The Divine Cuisine of the Tirupati Temple

In recent times there has been a lot of interest about the dishes offered to the deity and subsequently served as prasad in the temples. Times Passion Trails had organized a “Temple Food Trail” led by Pushpesh Pant for experiencing the temple food at Mathura, Vrindavan, and Nathwada. The dishes served in the Mahaprasad of Lord Jagannath at Puri are pined for not just for the divine blessings, but for their taste too.  Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati is known for its epic laddoo prasadam, but beyond that, there are many other delicacies that are cooked in the temple kitchen and offered to the Lord. The recent food promotion “A Cuisine So Divine” at The Dining Room at The Park Hyatt, Hyderabad brought some of these offerings from Tirupati into the limelight by presenting them as part of the hotel buffet.

The festival was curated by Chef Balaji Bhaskar, who runs a food consultancy going by the name “Chef Mama”. Mama is a term used for fellow chefs in Tamil. Chef Balaji is from a family of Iyengar Brahmins who prepares the delicacies at the temple in Tirumala. He has honed his skills making the food at this temple, before branching out on his own with a mission of bringing the recipes into the public domain, so that the general public can get more insight about them.  Dressed in traditional attire, Chef is very forthcoming in sharing his knowledge about the divine cuisine.


The Prasad offered to Lord Balaji at Tirupati has more than fifty dishes every day, apart from the ubiquitous laddoo, there are many rice-based delicacies like kadambam, pongal, daddojanam, pulihora as well as various types of sweets and payasams. Not all the dishes are made every day. Ksheera Payasam, for example, is offered to The Lord only on Thursdays. During Dhanur Masam, offering the pongal is a must. The huge kitchen inside the temple prepares all these items.

A typical Iyengar delicacy Akkaravadisal, a sweet milk pongal, is offered only on a specific auspicious day of the year. It is believed that Kodhai Andal, an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi offered this to Lord Balaji. As per a poem composed by Andal, the rice and milk dish should be so rich in ghee that while eating the ghee should drip down the arm to the elbow. This is one of the dishes showcased by Chef Balaji in this festival.

Another typical temple dish of South India is Kadambam. A rice, lentil and vegetable dish with a strong flavor of ghee, this was more of comfort food. Chef Balaji told us that the recipe of Kadambam in the temple has to avoid ingredients such as onion, garlic, coriander, and even drumsticks. Okra and brinjal are used in abundance along with other vegetables, toor dal, and basic spices. The dish is a complete meal by itself.

Jaggery sweets are specialities of the Tirupati temple cuisine. Bellam Dosa, where the dosa is served dripping with sugarcane jaggery is one of these. We had a taste of the finest preparation from a person in Chef Balaji’s team, who has prepared this dish in the temple for seven years. There is also Bellam Garelu, which are basically fried vadas sweetened with jaggery.

Bellam Dosa dripping in Jaggery

Ksheer Payasam was the best way to end a superb meal.  Payasam is an integral part of the offering in most important temples such as Puri and Benaras.  The payasam prepared here was not very sweet, but it had a predominant richness of the milk.

Ksheera Payasam

We experience many diverse food promotions in Hyderabad. However, there are a few that leave a lasting impression. “A Cuisine So Divine” is one such attempt, where we got an insight into the kitchen of one of the most popular temples in the country. I hope we see many more such initiatives from the hotel in the future.

The Dining Room
Park Hyatt, Hyderabad

Disclaimer: The review is based on an invite from the restaurant. 

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