Much like how discovery of the monsoonal winds opened up a brave new world to explorers and adventurers of yore, closer home, balmy monsoonal breezes recently revealed a window into our multilayered heritage: In Bangalore recently, I discovered a unique culinary heritage - that of the Nawayath community from Gingee, Tamil Nadu, which has settled in the heart of Bangalore at Shivaji Nagar. As you live, you learn.
Karnataka’s western coast, I realised, isn’t famous for only the tradition of ‘naivedya’ at Udipi, where no fewer than 14 different varieties of cooked delicacies are offered to the capricious Krishna at the Udipi Sri Krishna Temple every day so he doesn’t wander away. Karnataka’s western coast also counts as part of its novel culinary heritage the cuisine of the Navaithyas, the local Muslim community in the nearby area around Gingee: Exquisitely layered flavourful biryani including a version made of seviyan, varying forms of curry and a dizzyingly delicious list of desserts, especially pudding! A flavourful amalgam of Mughlai and Nawabi styles of cooking adapted to local coastal food, their mere mention conjures visions of feasts - Mutkule, Navari, Shinawniyo, Sutriyaan, Bukaat, Adharasam, Ande ki Mithai, Kaddu ki Kheer.
According to the Imperial Gazetteer, Nawayath/ Navayath derives from the Persian ‘nawayad’ meaning ‘newcomer’. The Nawayath/ Navayath are descendants of the mariners and merchants from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Persia who married into the trading community of coastal Karnataka that was predominantly of Jain origins. Their dialect is a fascinating amalgam of Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Marathi and Urdu rooted in Konkani; they were writing in the Persian script long before Urdu emerged as an evocative cursive wrap for our Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb! Apart from Bhatkal in Karnataka, the community is settled in a village near Gingee, in Tamil Nadu, and a large diaspora has made Shivaji Nagar home. I’m told that Shivaji Nagar is among the precious few places in the city where one may relish distinctly flavoured elaichi or mint chai as late as 2am and indulge in an assortment of savoury dishes. Like the other coastal Muslim communities such as the Bearys of Kanara, Moplahs of the Malabar Coast and the Labbay of the Coromandel Coast, the Nawayaths have imbibed local coastal flavours into their cuisine.
Savour the flavourful amalgam of Mughlai and Nawabi styles of cooking adapted to coastal predilections at the Daawat E Khaas - Navaithya Muslim Cuisine festival at ITC Gardenia that continues until 2nd August.