When someone says Indian food, the first thing that might pop up in your head is ‘curry’! However, Indian food is so much more diverse than just curry. It is my pleasure to introduce to you some very delicious South Indian dishes that are local to my hometown and also to many parts of South India. In the past few years that I have lived away from home, I have noticed that a lot of Indian restaurants in Korea feature only North Indian food. Hence, when I visit these restaurants my friends generally ask if it feels like home. Honestly, it does not remind me of home very much. Even back in India, I would go to the restaurant to eat that food. That is why I have decided to introduce South Indian dishes, my home on a platter.
Namma Bengaluru, Gothri?
Bangalore, or officially Bengaluru, is within the state of Karnataka in India and is named as the Silicon Valley of India. One of the main attractions of the city is the weather. Being around 900 meters above sea level, the weather is Bangalore is not very extreme and quite pleasant for most of the year. The city is also a cultural melting pot and has various cuisines to offer. When tourists visit Bangalore they are so swept away by this vast food culture that they tend to miss tasting the local and authentic cuisine of the area. Following are three must have dishes while visiting Bangalore.
Idli is a steamed rice cake which is primarily made from fermented black lentils and rice. The moment you see rice cake, you may be thinking that this maybe similar to the Korean rice cake, but it is not. Korean rice cakes are usually sweet and chewy while idlis are savoury and crumbly in texture. Since idlis have a very plain taste, they are often served with sambar and chutney. Sambar is a kind of curry made from lentils and chutney is a sauce made from various ingredients. In Bangalore, the sambar is sweet and has a very distinct taste compared to the sambar that is normally served with rice or sambar served in other cities. This sweet sambar is so unique to Bangalore that if you take a road trip from Bangalore to another town, you can notice the gradually fading sweet taste in the sambar. Chutney is a very versatile and rich sauce. The chutney that is served along with idli in Bangalore is usually made from coconut milk and shavings. These condiments of sambar and chutney are very much needed while eating idli.
Another delicious item that is served along with idli, is vada. Vada is a savoury donut mainly made from legumes. This amazing deep fried donut is a perfect combination to the steamed idli. Together, this family of Idli-Vada-Sambar-Chutney is one of the most famous breakfast options in South India. The best places to try them are at darshinis, which is a restaurant where they only have tables and no chairs. This is because the food served here is meant to be eaten fast, which is perfect for breakfast when everyone is running to work and needs a quick bite.
Bissi Bele Bath
Bissi Bele Bath literally translated is Hot Lentil Rice’. This is hands-down one of the most difficult dishes to prepare. Simply told, it is rice and vegetable in a broth made of lentils and vegetables. Seems simple, right? Beware my friends; it has many secret ingredients hiding within. Now that I think about it, bissi bele bath is kind of similar to jook, the Korean rice porridge. Just that bissi bele bath is spicy and has a very intense flavor. There are up to thirty ingredients that go into this dish and some of those spices are home-made using family recipes going back for many decades.
In my house, my grandmother personally undertakes the making of the main masala (spice mix) for the dish once every year. She roasts and dries various ingredients like red peppers and lentils to unlock that earthy flavor. After the spices have all been individually prepared, we visit the spice mill where we get them ground into a fine powder that can be kept for over a year and even sent overseas to my uncle.
When it is time to actually make the dish, preparations begin the previous day. Various vegetables are cut and stored after which the rice is prepared. Some of the ingredients that lend a very unique flavor to this dish are tamarind pulp, curry leaves and asafetida. All the ingredients are then put into a large pot and cooked for over an hour. The final step is to drizzle the porridge with spices roasted in ghee (clarified butter). Once the dish is ready, it is served with a crunchy fried snack such as boondi (fried balls of chickpea flour) or papad (thin, crisp snack made from black gram dough) or salted potato chips. While visiting Bangalore or Karnataka, you can try bissi bele bath at any restaurant that serves Udupi cuisine.
I am sure you have had other foods that are in the shape of a ball. But this one is quite interesting and different from any of those. Just as its name, ragi mudde (lump of ragi) is a boiled lump of ragi flour. Though it has a very simple list of ingredients, the technique required is quite unique. Ragi mudde is made from ragi (finger millet) flour and water. The flour is mixed with a little water to make a paste which is added to a thick bottomed vessel filled with boiling water. The mudde (lump) is allowed to cook in the boiling water after which it is removed and then beaten and rolled into the shape of a ball. The proportion of flour to water and how long you leave it to cook in the boiling water is most tricky, as there has to be no lumps of flour. Having no lumps of flour is a sure-fire way of knowing if a ragi mudde has been prepared well. The ragi mude is then stored in warm heat before being served. The method of eating this dish is very different and might be difficult at first. The ragi mude is served with saaru (a kind of curry) or chutney. The mude is then broken into smaller bite size balls that are rolled in the saaru and swallowed. We usually do not chew the ragi ball since it has a very chewy and sticky texture. This dish is very healthy and contains a lot of multi-nutrients.
The Best Way to a Person’s Heart Is through His or Her Stomach
These dishes are just a snapshot of the many amazing local dishes of Karnataka. The best place to try them would be at a local person’s house. Since each household has their own spice mix and possibly different methods of preparing the dishes it would be great to try these dishes in many houses. They are all hearty and healthy meals that can be eaten as any meal of the day. I hope that those who plan to make a trip to India can take time to try these dishes while learning about the great heritage of India.