One of my biggest fears as a not-Indian-in-India, is that when I talk about the food I eat, that I am speaking from a place of ignorance. I didn’t grow up here and my Indian food education has really only occurred in the past 18 months. When I try new foods, I ask a lot of questions, especially from those who are well-respected in that cuisine culture.
I was recently invited to try a vegetarian Andhra-style meal. Once again, I was amazed by the diversity of Indian cuisine, the breadth of vegetarian food, and as always, I’ve added a few firm favourites to my list of things to eat more of.
This meal was special for more than just the food. The gracious host, Sumi, serves this food in her home. She is warm and welcoming, generous and graceful. Instantly, I felt comfortable and welcome in her home with her family. This is something very unique indeed and it makes you feel special. Gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside!
The other thing that made this meal exceptional was the quality of the ingredients. Sumi hand-picks the spices herself at her home in Andhra, and then she supervises the processing and grinding process personally. The end result is turmeric that smells like no other turmeric I’ve ever come across, and spice blends that are unique and made from the wisdom of her heritage and her deep understanding of food. She also gets her other ingredients from Andhra itself, and as a result the brinjal dish in particular had a depth of flavour I haven’t experienced here in Bangalore.
Ok, so, enough talk, more food. This is one of those rare meals where I loved every dish I tried- I’ve picked my favourites (this is like choosing your favourite child, was very difficult).
But First, We Eat.
The very first thing that set my heart on fire- and my mouth- was mirapakai bajji. These long green mirchi were deep fried in a chickpea batter, then slit and stuffed with a spiced raw onion mix. The combination of the soft chilli with the heat, and the refreshing crunch of the onion… fantastic. I had a few of these and am craving them again as we speak!
I also have an obsession with brinjal and the dish we were served did not disappoint. Gutti vankaya koora uses a brinjal variety grown in Andhra that is unavailable here in Bangalore, stuffed with lightly roasted lentils, and spiced with chilli, spices, and hing (one of my favourite spices!).
I’m not a huge fan of dhal, but the raw mango dhal was worth a mention. Mavidikaya pappu uses toor dhal and red and green chilis for the perfect balance of sweet and heat! Of course, in the midst of mango season, this was a must-eat.
The final amazing amazing amazing thing I tried was the coconut chutney with dosakayi. Grated coconut with green chilli and finely chopped Mangalore cucumber, this reminded me a bit of my beloved Sri Lankan sambal.
For me, the special ingredient in all of this, was love. Everything Sumi makes is made with love. This is not a restaurant, with a chef who cooks dishes from every state and a side of Chindian. This is Andhra cuisine, made by an Andhra native, with an unapologetic love of her regional food.
Pickles! Mango, sweet mango, and others
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” -Cesar Chavez
One thing I’m almost ashamed to admit, is that I have yet to develop a taste for Indian pickles. I love European-styled pickles, but Indian pickles have a strength and flavour I am not super-in-love with (hey, I didn’t like buttermilk when I first tried it but now I have an addiction, so there’s hope for me yet). Sumi hand-makes a range of pickles that are loved by her customers, and you can order from her if you want the very best…