Malati Srinivasan and her daughter, Geetha Rao, are wonderful, knowledge cooks. Over the years, I have turned to them for advice frequently. They understand the culture that forms the background of their Udupi cookery and have the ability to explain it with clarity and depth.
The Udupi Kitchen, by mother –daughter duo Malati Srinivasan and Geetha Rao, takes one on a culinary discovery of Udupi.
Through "The Udipi Kitchen", Malati Srinivasan and Geetha Rao, bring to readers the food culture of Madhwa Brahmins of that popular temple town of Karnatka.
Globally, Udupi is best known for hotels which churn out "South Indian Food", are super efficient and easy on the pocket! Little do people know that Udupi cuisine has a vast variety and is not limitied to tiffin or snacks.
Laying out the geographical expanse and scientific logic to the region's Madhwa Brahman's vegetarian food habits, Malati Srinivasan and Geetha Rao showcase the hitherto unknown recipes from Udupi, a coastal town in Karnataka where the Krishna temple acts as a pivot in people's lives. Even as Malati learnt to cook secretly by observing her aunt who rustled up elaborate meals everyday, for Geetha cooking became a necessity to satisfy her yearing for Udupi food away from home. The aurthors therfore brilliantly straddle the traditional and modern and list what was once easily cooked in Udupi households –spice powders, salads and chutneys, savoury snacks, desserts – and painstakingly elaborate on several recipes which are all –time favourites like, Bisi Bele Hulianna, Saaru, Masal Dose, Modaka etc.
Split into 12 sections, The Udupi Kitchen celebrates vegetarian food with aplomb from a town where food is religion as well as a complete mouth –wearing experience.
About The Author
Malati Srinivasan is a well Known culinary expert, Her recipes have been published in magazines like Bangalore Food Lovers and Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook, Taste of India. Malati was featured on Loving Spoonfuls, a Canadian cooking show, which profiled the favourite recipes of grandmothers from across the world.
She has won several awards for her floral creations in the Sogetsu style of ikebana. Malati Srinivasan lives in Toronto, Canada.
Geetha Rao is the Chairperson of the Crafts Council of Karnatka and also heads Arts Umbrella, which provides consulting services in the art and cultural sectors. She has held key mangerial positions in Air india and has three decades of experience in the travel and tourism bussiness.
Geetha Rao writes reguarly on arts and crafts and is credited with the research and text for the Crafts Map of Karnatka, part of the Dastakari Haat Samiti series.
Udupi is a coastal town in the state of Karnatka in south western India, which is home to the famous Krishna temple, founded by the saint –philosopher Madhwacharya in the thirteen century.
According to a popular myth, Madhawacharya obtained the idol of Krishna, by rescuing a ship in distress, which was being buffeted by strong winds, near the coast of Udupi. He calmed the tempest by the waving his angavastra, or shoulder cloth, and signallled the ship to shore. Convinced that it was through the grace of Madhawacharya that the ship was saved, the ship's captain offered him several gifts. Madhawacharya chose the gopi –chandana or clay lurnp, which was used for the ship's ballest. On washing the clay, he uncovered a beautiful black stone idol of Bala Krishna, the child –god form of the beloved Krishna, the child –god form of the beloved Krishna, which he personally carried to Udupi, where he began to worship it. The image of Krishna, holding a butter churner in one hand and a rope that twiris the churner in the other, is still worshipped today, in the main temple of Udupi.
Kanaka Dasa(1), an ardent devotee of Krishna, belonging to the Kurba –shepherd community, was denied entry into the temple. He often stood outside the western wall of the temple. Where the idol of Krishna had his back and sang his songs of devotion to Krishna and his deep sorrow at not being able to have his darshana, viewing, of Himself to His devotee. The slit in the wall was expanded to a window, and is alluded to as Kanakana Kindi, or Kanaka Dasa's window.
Madhwacharya is the founder of dvaita, or dual philosphy, and is one of India's foremost commentators on philosophic works, like the Upanishads. Under his leadership, in the thirteen century, aquired nationwide fame, as a seat of Vedantic learning, as well as the fountained of a new devotional monement, which eventually spread all over the country. In a unique succession plan, Madhwacharya left his legacy to eight ashtamathas, or monasteries. In the fifteenth century, Vadiraja Swamy, pontiff of the Sode Matha introduced an unusual goverence model- the paraya sysytem, by which each monastery got a fixed period of two years to conduct the temple rituals and administer it. In Karnatka, Brahmans belong to three major groups, followers of saint –philosphers: Smarthas (Shaivaities), the followers Adi Shankaracharyas; Madhwas (or Vaishnavites) who are the followers of Ramanujacharya.
The followers of Madhwacharya are Madhwa Brahmins, a community of Kannada- speaking Brahmins settled in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and southern Maharastra, Madhwa Brahmins who are from Shivali, a village near Udupi and speak a dialect, that is higly Sanskritized version of the Tulu language, are a major sub –sect. They were originally responsible for preparing the food at the Krishna temple on a daily basis. The other major sub –sects of Madhwa Brahmins are Badgandu, Arvatvakkalu, Arvelu and Deshasta Brahmins. By and large, they speak the Kannada language, with regional variations. (Deshastas speak a dialect of Marathi and those in Andhra, Telugu.)
It is believed that when the west wall of the Udupi temple collapsed, to allow Kanata Dasa to have Krishna's darshana, cooked rice streamed from th kitchen located near the wall, Krishna in Udupi is therefore called, Anna Brahma, the diety of food and nourishment. At the Krishna temple, thousands of pilgrims are fed two meals daily, free of charge and irrespective of caste. These meals are considered as prasada, food that is blessed by Krishna. In the scale of acts of charities, annadanna, food given in charity, is considered to be the most important, it is the only charity which feeds man's body and soul, and one where the recipent has to place a limit.
Udupi is located in the narrow, fertile coastal plains that lies between the Arabian Sea and the mountain range of the western Ghata. In mythological, it is known as the parashurama Kshetra, the land of Parashurama, the axe – wielding, sixth avatara or incarnation of Vishnu, The area experience heavy rainfall during the moonsoon, in the four month (Chaturmasa) between July and October, and places constraints in the availablity of foods like greens and other food stuff. This has contributed to some innovative food varieties and practices. Including food taboos.
Udupi cuisine is one of the major vegetarian cuisines of Karnataka. At its core is the use of indigenous vegetable and fruits, cereals and pulses special to the Parashurama Kshetra and traditional Brahmins ate only what was grown in this land and satvik or pure food –vegetarian fare, without onions and garlic –was prescribed. Vegetables like yam, elephant foot yam, colorcasia and sweet red pumpkin and cucumbers; different parts of the banana plant –cooking bananas, banana flower and even the tinder, inner banana stem, were used. Fruits –ripe bananas, mango and jackfruit were painful. Uduipi's presence on the coast meant an abudance of coconuts, which were predominatly used in the cuisine. Desserts often combined coconut milk and jaggery. In time, "English" vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes into the cuisine. Names of the dishes in a menu as well as regional specialities differed according to the geographical location of the Madhwa Brahman communities –whether they lived in Udupi Bengaluru, TamilNadu, Andhra Pradesh or Maharastra.
Udupi / Madhwa cuisine combines wholesome nutritions food – a balanced combination of cereals, pulses, vegetables and spices. All six tastes are represented in a major meal; sweet, salt sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Items such as the signature dish, bisi bele huliana, idlis and doses use cereals, and pulses together to provide protein complementation in this vegetarian diet. Seasoned lentil salads (kosambaries), spiced rice dish (annas), stir-fried vegetable side –dishes (palyas), spiced lentils with vegetables (kootus), sweet and sour as palate cleansers between courses, relishes, chutneys, deep –fried crispises (sandiges) and sweet puddings (payas), make up a typical menu. In Udupi, meals are served on banana leaves in a particular order. Many recipes and foods have proven health benefits. For example dishes made from the inner banana stem prevent kidney stones, pepper rasam helps with the lactation of new mothers, jackfruit seeds have high protein content and so on.
The shivali Brahmins were skilled cooks, having learnt their craft in the Udupi temple. In the 1900s, they began to look beyond the ken of their village and temples. Some of them tried their fortunes, in Udupi itself while others in cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai, Pioneers like Krishna Rao of the Woodlands Group, K Seetharama Rao of the Dasaprakasha Group and Parampali Yajnarayana Maiya of the MTR Group who started chains of Udupi restaurents and hotels in many parts of the country and the world, combining their culinary skills with an excellent bussiness model, based on fast service and quick turnover of divers.
The origin of the masal dose(2), one of the most popular tiffin /snacks, is attributted to Udupi, from where it was exported to many parts of the world. Masal dose is a pancake, made from fermented rice and lentil batter, roasted on a hot griddle, lined with chutney and stuffed with a spicy potato fillling. Before it was invented, plain dose was served with potato palya. Without onions, in a seperate cup. With changing food tastes, the Udup chefs began to saute the mashed potatoes with onions and spices. As onions were considered taboo food for orthodox Brahmins, it is said that the doses were stuffed with the onion – laced palya, instead of being served in a separate cup, so that the onions could be "hidden"!
The story of Udupi cuisine is the story of how a temple – based, Brahmanical culinary traditions got modernized and gradually became a global phenomenon.
Today Udupi is a global brand and udupi restraunts dot many parts of the world, serving inexpensive and wholesome vegeterian fare.
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