Going beyond the masala dosey, rave idli, or the bisi bele bhath, can you rattle off a list of dishes that you associate with Karnataka? After five, you’ll probably stop.
Head to ‘Karunadu Swada’ a vegetarian Karnataka food festival being hosted this weekend by MTR Foods, where over 100 dishes from six regions of the State and various communities, prepared by home chefs from these regions, will be spread out for tasting and feasting. You can try dishes from Udupi, Mangaluru, Bidar/Gulbarga/Gadag, Bijapur/Belgaum/Dharwad, Kodagu, and the Mysuru-Bengaluru region. Nearly 38 cooks from across the state are being brought in for the festival.
“A lot of ethnic food flavours have been forgotten in the modern day. Our team at the Centre of Excellence (their food research lab), along with food historian Chandri Bhat have researched and selected the recipes,” says Sunay Bhasin, CMO at MTR Foods Pvt. Ltd. This is only the first in a series of food festivals they plan to hold.
“We have looked only at ethnic dishes from the respective regions that use local produce and traditional methods which are not commonly and commercially available,” stresses Chandri Bhat, author of Kitchen Nostalgia . She gives the examples of dishes like pathrode oggarane, tomatokai chutney, ellina pudi anna, and sandige huli. She agrees that though the cuisine has been influenced by neighbouring states, “the Karnataka version of these overlapped dishes still has an identity of its own because it mainly uses local produce and caters to the local palate”.
Regi Mathew, head chef at the Centre of Excellence recounts how the team set about identifying home cooks across Karnataka who still made many of these traditional recipes, travelled there, watched them cook, brought them back to their centre where tasting sessions were held before zeroing in on the dishes. The study process has been on for over three years now, he adds.
He gives an example of how while Udupi cuisine is the first that comes to mind when talking of Karnataka’s cuisine, there is so much more. Even within Udupi cuisine, there are dishes like the Udupi Samaaradhane Saaru (a festival-time saaru) that is different from what people already know or have tasted. “There is Yogirathna- a dish made of mixed vegetables and tender cashews in a coconut milk gravy - a Mangaluru speciality. There is the baby halasu (tender jackfruit) curry from the Kodagu region. There are many snacks, millet dishes, and accompaniments that we also don’t know of,” says Regi.
Chandri Bhat also points out that Karnataka cuisine has not been commercially explored to its full potential, yet. Hence, there might not be much awareness as of now. “Karnataka cuisine has a variety of food based on food trails that are influenced by religion, communities and historical invaders. It is an amalgamation of cultures.”
The festival is at St John’s Auditorium, Koramangala on January 21 and 22, from 11 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. and then from 6.30 p.m. to 11 p.m.. Tickets are priced at Rs 700 for two, or Rs 500 for an individual (unlimited food), available on BookMyShow.