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Posted at: Dec 2, 2017, 2:10 AM; last updated: Dec 2, 2017, 2:10 AM (IST)

Holy grail for vegetarians

Rashmi Gopal Rao

The temple town of Udupi in Karnataka is famous for more reasons than one. A bustling town, a little over 400 km from Bangalore, Udupi is synonymous with the Krishna temple or Krishna mutt as it is also known. With several beaches and a picturesque countryside, this coastal town is one of the most visited in the state. Apart from being a town of utmost religious significance, Udupi is renowned for its cuisine so much so that it is considered as the holy grail for vegetarian food lovers.

Food of the gods

Udupi cuisine is strictly vegetarian, sathvik and is characterised by ample use of rice, coconut, coconut oil, jaggery and freshly ground spices like coriander, chillies and cumin. The vegetables used are also highly restricted in that, not only garlic and onion is prohibited as it is considered tamasic, but also vegetables like tomato, cabbage, radish and cauliflower are generally not used. It is believed that saints like Sri Madhwacharya and Sri Vadiraja classified vegetables into bhogya i.e. eatable and abhoya i.e. non-eatable.

Apart from gourds, pumpkin, cucumber, red amaranth leaves and jackfruit, one of the most popular vegetables used is the matti gulla, which is a local variety of round, green brinjals grown in the neighbouring village of Matti. The seeds of these brinjals is said to have been given by saint Vadiraja himself. In fact, the first produce of these brinjals harvested is offered to Udupi Lord Krishna. The food is highly healthy in that it is based on the premise that the food we eat should be in accordance to the climate and seasonal changes.

Flavourful dishes

Apart from the lip-smacking rasams, sambhars and chutneys, thambulis are a signature creation of the cuisine. Typically had during summers, thambulis are essentially vegetables like cucumber, greens, etc. that are cooked and seasoned and finally mixed with buttermilk. It is served as an accompaniment to rice. Other special dishes include the neer dosa (thin, soft dosas made from ground rice and fresh coconut), kadabu (made from idli batter but cooked in jackfruit leaves), goli bajji (refined flour rounded fritters) and shavige (home-made rice noodles).

A typical Udupi meal is served on a banana leaf and there is a strict order in which the meal is served and consumed. Salads, curries and payasam are generally served and eaten first, followed by rice with rasam and sambhar and curds/buttermilk is consumed last.

All in all, Udupi cusine has gained a place in the culinary world like none other. While the late Sri Krishna Rao of Woodlands Group of hotels is credited with placing the “Udupi hotel” brand on the international map, the very addition of the word “Udupi” to South Indian restaurants has served as a launch for numerous outlets given that it adds incredible value.

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