Flavours of Coorg at Food Exchange

The Kodavas are a people who live off the land. Rice is their staple food, their curries are made with seasonal produce; coconut and pepper are used extensively in their dishes. At one time, they even used to hunt wild game for meat. Even before gluten-free became a fad, that was their diet.   

The chefs

The week long Coorg Food Festival, curated by food expert and home chef, Smitha Kuttayya and Chef Gopi at Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road bears testament to this. Under the cloches, the kumbala (pumpkin) and kommu (mushroom) curries glisten. Oyster mushrooms have been used to make the kommu curry; they have a chewy texture and give the gravy substance. There's also thoppu palya, a dry spinach preparation.


Akki roti

Kumbala curry

Kommu curry

Koli nallamalu fry

Koli curry

To celebrate pepper which grows abundantly in the region, there's koli nallamalu (chicken pepper fry). It's not an overdose of pepper, rather a gentle warmth and the tell-tale dark colour to announce its presence. It's a dry dish and goes perfectly well with the thin akki roti or the rice dishes. The koli curry has ground coconut to thicken the gravy; ground cumin adds to the earthy fragrance. 

Coorg yerchi pulao; nei kool

Nei kool - ghee rice - has a wonderful fragrance. The rice is small grained and aromatic. Yerchi pulao is the Kodava version of biryani, chunks of mutton are cooked along with rice. It's a tad oily but the mild flavours allow it to be paired with any of the gravies.

Pandi curry

Pandi roast

If there's one dish in Kodava cuisine which has superstar status, it is Coorg pandi curry. At one time, it was made with the meat of wild boar which they were allowed to hunt. Smitha uses chunks of meat with fat. Spices are toasted till dark, ground to a paste and added to partially cooked meat. What gives it that special colour, taste and tanginess is kachumpulli, a kind of black vinegar made from a fruit. Making kachumpulli is a painstaking process but no Coorg kitchen will even be without a couple of bottles of this. This dish pairs well with just about all the breads and especially with sannas. There's also pandi roast, a dry version with no fat but equally tasty.

Neer dosa 

Nool puttu with chicken curry

Neer dosa, a thin crepe, is also made with rice. It's light and pairs well with each of the gravies. The nool puttu maker is an interesting contraption. The puttu is a little different from idiyappam - here, the rice paste is cooked before being pressed out. No further cooking is required.

Sardines are marinated in a little kachampulli before being fried 

Coconut chutney; jaggery water; ginger relish

Do look out for these little pots. Balla neer or jaggery water is fabulous with both neer dosa and nool puttu. To add another dimension, taste it with a tiny dab of the inji pajji which is like a ginger relish. Your taste buds will sing in delight!

Desserts - akki payasa; khas khas payasa; kuvale puttu

The food at the festival is delicious, homely and a good representation of what comes out of a Kodava kitchen. It's on till November 18th at Food Exchange and only for dinner and priced at 1400/++

*This was an invited review 


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