From Karnataka’s Lesser-Known Malenadu Cuisine: 7 Specials That You Cannot Miss
Image Credit: From akki roti to koli saaru, Karnataka's unexplored cuisine has a lot to offer.

When you’ve lived in the northern parts of India with limited interaction with the south, your understanding of the culture and lifestyle of those areas becomes quite simplistic. If someone would have asked me a few years back if I liked South Indian food, I would readily nod my head in affirmation because my perception of this cuisine was all about dosa, idli, vada and sambhar. Lack of interaction with people from that particular community is another reason for this approach. It is only once I developed my fascination for food research and writing that I discovered the vast array of delectable fares that the southern parts of India had to offer. 

A friend of mine shifted to Bangalore for work. Her one and a half year stay at in the city was quite an interesting phase since she was exploring the culture and cuisine of the place. Her insights acted as a catalyst in developing my interest in the local food. My inclination to dive deeper into regional cuisines led me to the point of unveiling a lesser-known cuisine of South India, the Malenadu cuisine. Hailing from Karnataka, this remotely-known fare took birth in the Malenadu region of the state and thus got its name. 

The Sahayadri hills are home to this culmination of Mangalorean and Kodava flavours, bringing out the best use of the local produce. The aromatic spices, the freshly-grown jackfruits and bamboo shoots as well as special ingredients available locally contribute to the making of this robust cuisine. While Akki roti (a coarser version of regular roti) is a usual suspect, in terms of meats, pork-based curries like pandi kari is common place. One of the oldest cuisines of South India that has survived to this day, Malenadu or Malnad as it is popularly known, not only has distinctive culinary elements in the form of chutneys and pickles but also boasts of a special species of coffee beans that are grown in the region. Their locally-brewed filter coffee has a fandom of its own. 

Digging deeper into this relatively unexplored cuisine of South India, here are seven specials that you ought to try. 

1.  Menthya Saasve 

The chutney and pickle fare of Malnad is the highlight of the meals there. While they offer a plethora of tangy and spicy condiments along with the meals, the menthya saasve is a wholesome meal in itself. A thick gravy-like preparation of fenugreek and mustard results in a bright-green side dish that can be eaten with roti or rice. Here’s a recipe of menthya chutney that could try for your next meal. 

2.  Appe Huli 

Do you like the spicy rasam served at South Indian restaurants in north India? Then this appe huli is a must-try. A tangy soup which can be treated as a drink or appetizer, it is made from raw mangoes unlike regular rasam and adds a kick to the taste. Specific to the Malnad region, it is believed that the hot rasam can also work well on a bed of steamed rice. 

3.  Kadubu & Ragi Mudde 

Kadubu and Mudde are two essential elements of the cuisine, wherein these act, both as a snack to be eaten alone as well as a substitute for roti, to be paired with chutneys and curries. The former are basically steamed dumplings made of rice flour, stuffed with a mixture of coconut and jaggery while the latter is a healthy version of millet (ragi) balls that can be relished with any lentil or curry. 

4.  Koli Saaru

When you want to pair your kadubus and akki rotis with a spicy and meaty curry then koli saaru is the ideal choice. A spicy chicken curry made from a combination of poppy seeds and coconut paste, a rich koli saaru is prepared in oodles of ghee. The aroma of mustard and the garnish of dry red and green chilies adds to the appetizing look of the dish. 

5.  Carrot Kosambari 

The Malnad region has a novel take on the traditional kosambari wherein it is made with moong dal and carrots. The nutrition-dense side dish has a thin consistency yet tastes heavenly, often prepared on the festival of Pongal. 

6.  Pathrode 

A crispy snack from the South, Pathrode is also known as Patra vada in Maharashtra. The arvi or colocasia leaves are used to make these spiral circles along with gram, channa dal and rice. After rolling into a nice shape, these breakfast staples are steamed and then shallow-fried. 

7.  Thambuli 

This yoghurt-based dish is a great pairing for meals as a condiment. The use of ajwain leaves adds a cooling element to the dish which makes it perfect to accompany a hot sambhar. Herbs and spices are ground together with coconut to give this smooth chutney with a semi-thick consistency. Here’s a ginger version that you can try.