“ One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. ”
– Virginia Woolf
If the beauty of Chikmaglur hadn’t had us enthralled enough,
the food and ambience had us floored.
We began our day with piping hot coffees or chocolaty cold ones overlooking the beautiful common pool as well as the greenery of their coffee plantation and the Mullayanagiri range.
We woke up to breakfasts which were fit as feasts for kings and dined just as royally on dishes ranging over a number of cuisines; but what spoke to us most of the richness and flavour of the dishes that reflected the essence of the region.
Situated along the western ghats in Karnataka is the Malnad region ( also known as Malenadu ) . Malenadu, literally translating to ‘Land of the hills’, is abundant with flora owing to its wet & temperate climate that is perfect for coffee plantation. But if coffee is all one links with the taste of this region, then they are highly mistaken.
The dense forest of the province is home to a number of fruits, vegetables and spices that define their cuisine and palate. Along with savouring delicacies of the local produce, it is exciting to learn and explore their traditional cooking practices such as using particular metal vessels or cooking on a fire that also add to flavour to each dish. Now the Malnad region isn’t just about their agricultural or forest produce, no no no ! Their meat preparations will leave you stunned ! Every bit cooked in a rich melody of spices, some even with a bit of smokiness to transport you tastebuds to a campfire site.
Ms. Kanchana Raghunath ( Senior Manager, Food Innovation, The Serai Group of Resorts ) had culinary surprises ready for us throughout our trip !
One such treat was the live cooking demonstration by Chef Chandrasekhar that made us all drool with delight.
We witnessed the delicious Koli Saaru come to life as Chef Chandrasekhar effortlessly tossed spices and chicken in the air whilst bombarded by a barrage of questions and cameras.
Like we mentioned earlier, Ms. Kanchana Raghunath left no stone unturned in surprising us with culinary treats of the land. As we all gathered on the lush lawn adjoining the Odyssey, we were introduced to eight radiant women, clad in bright traditional saris teamed up with their heirloom jewellery. Each stood with an elegant poise and a coy smile as we were told that they were the chefs of the feast that awaited us in the hall.
The team of eight was headed by Mrs. Vasanthi Hegde ( Mother of Mr. V. G. Siddhartha, Chairman and MD of Cafe Coffee Day ). Each of the lovely women were progenitors of the Malnad cuisine whose hands carried the flavours & secrets of their land. We were but blessed to witness the magic of the cuisine though their secret, ancestral recipes.
The Malnad Feast
Large banana leaves awaited us in the hall and we sat down thinking of the large South Indian fares we have had in the past. But, the large feasts we had enjoyed seemed like just appetizers in front of the Malnad dishes we were about to devour.
The mouth-watering dishes we had were as follows…
* Harlikai Gojju
Made from local Pomelos marinated and aged with care. The fruit Pomelo is pretty similar to the grapefruit and has a dominant citrusy flavour.
A protein-packed lentil salad made from soaked Urad Dal with fresh cucumber and coconut tempered in South Indian style.
* Kalule Palya
A dry sabzi made from seasonal and locally procured fresh Bamboo shoot.
Halsin translates to Jackfruit while Kai means raw. Just like the name suggest, this is a dry sabzi made from seasonal, raw jackfruit.
* Bendekai Gojju
Tender (Bende) Okra fried in South India masala or can also be served in the form of a gravy.
A rich horse gram ( Chana Dal / Kulthi) curry .
* Kaima Unde
Or as we like to call them, the Malnad Meatballs ! Pan sauteed mince mutton balls cooked in local spices.
* Eery Fry
Mutton liver cooked in freshly ground black pepper masala. The masala isn’t as pungent, as the name may suggest, but quite rich and draws most of its flavour from the meat than just the pepper.
One look and we thought of our beloved Aloo Wadis from the Mararthi cuisine… well a deconstructed version. The Kesa was quite similar but in the form of a dry sabzi made from healthy and iron rich Colocasia ( Elephant leaves ) leaves.
* Holige & Thupa
Another similarity to the Marathi Cuisines Puran Poli. The Holige were a sweetened and light Dal stuffed pancakes drizzled with ghee ( Thupa ) .
Rice dumplings are first placed and soaked by pouring a local chicken or vegetable curry. One must break the dumpling and mash them up with the gravy served to enjoy the flavours of the dish. We had the coconut based chicken curry which was incredible… It was love at first bite.
* Gangalada Dosa with Meenu Masala
Local ‘ Oul ’ river fish served with pan steamed and tawa roasted Dosa.
* Mavinhanina Gojju
Tiny little mangoes skinned and cooked in a sweet yogurt masaala with a spicy tadka. Each time we bit into the succulent mangoes, the tangy gravy spilled onto our tastebuds along with messing up our palms, but we didn’t mind it one bit ! Infact, nostalgia hit us every time we managed mess up our face or our hands… Mangoes are truly enjoyed messy. We didn’t just have seconds but thirds of this !
* Steamed rice with Rasam
Rasam is the answer for a sore throat or a cold, and sometimes we even fake it to get some rasam from our fellow South Indian bloggers home ! The rasam here seemed just like home. A peppery broth, flavored with tomatoes, onion and garlic. ** cough cough ** we think we have a cold coming on.
* Mamsa Dry Fry
Succulent pieces of Mutton seared with fresh red chilli powder and spices. This reminded us of the spicy mutton sukka from the Konkani Cuisine.
* Curd rice
Soft rice with fresh yogurt, chopped green chillies and cilantro tempered in South Indian style.
* Halagana Hittu
Like a tiny little pieces of sponge mixed with a wobbly jelly… ! A traditional light sweet made with milk and flour that simply melts in your mouth.
* Kukus Payasa
Roasted poppy seeds ( don’t get any ideas ) , ground and slowly simmered in a sweetened milky concoction. This dish is a special recipe from the home of none other than Ms. Kanchana Raghunath ! It was her aunt who was one of the eight Malnad Magicians that made this for us to end our meal on a happy note.
Though it was incredibly difficult to choose favourites, Mavinhanina Gojju, Kadubu, Mamsa Dry Fry, Gangalada Dosa with Meenu Masala are some of the names you will see pop up in our search history.
At the end of the meal, blogger Vidya asked us to fold our leaf towards us i.e. folding the top side of the leaf on the bottom one. This simple act signifies satisfaction, respect, gratitude and a promise to visit again, a promise we certainly intend to keep.
Some argue that the Malnad cuisine draws influence from Mangalorean and Coorg cuisine. Well, there is just one way to find out…. Visit The Serai resorts and try the delicacies out for yourself !
Our visit to The Serai resorts was courtesy an experiential bloggers meet held by Skreem. Picture of Ms. Kanchana Raghunath courtesy The Candid Theory
The Serai Resorts, Chikmagalur, welcomes you to the world of coffee! Here you can walk through the lush green coffee plantations surrounding their luxurious property and learn even more about your favourite beverage. Take in the aroma of their freshly picked coffee beans and understand the process of creating the freshest brews which are celebrated throughout the country. Relish the memories from this experience and become a coffee connoisseur with the help of their experts. Pure, unadulterated bliss.
Skreem ia a platform connecting Brands to its end consumers through a trusted network over social channels. Their mission is to create authentic and meaningful relationships between consumers, influencers, marketers and brands. Skreem uses the power of human voice to ensure everyone can hear what the brands they love are saying.