Written by Vinaya Ranade.
Karnataka cuisine is one of the oldest surviving cuisines. The richness and flavors of this cuisine have never failed to entice foodies and travellers from near and far places. Here’s everything you need to know about the authentic cuisine of Karnataka.
The famous food items of the Karnataka cuisine is a combination of a wide range of spices, flavours and cooking techniques. The dishes in Karnataka vary from region to region. Even the flavors are different in every region. Each region has its own speciality. There are a variety of cuisines within the gamut of the Karnataka cuisine such as The North Karnataka cuisine, South Karnataka cuisine, Kodagu, Udupi, Mangalorean and North Canara.
The Karnataka cuisine is highly influential and also derives influence from the neighbouring states of Kerala, Andra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The North Canara is famous for its tangy seafood, the south Karnataka is known for its variety of bath and The North Karnataka for its spicy food.
Traditionally the oota (food) is always served on a banana leaf and in bastard teak leaves in some regions. The serving begins from the top right of the leaf with uppu that is salt, followed with kosambari (salad) and pickles. After this, the main dishes are served that is palya (vegetable), gojju, (fried food), deserts, huli, rice and holige in the same order.
Here are some of the most famous and delicious dishes from the Karnataka cuisine.
1. Davangere Benne Dosa
Davangere is a city in Central Karnataka. Benne dosa is one of the unique dishes of Davangere. Benne in Kannada means butter so these are basically butter dosas. This is one of the most crisp, soft and buttery dosas.
It is made of puffed rice and urad dal. Hence these dosas have a crisp yet soft texture. Davangere benne dosa is usually served along with potato palya that is potato filling and coconut chutney. It is absolutely delicious and one just cannot forget the taste of this dosa.
2. Ragi Mudde
Ragi is one of the staple foods in Karnataka. Ragi mudde or soft finger millet balls are made of ragi flour and water. Ragi mudde is served with upsaaru or soppina saaru that is leafy vegetable curry.
The benefit of Ragi mudde is that it is very easy to swallow and it fills the stomach very easily. Apart from this, the flavour of ragi and taste is what makes it one of the most famous recipes of Karnataka.
3. Thatte Idli
Idli is one of the most favourite and famous breakfast all over India. Though Karnataka being it’s home, idli is popular all over the country. Thatte in Kannada means plate. Hence thatte idli is idli in the shape of a disc or a plate. Thatte idli is usually equivalent to 2-3 normal idlis. Thatte idli is also more spongy and porous. It is served along with red, green chutney or sambar.
4. Korri Gassi
Korri Gassi is also known as Mangalorean chicken curry and is a signature dish belonging to the bunt community. The word Kori means Chicken and Gassi means curry. To prepare this dish, tender pieces of chicken is combined with mild sweet ground coconut and then cooked with different spices which forms the flavoursome taste of this dish.
Korri Gassi is often served with a dry chicken dish on the side called Kori ajadina and is then eaten with either rice, rice wafers (roti) or dosa.
5. Bisi Bele Bath
Bisi bele bath is a traditional dish prepared in most Karnataka families. This authentic dish contains rice, lentils, vegetables and spices which are all cooked together. This special dish is prepared without the use of onion or garlic.
It is one of the most popular dishes among tiffin centres in Karnataka. Bisi in Kannada translates to hot and belle is lentils. In some parts, it is also called as huli anna that is sour rice. As the name suggests it is always served hot and seasoned with ghee.
6. Jolad Rotti
Jolada rotti also known as jawar chi bhakri is a very famous recipe in North Karnataka. It is flatbread prepared from jowar. The traditional way of making this is by patting with hands to get a perfect taste and texture.
Jolada rotti is also a staple food in most houses in North Karnataka. It is very light, nutritious and easy to make and is served hot along with butter, salad and chatnipudi.
Holige also called obbattu is an important dish in the Mangalorean cuisine. Holige is sweet and one of favourite dishes in the cuisine. It is made of lentils, jaggery, coconut and covered with flour dough and rolled into sweet parathas. It is a very integral part of festival meals. It is served hot with ghee on top.
8. Kesari Bath
A famous and cherishes dessert of Karnataka, Kesari Bath or Rava Kesari is made from kesar (saffron), rava (semolina or sooji), ghee, milk, water, sugar and dry fruits. Kesari baat in north India is famously known as Jonnadula Halwa.
The beautiful orange colour of this dish is derived from the ingredient kesar which is sprinkled during the cooking process. Rava Kesari is served as an offering to the Hindu Gods during a festival or puja.
Gojju is commonly eaten along with huggi in Karnataka. It consists of tamarind water, chopped tomatoes and jaggery. It is very easy to make and a simple recipe prepared in most Karnataka homes. It is a very integral part of the Karnataka thali and is eaten along with rice or khichdi.
10. Udupi Sambar
Udupi sambar is a very popular sambar. It is a part of Mangalorean cuisine and very similar to Tamil Nadu sambar recipe. It is made of vegetables, dal, coconut, fresh sambar masala and jaggery. The sweetness of Udupi sambar is what makes it unique. It is served with rice, dosa and other south Indian breakfast.
11. Mysore Pak
The iconic dish of the Karnataka cuisine “Mysore Pak”. Mysore pak is the most famous sweet of Mysore. It was first created in the kitchens of Mysore palace. It is made of gram flour, ghee and sugar and is one of the people’s favourite desserts.
12. Dharwad Peda
Dharwad peda is a unique delicacy from North Karnataka cuisine. Dharwad is a town in North Karnataka. Dharwad peda is made of caramelized and sweetened khoya. Traditionally it is prepared from a buffalo’s milk. It is coated with powdered sugar. Dharwad peda is one of the festive desserts in North Karnataka.
Hence the Karnataka cuisine has much more to it than just dosas. It has a wide variety of spices, flavours and lip-smacking dishes which each person should surely try.
13. Kundapura Koli Saaru
This famous chicken curry dish goes well with anything be it rice, roti, idli, chapati, neer dos, kori rotti etc. Kundapura Koli Saaru is a famous Mangalorean coastal chicken curry dish and has its roots in Kundapur in Udupi. The curry of this dish is made by mixing onion, ginger, coconut milk, garlic and other different spices. The creaminess of this dish comes from the added coconut milk.
14. Mangalorean Biryani
Biriyani in India is one of the most sought after dishes and has many variants. One of the savoury variants of biriyani is the Mangalorean Biriyani which is a delicious saffron rice dish full of palatable spicy marinated mutton or chicken. The most important aspect of the Mangalorean Biriyani lies in its spices.
The spices used are garlic, cumin, cardamom, clove, ginger, red chilli, coriander seeds and fennel seeds. All of these along with coconut is mixed and smashed to form a masala paste and this paste is the actual reason behind the flavoursome taste of Mangalorean Biriyani. This dish is often served with raita (curd).
15. Mysore Bonda
Mysore Bonda is a very popular snack in Mysore, Karnataka and also in Andra Pradesh. Mysore Bonda is a deep-fried snack or bhajiya made from flour, rice flour, spices and curd. Sometimes this dish is also made with urad dal. This snack has a crispy outer coverage and a soft inner core which makes it a perfect dish to have for breakfast or as an evening snack. Mysore Bonda is served with coconut chutney and sometimes also with sambar.
16. Maddur Vada
Maddur Vada is also known as Maddur Vade is a perfect breakfast or tea time fritter type snack which is served with coconut chutney or tomato chutney and filter coffee. The name of the snack originated from the town named Maddur which lies between Mysore and Bengaluru in Karnataka.
The snack is prepared from semolina, rice flour, whole wheat, green chillies, onions and curry leaves. These vadas are large and circular in shape in comparison to the other snack preferences. They deep fried and therefore have a crispy texture outside but a soft filling inside.
Chiroti is an Indian puff pastry in the shape of concentric circles. It is a popular dessert served in Karnataka and Maharashtra during festivals. Chiroti in Telangana is popularly known as Pheni or Peni. Chiroti is prepared using maida (flour), chiroti (fine rava), rice flour and ghee. The uniqueness of this dessert is seen while serving it. Chiroti is first crushed then dipped in badam milk, powdered sugar or sweetened syrup.
Ennegai is a vegetarian dish made from eggplant and belongs to the North Karnataka cuisine. The eggplant in this dish is prepared in a unique manner. Small tender eggplants are first split open and then stuffed with a spicy peanut mixture. The stuffed eggplant is then simmered.
Ennegai goes well with different forms of rice and chapati but is best suited with Jolada rotti. Ennegai is known as Bharli vangi in Maharashtra and Gutti Vankaya Kura in Andra Pradesh.
19. Mavinakayi Chutney
Spending the entire summer without tasting a spoonful of spicy and tangy raw mango chutney? This might seem impossible to many food lovers in India. This special summer chutney is made by using raw mangoes, urad dal, coconut and spicy chillies. Mavinakayi Chutney goes well with all Indian style meals, idli, dosa, chapati and steamed rice.
20. Curd Rice
Curd rice is also known as yoghurt rice. Curd rice is a staple meal in Karnataka made with pre-cooked rice, curd or unsweetened probiotic yoghurt and different spices. Curd rice is offered to deities during puja and given as prasad to devotees.
Curd rice fulfils all the nutritional requirements of the body and is therefore considered as a superfood in South India. This dish acts as a natural coolant and prevents the occurrence of stroke during hot summer days.
21. Neer Dosa
Neer dosa is a quick and easy breakfast dish in Karnataka. It is made by soaking rice overnight and then preparing the rice batter the next morning. It can be served with coconut chutney, curry and sambar. The word Neer in Tulu language means “Water Dosa”. In the preparation of Neer dosa, the rice is not fermented as is the case in other variants of dosa.
Kosambari is a popular salad dish in Karnataka majorly served as an appetizer. It is made from split legumes and is seasoned with mustard seeds. Sometimes for added flavouring cucumber slices and rice is also used. It is easy to prepare the dish and has many beneficial nutrients as well as high protein content. It is mostly prepared during festivals, celebrations and also offered as a prasad to devotees.
23. Kane Rava Fry
Karnataka is famous for its coastal delights a sit belongs to the coastal region. Seafood is a very common and prime part of the diet. Kane Rava Fry is a Lady Fish Fry made by marinating the fish with a spicy red chilli paste and then coating it with semolina. It is then fried until it has a crispy outer texture and a juicy inner core.
Other varieties of this dish are tawa fry and masala fry. Kane Rava Fry is a very popular delicacy and is widely available across restaurants in Karnataka.
24. Mysore Filter Coffee
This famous filter coffee is a traditional Indian filter coffee version where coffee beans are at first finely grounded and transformed into powder. This powder is then brewed and made to percolate through an Indian traditional filter. This filtered coffee is then mixed with frothed and boiled milk.
The right method to follow while drinking filter coffee is by first pouring the coffee in the given saucer and then slurping it in. It is guaranteed that the aroma of the coffee will surely leave you spellbound. We recommend you to try out the filter coffee at the Indian Coffee House which is a very popular coffee destination amongst the people of Karnataka belonging to all age groups.
25. Haalbai & Huggi
Haalbai is a popular dessert across Karnataka and is made by using coconut, jaggery and rice. The coconut flavour that gets noticed while eating this dessert comes from the coconut milk that is added during the preparation.
Huggi is a similar type of dessert made of cooked rice, dried mung bean, cardamom, jaggery and coconut milk. These two desserts completely fall under the category of vegan desserts as they are not made of milk.
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Vinaya Ranade is a contributor at The Strong Traveller. Apart from pursuing an undergraduate degree in Instrumentation engineering, she loves writing and is a keen learner.