Traditionally Coorg is known to produce spices like cardamom and pepper. The local cuisine is prominently influenced by what they grow. The uniqueness in the cuisine comes from the ingredients readily available that are mostly discovered in most Kodava homes.
Coorg cuisine uses coconut as a base for most of its curries, except for pandi curry which tastes unique due to spices. The cooking style of Coorg cuisine is also different from its neighbours because of limited ingredients made available locally as Coorg was a landlocked area for many centuries.
Coorg has some special ingredients without which its cuisine will not be special. Every household has most of the ingredients mentioned below in their kitchen either homemade or store bought these days: –
Kachampuli – a unique ingredient that you will find in most Kodava households is Kachampuli, it is extracted from the ripe fruits of the Kodambuli fruit (garcinia gummi gutta tree, native to Indonesia). The ripe fruits are usually placed in baskets over large vessels to allow the juice to gently drip down over a few days. The extract is then heated and thickens over time. Kachampuli is used to preserve meat and reduce cholesterol. According to food historian K.T. Achaya, its primary purpose is to keep the pork fat firm.
The fruit is known as panapuli in the local language and the boiled extract is kachampuli. Kachampuli is mainly used in meat (pork curry) and fish dishes at the end of cooking.
Paringe mollu – are bird’s eye chillis, Capsicum annum var. acuminatum, which grow in most kitchen gardens in Coorg. Paringe mollu is very pungent in taste and are used in roasted meat like chilli pork. These chillies are also used to make homemade wine which is fast gaining popularity in Coorg.
Kartha masala – Kartha or black masala is a combination of dry roasted, ground spices in many classic recipes and lends a special flavour to dishes such as pandi curry, meen curry, chicken (koli) curry and bimbale curry. The basic ingredients are cumin, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns and fenugreek seeds roasted coffee-brown, and used in the curries. A few other spices may be added depending on the family recipe.
Kaipuli – is Citrus avrantium, a thick skinned bitter orange. They can be made into a delicious fresh raita or an intense chutney, after the skins are roasted, charred in the firewood. Kaipuli is used to make marmalade, freshly squeezed juice mixed with sugar and a hint of crushed paring mollu, makes for a delicious drink to welcome guests.
Akki tari – Akki tari or rice rava is used to make rice based preparation like kadambuttu, paputtu and nooputtu. Raw rice is washed, dried and hand pounded, each grain broken roughly. This can be used immediately or can be stored in a dry container for 2 months.