For centuries Kodagu (Coorg) was quite inaccessible – a landlocked region, making it almost essential for the locals to make the best use of local ingredients and spices, that spawned a cuisine like no other. Spread over 4,100 sq kms. Coorg’s delectable cuisine evolved with its unique landscape where farms and forests merged almost seamlessly. Kodava cuisine was predominantly dependent on foraging and they ate as per season naturally. Kitchens focused on food that produced thermal warmth during the cold and wet monsoon season.
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 prepare Kulae puttu, mash of ripe jackfruit or bananas, roasted rice powder and grated coconut steamed in a banana leaf packet, served hot with a dollop of ghee.
Wild mangoes are used to make mange curry, mixed with a tangy taste of jaggery, tamarind and chilli which makes this curry a craving when summer comes. Batches were preserved in brine for the rest of the year, and later, ripe mangoes were similarly preserved in baranis and were put away. They were then only brought out at a wedding or feast, to be made into a curry. Ripe mangoes mixed with curds and spices are made into mange pajji (mango raita), served with 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 and enjoyed with some akki otti or plain rice. Freshly squeezed Kaipuli juice is a refreshing drink and served at many homes when in season.
Monsoon – For centuries, Kodavas braved the heavy rains from June to September. Paths disappeared, jungle grew lush and uncontrollable. No weddings or auspicious tasks were celebrated and even hunting was prohibited. This was the month of kakkada. It is the season where most work used to happen in the fields or forests. Kodava men went wandering in the forests in search of bamboo shoots, mushrooms, crabs, wild ferns, colocasia leaves and medicinal plant like madde thopp. – a purple black medicinal food preparation, which if made the right way, is alleged to have about 18 types of herbal medicinal properties. Well dried and smoked meat which was saved for a rainy day would appear on their table.
Another unique ingredient that you will find in most Kodava households is Kachampuli, that is extracted from the ripe fruits of the Kodambuli fruit (the ripe fruits of the garcinia gummi gutta tree). These fruits are usually placed in baskets over large vessels to allow the juice to gently drip down (over a few days) as the fruit gradually becomes pulp. The extract is then heated and thickens over time, this souring agent is typically used towards the end of the cooking process in many Kodava dishes (including the pandi curry) and accentuates the flavours of the meat.
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.