The Magic of Malnad cuisine

Trujetter Team

, Food

Heavily influenced by the fruits and v egetables available in the rich f orests of Western Ghats, Malnad cuisine is comparatively less spicier and oily than other Southern cuisines.

A banana leaf with menthya saasve, nool puttu, kayi kadubu, akki roti may seem at first glance like any regular South Indian meal, but it is not. A combination of Mangalorean and Kodava food, this is typically Malnad cuisine, characterised by less oil, freshly ground masalas and fresh local ingredients. Malnad or Malenaadu, is a region located in the Sahayadri hills of Karnataka where the river Tunga flows through. The cuisine thrives on local fruits and vegetables and thus, ingredients like tender bamboo shoots, colocasia leaves, turmeric leaves, raw jackfruit, jaggery and rice found here, are intrinsic to the cuisine.

Dishes from Local Ingredients

Steaming is the favoured method of cooking in Malenaadu. More often than not, there is minimal use of oils in Malnad cuisine. Some of the major dishes of this cuisine are the midigayi pickle (small raw mango), sandige, avalakki (beaten rice), and talipittu (akki rotti made of rice flour).

Chef Yogen Datta, Executive Chef at ITC Gardenia Bengaluru adds, “The region uses the abundant natural resources in its cuisine which is reflected in a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Kadubu ( a kind of steamed rice modak) of various kinds, Anabe, Kori kal saaru, Kesuvina Gantu made with colocasia leaves, are some of the typical dishes of this cuisine.”

Malnad cuisine uses some off-beat ingredients like kalule (tender bamboo stems), akki alubu (tiny mushroom that grows with paddy), Malali menu (a fish that is the size of your fingernail), gaddhe yedi (soft shell crabs), chigli (red ants), kesa (colocasia leaf) and jackfruit seeds.

Whether summer or winter, Thambuli, a preparation of curd with ginger, along with coconut, cumin seeds, green chilli paste and salt is eaten at all meals to aid digestion. A typical one is prepared using ajwain leaves called doddapatre thambuli. While Tambuli, prepared from fruits and forest plants is consumed during the summer to keep the body cool, Kashaya is a beverage that keeps the body warm during monsoons.

is prepared using fully grown raw jack fruit flesh and is generally eaten with hot rice. No meal in Malnad is complete without the traditional sour, sweet, spicy, tangy, and salty preparation- menthya saasve. It is a side dish relished with rotis.

Pathrode or patrode is a tasty snack prepared using rice and colocasia leaves, which is slightly different than other parts of Karnataka. These leaves are also used to prepare a dry vegetable called kesa.

Non-vegetarian dishes are few and eaten as well in this region. Pandi Curry or pork in a spicy and sour gravy made from Kachampuli, a black vinegar is popular. This vinegar made from the black kokum fruit, lends it a unique flavour characteristic of Malnad. This legendary dish is however a direct result of the influence of Kodagu cuisine of Coorg.

Chicken and mutton dishes too are eaten by non-vegetarians, but pork is most-preferred. Nati koli sukka, anjal fish, chicken ghee roast, mamsa fry, are common.

Kaima Unde or mutton keema curry and thalai mamsa or a lamb preparation are two typical favourites and generally eaten with a crisp thin roti called ‘kori roti’ or steamed sannas made from red rice. These are dishes borrowed from Mangalorean cuisine.

Interestingly, chutneys and pickles are important parts of a meal in this region. Made from local vegetables and fruits, Halasinakai Chutney, Brinjal Chutney (badnekayi chutney) or pickles like Amtekaayi Uppina kaayi, Nallikai (Amla) Uppina kaayi, are the popular ones.

Rice is Nice

Rice is the staple diet and is used in many forms – powdered, flattened and boiled. A typical day in a Malnad household begins with eating Gojju Avalakki, made with flattened rice for breakfast. This rice is first ground in a mixer, then soaked in water with a little bit of tamarind. Sambar powder is added to the mixture. The mixture is drained of water and then seasoned with mustard, curry leaves and peanut. It is usually eaten with chutney.

Unde kadubu or pundi gatti, basically steamed rice dumplings made from parboiled rice, is another popular breakfast recipe. Nool Puttu or idyiappam, a steamed delicacy, is often eaten at breakfast too with either sweetened coconut milk or a spicy gravy.

Rotis are eaten at as well, but are, in fact, made from rice and are like pancakes. Akki roti is made from rice flour but with the addition of few spices, onions and salt, which lends a unique savoury taste. Kadubu or steamed rice dumplings are a must in every meal but come in variations.

Some prefer adding grated coconut, coriander leaves and cumin seeds to the mix, while others do not. Kara kadubu is made using rice, dal, coconut and spices and sihi or kayi kadubu is a sweet version made with coconut and jaggery. The sweet ones are often served with ghee and are similar to modaks. Chitranna or lemon rice made without onions is immensely popular here especially for lunch.


Gasgase Payasa , a poppy seeds kheer, seeme akki payasa and kobbari barfi or coconut barfi, are the most popular sweet dishes here. Expectedly, coconut, rice and jaggery, abundant in this region are made use of in the sweets. Some people even like to eat a sihi kadubu after a meal, as it is sweet.

Simple food prepared with local ingredients characterises the cuisine of Malnad and yet to spice it up, some dishes are borrowed from neighbouring cuisines of Kodava and Mangaluru.

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