also form part of the meals.
(WATCH) How to make akki roti
Curries like Pandi and baimbale are best enjoyed with akki rotti,” says Aiyappa, ” it is what really enhances their taste. No oil is used, making it one of the healthiest dishes in our cuisine.” Cooked white rice is kneaded into a dough, mixed with some rice flour and rolled out like chapatis. Rice is also a key ingredient in the desserts and snacks such as Koovale puttu, which combines broken rice, bananas or jackfruit (when in season), and coconut and jaggery. The doughy dessert is traditionally steamed in the leaves of the koovale plant.