Coorg is known to many as the land of tranquil forests and hills, weekend retreats, coffee plantations, and home to the only community in India that’s allowed to carry a gun without a permit.
Just as wonderful as all that is the food from the region. If you’ve ever been to a Kodava wedding, as I have, their love for food and drink is on abundant display. Unlike many Indian communities, the Coorg people will happily serve you alcohol and non-vegetarian food at their weddings, especially their famous Pandi Curry or pork in a spicy and sour gravy made from Kachampuli, a black vinegar made from the black kokum fruit.
Rice has always grown in plenty in Coorg, so it’s not surprising that rice in many forms is the foundation of most Coorg meals. Breakfast can be Akki Rotti (a chapatti-like pancake made from cooked rice and rice flour). Or perhaps you’d care for a range of Puttu, steamed rice dishes such as Nooputtu (rice threads similar to the Kerala Idiyappam), Paaputtu (a mix of steamed broken rice, coconut and sugar). To accompany these, you can have the famous Coorg honey or hearty curries not usually found elsewhere such as pumpkin curry, bamboo shoot curry, or a curry made from wild mushrooms.
Lunch and dinner too has rice as the base, and there’s usually at least one non-vegetarian dish to accompany it, usually chicken, mutton, or the much-loved pork. Coconut is a common ingredient in many of the tangy and spicy Coorg curries, ground with onions, garlic and spices such as chillies, cumin, pepper, etc. with Kachampuli providing the fruity tartness. As accompaniments, you will find chutneys made from dried or smoked meat and fish, or pickles made from tender bamboo, gooseberries, and mushrooms.
But vegetarians need not lose heart. Unique to Coorg are dishes like Kaad Maange curry, made from wild mango that’s got a more peppery tart flavour than regular mangoes. Also try the Chekke curry made from raw jackfruit, Kemb curry made from the colocasia plant, or the Kumm curry made from wild mushrooms.
So the next time you visit Coorg for a quick weekend getaway, be sure to try out some of these delicious dishes. Don’t forget to bring back some of those pickles and their forest honey. And if you can’t get away, ask one of your Coorg friends to invite you home for dinner. They’re a hospitable bunch, and will be happy to have you over.
Chef, Restaurant Consultant, and Food Writer, Bangalore
Every cuisine has its association with culture, religion and geographical location. But specific
cooking techniques & practices and eating habits are interconnected to the ingredients available
locally. Sometimes these practices are merged into a culture, influenced by other cultures or
indigenous versions, custom-made to a particular palate.
Malnad cuisine of Karnataka is one such cuisine which retained its traditional style of cooking.
The cuisine is highly influenced by vegetables and fruits naturally grown in the dense forests
of Western Ghats. Ingredients like bamboo shoots, raw jackfruit, turmeric leaves and colocasia
leaves, which are available in the forests, are some of the origins of the Malnad cuisine. Some may
argue that Malnad cuisine had its influence from Mangalorean and Coorg cuisine.
Kadabu is one of the culinary specialities of Malnad, also prepared in varied fares like Kaalu
Kadabu, and Kotte Kadabu, etc. A delicacy prepared with bamboo shoots (which is available
once a year) is another speciality of this region which is also marked as a speciality from Coorg.
Crab chutney made with freshwater crabs usually found in the paddy fields during monsoon is
another special delicacy. Many of these dishes may not be known in Karnataka itself, because
the ingredients are nowhere available except in mountain ranges of Coorg, Chikmagalur and
-Tony M Jose, Executive Chef, The Serai