Coorg a.k.a Kodagu is a picturesque town located in the foot hills of Karnataka between Mysore and Mangalore. As the legend goes Coorgis are regarded as the descendants of the Greeks. It is believed that when Alexander the Great invaded India in 327 BC, the Greek soldiers married the local women and settled along the coastline. In 1834 the British East India Company took control of Kodagu and gave it the English name Coorg. The locals remained loyal to the British until they left India. Coorg today is one of the most sought after tourist destination in India. Its sprawling coffee and pepper plantations, spectacular waterfalls and luscious greenery are a treat for the eye.
The Kodava cuisine is quite different to rest of India. As the Kodavas were a warrior tribe they mostly ate non vegetarian because of what was available off the land. The cuisine is quite season specific and uses only locally sourced spices, vegetable, fruits and meat. The Kodavas use spices very sparingly and the dishes are not an overdose of spices and masalas. Every dish retains the flavour of its key ingredients. Fat is used quite moderately and mostly used for tempering. Meat dishes are cooked in their own fat. One of the most common ingredient used in every Kodava house hold is the “Kachampuli” which is a dark sticky vinegar similar to balsamic. It is extracted from the ripe fruits of the Kodambuli fruit. The 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 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 elevates the flavours of the meat.
Some of the famous dishes of the Kodava cuisine are Koovaleputtu which is a savoury item made from ripe jack fruit or banana, steamed in banana leaves. Kadumbuttu is rice-flour balls and are staples in every household. Bamboo shoot curry is cooked during the monsoon. ‘Akki roti’ with ‘Ellu Pajji’ (Sesame seeds chutney) is a popular breakfast among the kodavas. Cooked rice is used as an ingredient for making the Akki roti. A few more popular chutneys come from the seeds of the jack fruit which are boiled and worked into a chutney with coconut and lots of lime — a seasonal breakfast accompaniment to akki rotis, as is a delicious chutney made of kaipuli (or bitter orange which is a wild fruit). And finally one of the most definitive dish of the Kodava cuisine the infamous “Pork Pandi Curry”. During the British Raj the Generals used to hunt the wild boar and their chefs who were the local Kodavas use to cook the Pandi curry with the wild boar. As hunting is now banned in India hence the curry is now cooked with pork and the most important ingredient being the Kachampuli vinegar. Pandi Curry is served with Kadumbuttu (rice-flour balls) and I can promise you that this dish is “Love at first bite”. I have listed the recipe below.
Pork Pandi Curry
1 kg Pork belly diced
1 tsp Red chilli Powder
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt to taste
4 pcs of green chilli slit in half
1 1/2 tbsp Ginger paste
1 1/2 tbsp Garlic paste
5 Banana shallots finely sliced
2 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 tbsp Whole coriander seed
1/2 tbsp whole cumin seed
1 tbsp Whole black pepper
5 Green Cardamom
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seed
1 inch stick Cinnamon
1 tsp Kachampuli or 1 tbsp thick tamarind pulp
10-12 fresh curry leaves (optional)
A few sprigs of Coriander Leaves for garnish.
- Clean and wash the diced pork belly under running cold water. Place it in a colander and drain excess water.
- Marinate the pork with salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, ginger and garlic paste and leave it marinating for 1 hr.
- Dry roast the whole spices and grind to a fine powder. (Mustard, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and fenugreek.) Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a cooking pot. Add the sliced shallots and cook till golden brown.
- Add the marinated pork and stir fry for 8-10 mins and add the ground spices and continue to stir fry for further 5 mins.
- Add two cups of hot water and slow cook the pork for approximately 45 mins to an hour or until the pork is tender. You could pressure cook it as well, to save time however I would recommend slow cooking the pork.
- Once the pork is cooked add the slit green chilli, curry leaves and kachampuli. If there is excess liquid cook off the pork on high heat at this stage, as the pork needs to be rich, dark and have a thick coating sauce.
- Garnish with a few sprigs of coriander leaves and serve with steam rice, chapatti, Akki roti or Kadumbuttu (rice-flour balls).
Photo Credit – Radha Ganapathy
For those who don’t know about the food of Coorg’s other communities, a Mappila meal is a must. The Mappilas of northern Kerala have been in Coorg for at least two generations cooking robust meals of chicken gravy and fish curry with Malabari porottas, as well as luscious biryanis.
Happy Cooking !!!