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? 

The chutney counter that was put up for BJP executive meet lunch at Hyderabad - Courtesy- Novotel Hyderabad 

 Now here’s the thing. While the state of Andhra Pradesh is now divided into two, the chutney factor remains unifying across the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. There are high chances that a Telangana thali would have Gongura Chutney or a Sorakaya Chutney, just like an Andhra spread. 

It was at an undivided Andhra Pradesh that we arrived, specifically in Hyderabad circa 2005, following the career trail. I found that there were fewer than a handful of restaurants offering Andhra food, foremost being the epic RR, though there was a “mess” every now and then, offering hot meals. 

All around me, in office canteens, colleagues’ lunch boxes, at homes where we were invited to for meals, I soon realised that chutneys are a way of life in AP. Every conceivable vegetable was chutneyed, from cabbage to capsicum to ridge gourd, the latter called Beerakaya Chutney, being a staple of Andhra cuisine. The chutneys would always have a robust, palate-tickling aftertaste of garlic, tamarind and green/red chillies. 

But one of my most favourite chutneys has got to be the Dosakaya or Madras Cucumber Chutney. More of a seasonal special, being fresh in summer, my first memory of having a spoonful of the tangy delight was an utterly fresh, light and wellness-loaded feeling. 

The Madras cucumber is used in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Mangalorean cuisines, added to dals and sambar, made into curries and quite often made into chutneys, as the flesh has a slightly sour aftertaste, though the seeds can be quite bitter, and are mostly deseeded before use. The Madras cucumber, also known as Malabar or Mangalore cucumber, can be green and oval with stripes on its rind, or it can be round and smooth, in a gorgeous, golden yellow shade. 

There are several versions of the Andhra Dosakaya Chutney. Some cook it before blending it into a chutney, while others add freshly chopped pieces of the cucumber into blender along with some salt, garlic, green chillies and blend it coarsely, after which a tadka of mustard seeds, jeera, dried red chillies, hing and curry patta is added, adding urad dal and chana dal to the tadka gives it an extra crunch. If you like it tarter, just add a bit of tamarind. Some even add roasted tomato and brinjal, the options are endless. 

Andhra Dosakaya Chutney - Courtesy- rajjos.kitchen

But the best taste comes from grinding it coarsely or rather crushing it in a stone mortar and pestle with garlic, green chillies and salt, like my friend in office had made it at home. Eat it like a salad or a dip, the choice is yours. Either way, it’s a bestseller. 

As for me, I have made friends with the round yellow vegetable, with which I had an uneasy (being unfamiliar) relationship earlier. Though my mother says that there is indeed a similar vegetable called Phuti Kakudi grown in Odisha, I had never ever hosted it earlier in my kitchen.

Now it’s among the first vegetables I pick up at the supermarket, especially in summer and monsoons, when I am not ordering it on an online app, but who can compare the pleasure of picking and choosing your own cucumbers? 

Among my other favourites in Andhra chutneys, which are also referred to as Pachadis, is the Beerakaya or Ridge Gourd chutney made out of both the pulp and peels of the vegetable and then either grilled and blended with spices and lentils or added without cooking to the blender, finished off with the mustard seeds-curry leaf-red chillies tadka protocol. 

Also sharing top position for me is the Allam Chutney which is a lip-smacking concoction of ginger, tamarind, jaggery and red chillies, sometimes lentils are added for a grainier texture. Allam chutney is usually paired with idli, dosa and pesarattu, which is a moong dal dosa.  The slightly spicy peanut chutney is yet another delightful choice. 

Allam Chuntey / Pic- saltndsugar_cravings

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 swati.sucharita@htmedialabs.com.