Mention Kodavas and most of us tend to think of Field Marshal Cariappa, or General Thimayya, or of the several gallantry award winners in our armed forces.
The sports buffs amongst us remember the dozens who played hockey for the country; and excelled in diverse disciplines like athletics, squash, badminton or even tennis like current Davis Cup team member Rohan Bopanna.
But Kodavas are more than just warriors or sportspersons. Before they were either, Kodavas were and are, quite the bon vivants with a legendary fondness for good food and liquor, or kadi and kudi as they call them.
Pandi curry or pork cubes cooked in a red masala and Coorgi vinegar, and Pandi Chootad which are barbecued pork chops flavoured with orange and bird's eye chilli, are two signature Coorgi dishes. But if pork is not your favourite meat, than you’d do well to try the koli or the yarchi manga curries; the one an aromatic chicken curry, and the other a piquant lamb curry flavoured with raw mangoes.
Lest you think that Coorgi cuisine is all about meat, they do some interesting things with vegetables too. Dishes like Koomu Bhartad, stir-fried mushrooms with green chillies, Chhakai Fry, aka sautéed raw jackfruit with spices, and Sappu, a curry with peas, turnip and potatoes, are some of the vegetarian highlights of a Coorgi repast.
In my opinion though, the Kodavas reserve the best of their culinary creativity for rice, turning it into a wide variety of dishes, each more interesting than the last. There is their favourite breakfast dish, Akki Otti which are rice chapattis made like phulkas from a dough of cooked rice and rice flour. Then there are a variety of Puttus, ranging from the ball-shaped Kadambuttu which is a perfect accompaniment to a Pandi Curry, to the Thaliya Puttu which are steamed in plates and Nooputtu—puttu noodles for want of a better description.