Nutritious and packed with flavours, the breads in Telangana are made using locally grown millets like jowar (soghum), ragi (finger millet), sajjalu or bajra (pearl millet) and korralu (foxtail millet), which abound in this region, instead of rice, as in the rest of Southern India.
Rustic with earthy flavours, the cuisine of Telangana is replete with the local hero – millets. No meal in a Telangana household is complete without Jonna Rotte, Taida Rotte, Makka Rotte, korra Dossa eaten along with Koora or Pulusu.
staple in the cuisine of Telangana are millets, not rice, although it is consumed in some meals. The food in Telangana, has the distinction of being true to its key ingredients. A diverse range of millets like ragi (finger millet), jowar (sorghum) and bajra (pearl millet) grow here and have been integrated in the form of breads to pair with the rustic, but spicy cuisine.
Telangana cuisine is undoubtedly, the fieriest in the whole Deccan region, owing to the abundant use of red chilies, tamarind and other ground spices. The manner in which these are blended with meats and vegetables, sometimes in the same dish, is what makes this cuisine unique.
In the districts of northern Telangana, the cuisine has dishes similar to those of Maharashtra, while it’s close proximity with Chhattisgarh and North Karnataka results in certain dishes from those regions too. The resultant cuisine, is thus an exciting mélange of flavours and textures.
Forgotten millets have been adopted by the people in Telangana and an effort has been made to turn the spotlight on these grains. High in natural fibre, not only are these a great source of starch, protein, fibre and amino acids, but also taste good and are easy to digest.
Chef Mukesh Sharma, Chef de cuisine, The Westin Mindspace Hyderabad, states, “Millets are very popular in the local areas, but nowadays people are very health conscious, so everyone eats less rice. Most people prefer millet based dishes, especially breads. And with a surge in popularity and demand, these breads are now available in restaurants and hotels too.”
Varieties of Breads
Locally grown, the array of millets are assimilated into the Telangana cuisine in every meal, including breads, which are popular than rice. People in a Telangana household, prefer eating these breads as accompaniments for at least 6-7 meals a week, instead of the usual rice.
Jowar or sorghum, is the most preferred millet for these, although bajra too is extensively used. Sorghum is an important source of antioxidants, polyphenols and helps in lowering cholesterol. Due to their high dietary fibre content coupled with low glycaemic index, it can help in curbing obesity, as well as lowering the risk of hypertension and preventing constipation.
Chef Mukesh Sharma, The Westin Mindspace Hyderabad, says, “Jonna rottelu, one of the commonly eaten breads here, is made by mixing the millet flour with hot water to make a pliable dough, which is then rolled and cooked on an iron tawa or mud (clay) tawa.”
Freshly ground jonnalu is a better option than readymade jonna pindi or flour, as the quality of the bread is softer. Sorgum and other millets are mixed with water and yeast to make dough which is then compressed to make the rotis or Indian flatbreads that are eaten with various accompaniments.
Another integral part of an elaborate Telangana meal is Ragi Sangati or little balls of steamed rice and millet powder. It is believed by locals that this helps to beat the heat and keep a person calm. These can be paired with any gravy based preparation ranging from a pulusu to a mamsam.
Sarva pindi, a spicy pancake, is a breakfast staple, made with rice flour, chana dal, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, curry leaves and green chillies, but is eaten with other meals too. Sajje rotte and makke rotte are two other popular breads for lunch or dinner. Traditionally, yavva polelu, a bread made of barley flour stuffed with jaggery and chana dal, sweetened ragi dosa, and karijelu, used to be the staples in a Telangana household. However, these are not so common any longer and only a few traditional homes still prepare these, as these are tedious to make. However, hotels are beginning to include them in food festival menus.
An array of exciting local breads maybe on offer in Telangana, but what often enhances their taste, is the curries or dishes these are paired with. Vadiyala Pulusu (spicy gravy with dumplings), Arattikaya Pulusu (a raw banana dish), or even a spicy golichina mamasam (mutton fry preparation), are typical choices to relish with the crispy breads. Chigur mamsam made of tender tamarind shoots and goat meat or Kodi kura (chicken curry) is much sought after as well, particularly with the millet breads.
Pacchi Pulusu is a common side dish in this cuisine. Made with tamarind and garlic, it is a thin gravy which is served with millet bread or Jonna roti. Many prefer to dip the bread into the pulusu to further soften it. Ooru Kodi Koora, a spicy country chicken curry, is another dish specific to this region and is commonly cooked in households in Telangana. It is usually eaten with sajje rotte (peral millet roti) or makke rotte (cornmeal roti).
Some of these breads do not even require a spicy dish to go along as they taste delicious on their own. Eating them with just ghee is good enough. Chef Manik Magotra of Trident Hyderabad adds, “Sajja rotte is usually paired with a different style Onion Chutney or Jaggery and ghee, while Sarva pindi is eaten with fresh ghee, butter or curd. Bobbatlu tastes delicious when it is smeared with homemade ghee.”
Written By: Mini Ribeiro