Anjali Koli (Featured on Food Maula, Loksatta 7 Jun 2019) This is an online translation of the original published in Marathi.
My blog is called 'Annaparabrahma'. In 2006 I started blogging. I grew up in a joint family but after we started working, everyone got scattered. So I started the blog to talk to my family. They wanted to know the recipes from me. It was not possible to tell it on the phone. So, I broadcasted on the blogosphere,first to my family and then other readers. I listed out Koli recipes. Then wrote about it and started posting. I used to do traditional Koli food, Maharashtrian food and cake baking. I have a blog, e-shop and a Facebook page too. I teach cooking and also participated in some food shows. I went to Bangalore for work in Wipro and fell in love with local food culture in the state of Karnataka.
While working in Bangalore, I used to blog at lunch break. It started as a hobby then became a career. I love traveling, so I spent a lot of time traveling in Karnataka in the seven years. I interacted with people in the small villages of Karnataka. At that time, I was exposed to the food culture there. I learnt a lot from my neighbors.
There is a Maharashtrian influence in the food culture of North Karnataka. The jowar-bajri bhakri, dal, and vegetables are similar except there is a difference in seasoning. At the beginning of winter as field beans are in season it is a fun time. The people of Bangalore are so crazy for these field beans that men and women in the household go shopping together for these. You will see carts piled up with avarekai everywhere. How to choose the best? is a secret. My neighbor shared it with me. Lot of field beans are grown in the Alibaug area of Konkan, Maharashtra. Yet, I did not know that. The neighbor told that the beans must be rubbed between the palms. That releases the essential oils and releases an aroma. It is only if it smells fresh and lovely to you then you must buy. I was amused by this entire process and realized how stringent the Kannadigas were in this selection. The real interesting part lay ahead. There is a competitive environment that can be seen in the Season. Kannadigas buy and eat field beans and then throw them at the doorstep to tease the neighbor that they have enjoyed the field beans and the size of the heap decided who was scored more in Avarekai happiness. Avarekai is used is many recipes to make variety of dishes.
They are so crazy that there are Avarekai festivals held across the state. Two of these dishes are my favorite. One such recipe is called 'Avarekai Congress' it is a kind of chiwda, made by deep frying fresh beans. It contains only fried bead with salt, masala. A curry called 'Hittik Bele Sambar' made only in Kannadiga homes is delicious. It is made with onion and coconut ground masala. The fresh beans are soaked in hot water and peeled to separate the creamy field beans and then added to the curry.
Just like in Maharashtra a puranpoli meal or Shrikhand Puri meal is supposed to be a pretigious meal for a wedding, in Karnataka it is the Chiroti Badam milk meal that raises your status in society a few notches high. The Chiroti in Karnataka is a huge puri the size of a big bhatura. Yet it isn't hollow but crisp and crunchy thoroughly. It is served on banana leaf or a thali and guests crush the puri as the servers and hosts pour badam milk over the crush. There is also an 'Api Payasa' which is made with small puris that are torn into pieces then boiled in badam milk to get a slightly thickened kheer. Small puris are called Api in Konkani and payasa is kheer.
There is a village called Melkote near Bangalore. It is a town in the middle of Karnataka where Tamil culture is thriving even today. Ramanujacharya had lived there and done penance for 12 years. You find the only Sanskrit school in India, there. This town of Iyengar Brahmins is
famed for its 'Puliyogre'. In fact, Puliyogare is found in all four directions of Karnataka. Yet if you ate it there, it tastes outstanding. Peanuts are used in this recipe. While a 5 star hotel may use cashew nuts it is traditional to use peanuts. A good puliyogare is made with tamarind and sesame oil.
One more favorite is sandige with popped rice. Curd rice, pickle and the popped rice sandige makes a heavenly combo.
In the last decade the street food culture has found an address in V. V. Puram. Lot of South Indian food items are available there. Different types of masala dosa, a famous type of Chilli Bhajji. This Bhajji batter is different from our bhajji batter, Rice, urad dal and a little bit of besan is used for it. Peeled fresh peanuts are served with onion, coriander and chillies. There aren't many chaats but one is very popular. Masala puri, made with crushed pani puri and topped with dried green peas which are soaked overnight and made into a sambar.
Due to dynamic weather in Karnataka, there are two types of almond milk cold and hot. It rains eight months and there are dry hot spells in between. So hot and cold almond milk suits perfectly. Soda, and fizzy drinks are not consumed much. Almond milk is a craze. There are grape and sweet lime gardens in some areas so naturally grapes and Sweet lime juice are wonderful. There is a sweet called 'Kardant' which is similar to Dink ladoo. It contains gum, a lot of dry fruits and coconut. Also, if you go to Karnataka, you must enjoy the ghee soaked Maisur paak.
Interviewer : Bhakti Parab