Flavours of Karnataka
The cuisine of a place is the way to the heart of its culture. The ingredients used, the way it is cooked and when, as well as who prepares them, all of it is intricately connected to the geography of the place, the changing seasons, and even its socio-political scenario.
Karnataka is blessed with a delectable culinary heritage which encompasses the earthy tones of the traditional cuisine, a spicy touch from the coast, fast food and fine dining options from around the globe, as well as the unique Kodava flavour.
Here is a guide to help you get acquainted with the vast number of treats available to savour in Karnataka.
The city’s eat-outs offer various kinds of cuisines that represent Bengaluru’s multiculturalism. Get a taste of the traditional Kannadiga food at the indigenous eateries of Bengaluru like MTR, Vidyarthi Bhavan, Brahmin’s Coffee Bar, Halli Mane, CTR, Veena Stores, Janata Hotel, Udupi Krishna Hotel etc, all restaurants that the locals swear by.
In the city you can let your taste buds run amok. While in Bengaluru, choose from international cuisine ranging from Japanese, Arabic, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Mexican or Indian cuisine like Kerala, Andhra, Hyderabadi or Punjabi.
Mysore Pak, a lip-smacking sweet named after the Mysuru city in Karnataka, is undoubtedly the most famous food item from the state. Another famous culinary item is the Ragi balls which fascinates the urban superfood-seeking, fitness-conscious populace. This iconic South Karnataka dish is loved throughout the region, particularly in Mandya, Hassan and Mysuru, and is often paired with mutton saaru (thin soup) and other greens. Maddur Vada from Mandya district, best enjoyed with a hot cup of filter coffee is yet another local delicacy.
The Belagavi Kunda, a much sought after sweet named after the town of Belgaum and Karandatu, the local version of energy bars made with a liberal helping of dry fruits and nuts is a must try while exploring the flavours of the state.
Over the years Indian coffee has earned its place in the coffee map of the world. Karnataka is the largest producer of coffee in the country accounting for about 70 per cent of the total production which is mainly cultivated in the districts of Coorg, Chikmagalur and Hassan.
It is believed that coffee was planted in Karnataka by a holy saint Baba Budan in the hills of Chikkamagaluru in 1670 AD.
Kodava cuisine is very different from the rest of Karnataka’s platter. Pandi curry (pork curry) and kadumbuttu (rice dumplings) are arguably the most delectable dishes in the Kodava repertoire. The succulent koli curry (chicken curry), nool puttu (rice noodles), votti (rice rotti) and bembla curry (bamboo shoot curry) will surely tingle your taste buds.
Spicy fish dishes like kane fry (ladyfish), rice-based preparations, and a wide variety of fruits are popular favourites on the Mangalorean menu. Mangaloreans love rice in all forms – red grain rice, sannas (idli fluffed with toddy or yeast), pancakes, rice rotti, kori rotti (a dry, crisp, almost wafer thin rice rotti which is served with chicken curry), and neer dosa. Patrode, a special dish prepared by steaming stuffed colocasia leaves, shouldn’t be missed. Akki roti or rice rotti is a favourite not only in Mangalore, but also in Malnad and Kodagu.
Davanagere is also famous for its lip-smacking Benne Dosa, a crispy variant of dosa with a generous amount of butter which is best savored with a spicy chutney and potato palya (curry). The Mirchi Mandakki; a popular snack choice, is a combination of puffed rice mixed with a spicy chutney and garnished with carrot, coriander and onion, often served with mirchi (green chilli coated in a batter deep fried in oil).
Dharwad Peda is the iconic sweet from Dharwad. The local cuisine includes simple meals of Jolada rotti served with lentils and tangy chutneys to holiges, mandgis and kadabus.
The popular North Karnataka preparations include wheat and jowar roti (unleavened bread made of millet), a delicacy best savoured with a variety of chutneys or spicy curries. Apart from the jowar roti and the trademark yenne badanekayi (brinjal curry), North Karnataka fare boasts a wide range of rottis to choose from: jolada rotti, thali peet, khadak rotti and sajja rotti (bajra roti). Another famous item is Tahari from Kalaburagi, which is similar to pulao. The best North Karnataka sweets are Bele Hoorna Holige, Gokak karadantu, Belgaum khunda, shenga holige and ellu holige.
While in Ramanagara, try the lip-smacking Bidadi Thatte Idli which is a larger and flatter variant of the traditional South Indian idli.
The ubiquitous masala dosa has its origins in Udupi, as does a whole school of South Indian vegetarian cuisine that takes its name from this town. Udupi, dubbed as a paradise for vegetarians also offers delicious non-vegetarian and seafood options like Chicken Ghee Roast, Anjal Tawa Fry and Marwai Sukka.