Chutneys are an intrinsic part of Andhra cuisine, and never mind the two-states dichotomy, they unify the Telugu diaspora like few things can. There are high chances that a Telangana thali would have Gongura Chutney or a Sorakaya Chutney, just like an Andhra spread.
There is something sadistically addictive about Andhra chutneys, the spiciness quotient being directly proportional to the degree of addiction. This was brought home to me the very first time I had a proper Andhra thali at iconic restaurant Nagarjuna, known for its thalis in Bengaluru, or rather Bangalore as it was known in those days, in the early years of the new millennium.
The array of orange, red and yellow chutneys, and a few in dry powder form, like the Kandi Podi or Andhra Paruppu Podi, (made of roasted lentils, garlic and red chillies) added to the vibrant colour palette on the green banana leaf placed on a brass thali. While the entire meal hot rice (topped with generous dollops of ghee), paired with rasam, sambar, assorted vegetable vepudu (fries), pulsus (sour gravies) and igurus contributed to an immensely satisfying experience, it was the sweet and spicy Allam (ginger chutney), the creamy-textured Beerakaya (ridge gourd) and Phalli (peanut), the soft and slightly sweet Kobbaru (coconut) or the tart Gongura (sorrel leaves) chutneys, which were the real flavour-enhancers and appetite-catalysts, and in the true sense, the real McCoy when it came to epicurean takeaways.
And while my eyes and tongue were stinging and watering with the aroma, I refused to give up on the finger-licking chutneys. Even the humbler dry Chutney Podi or gunpowder to be mixed in hot rice and ghee or sesame oil and relished without any other accompaniment remained memorable.
Years later, I would be educated on the significance of having the first morsel of rice mixed with dry chutney called Modati Mudda, whose objective was to get the digestive juices flowing, to be able to tackle all that came on the meal next, including the meats.
Readers would recount more recently the special Telangana menu hosted for Prime Minister Modi for the BJP’s executive meet in Hyderabad. Any surprise that it had at least three chutneys, the more common tomato chutney, along with not-so-common Dosakaya Chutney (to which this column is dedicated) and Sorakaya or Bottle Gourd Chutney?
But the Dosakaya Chutney takes first place, every time. There are reasons other than taste which should prompt you to pick up the dosakaya next time, especially when you read about its nutrient values. Like the rest of the members of the cucumber family, Dosakaya are an excellent source of fibre, especially when they are unpeeled. A host of other benefits too, such as being rich in Vitamin A, C, E, and K, besides being loaded with antioxidants, add to its sheen. And oh yes, its high-water content makes it naturally hydrating, aiding your skin to glow and shine.
Need any more reasons to include this beauty in your diet?
Swati Sucharita is a Hyderabad-based journalist, food blogger and independent content consultant. You may write in at firstname.lastname@example.org.