Much like flavours brought out slowly but skilfully from foods over a slow flame, the cuisine of Karnataka which boasts myriad preparations perfected over decades, proves irresistible to its growing cult of followers around the world.
Karnataka’s culinary superstructure has risen on a rock-solid foundation that leaves very little to chance. From precise dimensions of the ideal kitchen to details of accoutrements, the important 17th Century treatise Shivatattva Ratnakara, throws light on collective local wisdom.
Considering that the above encyclopaedic document was penned by no less than a king, one can only imagine the standards his cooks would be held to. There would have to be an explanation for everything - even the choice of material of a cooking vessel - and there was. This work even laid down the health benefits of rice cooked in earthenware pots made from earth of a specific nature. The 11th Century Lokopakara documents various adaptations of mung dal khichdi and a recipe for keeping curd rice unspoilt for several days. There are more documents that lay down ideal combinations of ingredients and many of these writings refer to foods that are still prepared today.
It’s no surprise that with this foundation, the most basic thali emerging from a kitchen grounded in this tradition would be fit for a King.
Even so, there’s more to food in the land of coffee and spice – with a pointed Maharashtrian influence, the traditional food of North Karnataka includes the unleavened flatbreads called bhakri and pallya – generously spiced lentils cooked with leafy vegetables. There’s Udupi cuisine known for the famous masala dosa, the seafood specialities and pork curries of coastal Karnataka, the spicy meat dishes from Coorg and sweets like Mysore pak, Dharwad peda, and chiroti.
A must-do on the culinary bucket list while in Karnataka is a sampling of Mangalorean, Navayath and Malnad cuisine which turn out compelling foods that employ minimal oil. These traditions also have a strong tradition of steaming foods.
Do not miss out on the opportunity to taste Karnataka’s signature southern foods in Chennai at the Madras Pavilion, ITC Grand Chola.