The language that is spoken in Bangalore, where I live, feels somehow rustic.
There are times when I can hear speech sounds being produced orally and through the nose like in Japanese regional dialects.
I think that through words, the character of the people living in the land are expressed, and if I may say so, then Bangalore was a scenic rural place.
Although now there are places where it looks like a megalopolis, such as IT cities where business people and young entrepreneurs gather. No, there are parts like that as well.
From what I have observed, I know that Bangalore used to be a rural town, and it has preserved its recipes very safely.
In Japan, it is easy to pronounce the English name of Bangalore, but here we are trying to go back to the Kannada name, Bengaluru.
There is a theory that explains the meaning, behind the name Bengaluru, said to be the ‘town of boiled beans’. It is said that long ago, the king who had lost his way while hunting, to thank an old woman who had given him boiled beans and water to satisfy his hunger, named it so.
I always wonder what masalas might have been added to the boiled beans and I still haven’t come to a conclusion. Anyway, beans are often eaten in Bengaluru and as well as the rest of South India.
But then, they say that they worry about the gas that accumulates in their stomach when they eat too much beans. There’s only one thought that I have about that – maybe they should only eat a limited quantity!
As one would expect, because the people here eat a lot of beans, they know various bean-based recipes. There are also cooking techniques that Japanese people are unfamiliar with, like stir frying dry beans like Chana Dal and Urad Dal till crisp and combining them with other ingredients.
For example, these beans are crisped and added to stir-fried vegetables like Poriyal – similar to Sabji – or seasoned rice preparations like tamarind rice and lemon rice. It’s the same technique as using nuts to add texture or accentuate the taste. They are also crisped and added to a dish called Upma similar to Sooji, a relative of Couscous.
The mother who taught me was born and raised in Bangalore, as well as her parents, and their parents – a true Bangalorean. She taught me two items – a lightly baked bread made using rice flour from the rice culture of South India called Akki Roti, and Avarekalu Upma made by putting beans called Avarekalu in Upma made from Sooji (semolina powder). Both are widely eaten as breakfast or ‘tiffin’ (light meal).
Akki Roti – rice-flour bread
Avarekalu Upma – Upma with Avarekalu beans
፠ (here, 1 cup = 200 ml, 1 tsp = 5 ml, 1 tbsp = 15 ml)
Ingredients (for 6-8 nos.)
2 cups rice flour
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped coriander (leaves only)
green chilli (to taste)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup grated coconut
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
water (as required)
sunflower oil or coconut oil (as required)
① Mix all the ingredients except for the water and oil.
② Adding water to ①, make the dough soft.
③ Roll the dough into a ball about the size of a baseball, and coating a Kadai (a round bottomed pan like a Chinese pan with two handles) a small quantity of oil.
④ Press the dough to flatten it thinly onto the Kadai (without lighting the flame).
⑤ Making 3-4 holes with a finger, lightly pour oil into the holes and around the dough.
⑥ Covering the Kadai with a lid, bake for about 3 minutes over a low flame, and remove the lid to bake the sides well holding slightly obliquely.
⑦ You may eat it as it is, and it is also delicious if you eat it with Chutney Pudi ※ or Ghee.
※ Chutney Pudi is like a powder made by adding salt, jaggery (unrefined sugar) and dry coconut to roasted and ground red chilli, Urad Dal, Chana Dal and curry leaves (varies by family).
Some tips –
・While spreading the dough inside the pot, it is good to tilt the pan and thinly spread the dough with your palm while turning it with your left hand.
・You can also bake it in a frying pan but if you want to make a stylised shape, I would recommend a Kadai-type pan.
1 cup Sooji/Rava (semolina powder)
½ tsp Ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp Urad Dal
1 tbsp Chana Dal
¼ cup curry leaves (leaves only)
1 cup chopped onions
2-3 finely chopped green chillies
thumb-sized piece of ginger, crushed with a rolling pin, etc.
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup Avarekalu beans (removed from pods and boiled till soft)
1 tsp finely crushed black pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
½ cup grated coconut
¼ cup coriander leaves
1 Indian lemon (or to taste)
① Warming the Ghee in a pot, add the semolina powder and carefully roast for about 3 minutes over medium heat so that it doesn’t burn. After roasting, transfer to a plate and cool.
② Warming oil in a deep-bottomed pot, roast the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, Urad Dal and Chana Dal.
③ When the colour of the Urad Dal and Chana Dal changes to brown, add the curry leaves, onion, green chillies, ginger and salt, and stir-fry till the onion becomes transparent.
④ Add the boiled Avarekalu beans and black pepper and stir-fry, then pour in the liquid left over from boiling the beans and some water (2.5 cups of liquid in total).
⑤ Bringing it to boil, add salt, then set the flame to low and add ①, stirring in quickly so that it doesn’t form lumps. Cover with a lid and let the heat pass through over low heat for about 3 minutes.
⑥ Turn off the heat, add coriander and grated coconut in the end then mix together.
⑧ Shape using a cup to finish.
The Avarekalu bean is the Fuji bean, or the Sengoku bean. In Japan, there are many cuisines which use the whole unripe pods containing the young beans, but in Bangalore, during the Avarekalu season, the ripened beans are used in preparations like soups and Akki Roti.
The man, who married a woman from a farmer household, because he was from a Brahmin family although he was also from Bangalore, said that the environment and the food he grew up eating was completely different.
Even with this Upma, at his in-laws’ house, they add tomato and turmeric to give a faint colour, but because he prefers the white Upma since before the marriage, she takes care to finish it so that it looks white, heating it in a way that the ingredients don’t burn as much as possible.
Living with her father-in-law and mother-in-law, the lady (the “Indian mother”) who used to be a non-vegetarian seems to have learned this vegetarian dish passed down in this house relying on her tongue. A smile radiant like the sun on a clear day, the many dishes she makes are like those made by someone who has become completely familiar with them.
Because Bangalore doesn’t have many tourist spots, people who love travelling end up passing it by if they aren’t forced to stop over.
But Bangalore has attracted people from all over India with their different cuisines. That is the reason I get to eat different kinds food when I visit my friends.
In Karnataka where Bangalore is, lies the holy land for pure vegetarian cuisine which doesn’t use onion or garlic – Udupi; Mangalore – facing the Arabian Sea, which can savour seafood; located in the Western Ghats mountain range – Coorg, where the people of the mountain eat pork and bamboo shoot; such distinctive spheres of food culture are set within the state.
If you are a foodie, and have a tough stomach and are adaptable, I recommend that you go around bangalore eating till you explode!
Author : Nobuko Yamashita (spice+arts) (translated by Aumurto)
This post is also available in Japanese.