Monday, August 31, 2009

Coorg Calling

What we devoured on a weekend break in Coorg Valley. Drool on keyboard guaranteed with this read.

What do you do when you are up to your ears with news about pigs that fly? Escape to Coorg and hog (pun unintended) on pork, like we did. And to our pleasant surprise, we also discovered that there's more to Kodava cuisine than just porcine delicacies, all thanks to our lovely hosts -Dilip and Vidya - at Kabbe Holidays.
The homestay offers atleast one authentic Coorg dish in every meal which meant that we ended up sampling a whole lot of awesome food during our stay, carefully prepared under Vidya's supervision.
If it was steaming upma and kaipuli pajji (chutney made from marmalade oranges) for breakfast one day, it was hot akki otti (roti made of rice) with nutty yell pajji (sesame seed chutney), served with honey and ghee the next. The otti, I've enjoyed earlier too, but the upma was a revelation. It made me, a champion upma detester, a convert for life!

Kabbe Holidays on NDTV - watch the anchor savour yell pajji and akki otti

Akki otti and yell pajji, Coorg honey and ghee

Lunch and dinner threw up many more lip-smacking delights, both from Coorg and beyond the border- spicy Kerala kadala curry (black chick pea curry), kootu curry, bollari fry (a delicious traditional dish with a tinge of sweetness, made from Mangalore cucumber), fried balekai (raw banana), steaming paputtu (rice cakes) with koli curry (chicken) and chaat kuru curry (made from black eyed beans). Vidya's mouth watering mushroom pickle (another Coorg speciality) was the perfect accompaniment to the meals.

(From L to R) bollari fry, poori, pork fry, kadala curry, balekai, chicken

Paputtu with koli curry

And the piece de resistance - pandi fry. Chewy chunks of pork, abundantly peppered, flavoured with kachipuli (also known as Malabar Tamarind or cambogia - the souring agent in Coorg food) and fried with crunchy onions - best enjoyed with chilled beer, friendly banter, gorgeous weather and a crackling bonfire. The fieriness of the dish left me disorientated after just one bite, but I was back for more after dousing my tongue with lots of water. Oh, and pork is prepared at Kabbe homestay by request only so Vidya needs to be informed in advance if guests would like to have it.

Simple but gutsy pandi fry

A special mention to the luscious desserts served by Vidya - kheer, bread pudding, caramel custard and the guilt-flavored, totally addictive chocolate cake that she baked for Balaji as soon as she got to know that his birthday fell on one of the days we were there!

Calorie rich! Saddle bags guaranteed

Due to favourable rain and climate conditions in the valley, fresh vegetables, fruits and spices are in abundant supply. We made the best use of our visit by stocking up on pepper and fragrant cardamom from Dilip's plantations, as well as the popular Coorg honey. Luckily for us, they had enough stock of home-made squashes of bitter sweet pomelo (chakota in Kannada) and tangy passion fruit, for us to take away a bottle each. By the way, these squashes make for great cocktails with vodka - as Balaji discovered, thanks to Dilip.

Bounties of Kodagu - that's kachipuli in the bottle on the left, followed by honey, pomelo squash, coffee and spices

On our way back to Bangalore, we picked up some of the famed coffee from Coorg Coffee Works, which is close to the clock tower at Virajpet. The Nilgiris outlet in Gonikoppa is a good place to pick up locally made squashes and fruit wines (pomegranate, star apple, fig - sounds deliciously exotic, right?). We also found kachipuli, pork masala and tender bamboo pickle (a Kodagu speciality again) here. Both towns have streetside vendors selling native fruits and vegetables for a fraction of the city prices- we found fresh avocados for Rs 20 a kilo (yes, read it again - Rs 20 a KILO).

And the air smelling of the freshness of spring? Priceless!

Did you know........
................................that pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, accounting for about 38 percent of meat production worldwide?
................................that the pomelo is also called the shaddock, after an English sea captain who introduced them to the West Indies?
...............................that natives of Coorg are NOT called Coorgis? The correct term is Coorgs or Kodavas and the language spoken by them is also called Coorg.