Udupi culinary is an integral portion of South Indian Cuisine. Hence, I decided to explore with a notion “Eat, as nobody watching you; Enjoy food like that’s the only thing left in your world”-Nikita Dudani. And this is my approach to food; though, even then, I am a silent minority, during a discussion on South Indian culinary art. Primarily because my thoughts restrict to Idilli- Vada- Sambar-Dosa, please don’t assume that it’s my fault, but it’s what we see we know.
Nestled between the Western Ghats mountains and the Arabian Sea, lies Udupi in the lush green Konkan Belt; and it carries a fragrance of mustard, sizzling chillies, roasted peanuts and curry leaves. Ideally, Udupi had little to do with Culinary tradition- Centuries ago-probably in the 13th century; Madhavacharya a sage founded Dvaita branches in Hindu philosophy. He devised some set of rituals to worship the Godchild- Krishna; who is revered in his infant virtue in Udupi. The devotees believed that Krishna would wander away unless he was lured to stay by delicious eats. This belief resulted in the ‘Naivedya’, — no fewer than 14 different varieties — are offered to the Lord every day. It has to be managed and served by the Shivalli Brahmins (his disciples) – little did the Krishna devotee knew that soon the Matt would emerge as a place of religion and the culinary world as well.
The philosophy of Udupi culinary is a finesse, a balanced & nutritious diet. Chaturmasa Vrata’s (four monsoon months) tradition imposing restrictions on certain ingredients may have contributed to the cuisine’s innovation, along with occasions, individual tastes and affluence. This cuisine is very traditional, yet own influence on the culinary ledger from history as well as neighbouring states. I mark off my tour with Sri Krishna Temple, the Matt with a typical Kerala style architecture, and eight Mathas that surround it dates back to the 13th century. To a greater extent than Matt, I was interested in the food which originated from that place. I gave way to a Mitra Samaj Restaurant in a Udupi’s temple square that serves since 1949, for breakfast.
The restaurant uses no onion or garlic. The taste of Goli Baje, which is a Maida savoury, deep-fried in coconut oil and served with freshly ground coconut chutney was soul-filling. Yet I ordered the Kadubu Olle, made of Rava batter and steamed in the leaves of a native palm, and dished out hot with chutney. This eating house has evolved an unparalleled business model for the fast-food trade, uncompromising on taste. Indeed a mouth-watering start of a day!
Highlights: Authentic Udupi Snacks, Goli Baje, Kadubu Olle, Kushmand Halwa (a delicacy made of sweet pumpkin) with freshly brewed coffee.
Location: Sri Krishna Temple Complex, car street Thenkpete, Maruthi Veethika, Udupi,
Cost: : Rs.300 for two approx
Mangalore is 60Km from Udupi; their culinary has derived much from Udupi cuisine, including meat and seafood preparations in onion and garlic. It was scorching hot, the sand on the sea beach was burning under my feet; so a walked upon the pavement. Along the sidewalk of Malpe beach stood a man with a small wooden cart selling Churu-Muri or spiced puffed rice. It’s a part of delicious street food in Udupi. The puffed rice mixed with tender vegetables and fruit and roasted peanuts, little coconut oils, grounded spices & dice of lime. It’s just incredible! It’s like JhalMuri of Kolkata street food, but slightly different as the raw vegetable is added here.
Munching on them, letting my palette savour on the tangy & spicy taste; I asked about eatery to taste Mangalorean Cuisine. The locals are accurate to suggest good eatery, Anupam or The Shetty’s Lunch Home were among them. Considerably, I opted for Anupam for my lunch as it was nearby, decided will hop in the later tomorrow. Somebody who likes experiential binging, this is the place to be.
The cuisine they offer are delectable, prices are gentle on the pocket and will not cause a dent, and quantity is profuse- each dish is dripping with flavour, adding to the overall charm of the place. The menu is detailed with all seafood from fries to roast or curry. I set up my carving for Chicken ghee roast & Neer Dosa.
Highlights: It’s famous for seafood delicacies, Chicken & prawn Ghee roast with Neer Dosa is must try here.
Location: Kalpana Residency, Upendra Baug, Udupi
Cost: Rs.400 for two approx
It was sumptuous lunch, Oh Lord, and I could not make a motion! Well, I hauled myself to conscious, as I had to explore the spices and the traditional Udipi culinary further. Since the culinary is established on the Vedic principles, Sattvic food as tradition, appeared distinctly in the culture. Though, In spite, within the strict Satvic boundaries, chefs devised signature dishes that till today typify Udupi food. We get to witness that rituals and cooking -the twin skill sets of the Udupi Brahmins.
They wish their food light, naturally, to digest, nutritious and cooling in the coastal heath. Now it’s clear why the proverb is prevalent in the coastal towns: “Brahmana Bhojana Priya” (the Brahmin loves his food too good). I was even baffled to see no part of the white pumpkin is wasted. The skin, seeds and soft-core used to make the coolant Thamblis, while the vegetable will end up as a sweet dish the famous Kushmand Halwa, cooked in pure ghee with jaggery roasted cashew nuts. Jackfruit is another vegetable used to make Papads; also Pelakayida Gatti another recipe made from riped Jackfruit that is served with honey. There is a large variety in this cuisine.
I made out some spice shopping, added with Papads of Jackfruit, beet-root, spinach. Well, Murukku that got added to my shopping list, a perfect crisp and slightly salty snack made from lentil paste (urad daal) and deep-fried. It tastes yummy, looked nice also. I ate a whole package with hot filter coffee. Since my afternoon Chicken ghee roast had occupied a substantial portion in my stomach, so I decided to keep the dinner light. I desired to dine at the Woodland brand, created by K. Krishna Rao, an uneducated-Puthige matt trained-cook, who began the first Udupi cuisine-based Sri Krishna Vilas Hotel in 1927.
Later that evening, I went to the Woodlands, to try Bisibele Bhath. It is known initially as Bisi Bele Hulianna, a dish made from spicy red gram, rice and vegetables. It was filling yet comfortable enough to allow Lord Krishna to play afterwards as per the Shivalli Brahmin. The word Bisi Bēle Bhāt means hot lentil rice mixture in the Kannada words. Udupi cuisine lentils are a prominent feature as its protein content, mixed with rice, vegetables, and spices make it a wholesome taste, generally served with papad and a hot pickle.
I also tried Thambli, a summer speciality coolant- made from seasonal greens. Like the leaves of the Brahmi or Yelemuri or Vitamin Soppu, skin and seeds of gourds Chathai Soppu, then fried with ghee, grounded with pepper, jeera and coconut, thinned with buttermilk. It is finger-licking good.
Highlights: Bisibele Bhath one should try, Hayagreeva Maddi (cooked with Bengal gram with jaggery and coconut.) Can Try Dosa & vada too.
Location: Dr U. R. RAO Complex | Near Sri Krishna Mutt, Udupi
Cost: Rs. 600 for two approx
The next morning was lazy since I had to make to move to Gokarna. So I headed for a quick shower & decided on brunch at The Shetty’s Lunch Home. I used to believe that Udupi food could not do without massive amounts of coconut. But I was wrong as other sorts are used to make masalas like fresh pineapples, bitter gourd, mango and the local sour fruit. These are roasted with some black Til, later fried with red chillies, urad dal, and fenugreek in a little coconut oil, then finely ground it with a bit of coconut jaggery.
This masala gives a tangy and incredibly aromatic to dishes. On the other hand, Udupi Brahmins make spicy chutneys that go well with boiled rice, throughout the monsoon. I noticed Tamarind & Jaggery’s use is balanced in most cuisine, especially in chutney or curries. Thinking over the cooking, spices, techniques, tradition & culture of Udupi, I reached the eatery. The place was beautiful, so was the ambience. I asked for the best preparation. And they suggested Kane fish (ladyfish) preparation was excellent. Its marinated in a fiery red chilli paste, coated in semolina and fried to golden glory, served with rice, sambar & rasam. The taste could not leave my palette for a brace of hours.
The Shetty’s Lunch Home.
Highlights: Seafood & Meat with authentic Manglorean flavours, Kane fish fry or curry.
Location: Kundapur Bus Stop, Kundapur
Cost: Rs. 500 for two approx
Eventually, it was time to depart, as I always do take back a sample of savoury and sweet delicacies. Hence got Kushmand Halwa (a delicacy made of fresh pumpkin) packed from the local bakery. I realised though the temple tradition gave the Udupi culinary a strong foundation. But the transformation began when it travelled from the holy corridors of temples to the Bylanes cities. However, for a taste of authentic Udupi culinary, eatery’s pick needs to be done with care.