Karavali Restaurant Bangalore
Stock Image from The Taj Gateway
My first memory of visiting Coorg is from a few years ago when Mum and I travelled by road from Bangalore to Kochi with a few friends for my then newborn nephew’s christening. We had taken an unplanned detour to Coorg or Kodagu (as it is now known) and the breathtaking landscape and friendly hospitable people had left a deep impression on my mind. Being unplanned, the trip was quite chaotic and the fact that I was the only man in the company of 8 old women meant I had to be polite and content with just visiting coffee plantations and sampling coffee – Coorg’s main agricultural produce. I had promised myself I would come back, and earlier this year I did go back.
One was a visit to the Karavalli restaurant at the Taj Gateway, Bangalore for a review. Not only had the restaurant impressed me, but Chef Naren Thimmaiah had given me a fabulous culinary and cultural introduction to his homeland. He had shared interesting tidbits of information regarding the various communities that formed the Coorg cultural fabric. He also fed me signature dishes inspired from the kitchens of these people – dishes that used ingredients sourced from the place itself! And the list went well beyond just coffee; there was pepper, cloves, cardamom, kodampuli (a souring agent similar to kokum), kachampuli (a vinegar made from kodampuli), vanilla, forest honey, bitter gourd, several types of cucumbers and Kodagu oranges! I sampled dishes which used techniques and ingredients which I found astounding like Pothi Choru (ghee rice), Moplah chicken curry wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf, Denji Pulimunchi (rice flour coated soft shell crabs tossed in a spicy masala), Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi (steamed rice dumplings flavoured with coconut and cumin, and tossed with mustard and curry powder), Patrade (colocasia leaf rolls brushed over liberally with pan-roasted spiced lentil paste and cooked), Maavinakai Mensukkai (preserved mango curry of Havyaka origin) and the Haagalkkai Kabbu Saaru (an astonishing combination of bitter gourd and sugarcane in a mild curry).
Every bite was a burst of fresh flavour on my palate, and by the end of the meal I completely understood what Chef Naren meant when he said: “There’s much more to South Indian cuisine than coconuts and curry leaves!”.