Kodava cuisine is very dependent on seasonal produce as the region was inaccessible for many centuries. This resulted in a cuisine very unique compared to its neighbours. Foraging was the way of life for the locals.
Now, Coorg is easily accessible and has become a tourist destination. Coorg has all year round produce from its neighbouring regions and English vegetables are very common on Coorg tables. However, Kodavas do eat local and seasonal when they can in an attempt to retain their traditional cuisine.
The two main seasons are summer and monsoon.
Summer – – Jackfruit and mangoes are abundant and are used to make various delicacies both savoury and sweet. Raw jackfruit is used to make coconut based curry. Ripe jackfruit is used to Kulae puttu,a mash of ripe jackfruit or bananas, roasted rice powder and wedges or shredded coconut, steamed in a banana leaf. Dried meat is also cured and saved for a rainy day .
Wild mangoes are used to make mange curry (mango curry), mixed with a tangy taste of jaggery, tamarind and chilli. Ripe wild mangoes mixed with curds and spices are made into mange pajji (mango raitha), served with plain rice or pulav.
Kaipuli (citrus aurantium) or bitter orange is another unique ingredient from Coorg. The bitter orange skin is roasted, charred, peeled and made into delicious chutney which is enjoyed with some akki otti or plain rice. Freshly squeezed Kaipuli juice is a refreshing drink and is commonly offered to guests when in season.
Monsoon – For centuries, Kodavas experience monsoon (also known as Kakkada) when forests grew wild and the paths disappeared. No weddings or festivals are celebrated and even hunting was prohibited. Foraging was the way of life and the produce was made into delicious delicacies – bamboo shoots (bimbale curry), wild mushrooms (kummu curry), wild ferns (therme thoppu), colocasia leaves (kaymbu curry), crabs (njende curry) and medicinal plant like madde thopp. – a purple black medicinal plant, when boiled and had on a particular day of the calendar is said to have about 18 types of herbal medicinal properties.
Another unique ingredient that you will find in most Kodava households is Kachampuli, it is an extract from the ripe fruits of the Kodambuli fruit (garcinia gummi gutta). The ripe fruits are usually placed in baskets to allow the juice to gently drip down over a few days. The extract is then heated and thickens over time; this souring agent is typically used at the end of the cooking in most Kodava dishes.
Coorg style mango curry or kaad mange curry
1/2kg wild mangoes (small and ripe)
1 tbs cooking oil (any refined oil)
1 medium sized onion, sliced thinly
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
5-6 curry leaves
2 slit green chillies
1/2tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp roasted cumin powder
2tbs jaggery powder
Salt to taste
- Skin the mangoes and squeeze out all the juice from the skin. Add about 100ml of water. You will be left with the seed and pulp. Throw the skin out.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves.
- Add onions, garlic and slit chillies and cook until the onions are translucent.
- Add the mangoes with the pulp. Add chilli powder, cumin powder and salt.
- Cook the mangoes on simmer for about 10 minutes or until cooked.
- Add jaggery powder and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Mange curry is now ready and best served with some hot rice mixed with ghee.