Initiatives Showcasing Cuisines from the Two Telugu states

One of the recent hot trends in the Indian food industry has been a renewed interest in Regional Cuisines. India is a huge country, with the population of many states as big as some countries itself. The variations in food are so huge that dossiers can be written about the food of any state. As is said, food and language change every hundred kilometers, and thus the dishes of one end of a larger state is very different from that of the other end. In the same district, divergence is seen in the food of different communities, castes, and religions. Tribal food is another area altogether with recipes not even available in the public domain.

Against this backdrop, a look into the cuisines of the two states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana provide interesting insights. A few years back the cuisines were branded under the name “Andhra Cuisine” coming from undivided Andhra Pradesh. With the Telangana movement and subsequent formation of the new state Telangana, there is a strong attempt by the state government to promote Telangana cuisine as way different from the other two regions of the undivided state – Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra. Telangana food festivals have been organized in many hotels and restaurants around the Telangana formation day to expose the people of Hyderabad to the cuisine. However, in spite of the efforts, many food lovers from other states of India are not very aware of the distinctiveness of Telangana cuisine.

Uggani Bhajji and Alassanda Vada

Keeping the above in mind, a concerted effort is required to research the three cuisines of the Telugu states, as well as looking at sub-regional (micro) cuisines, including the food of different communities. A couple of recent initiatives have recently worked on these premises and come up with interesting observations.

Mokka Jona Gatka, Salla Charu, Bachali Koora Pappu, Beerakaya Pachadi (Telangana)

The first one I wish to talk about is MTR Telugu Ruchulu. An initiative of MTR Food, it has Chef Regi Matthew (known for his regional Malayalee restaurant Kappa Chakka Kandhari) at its helm. Over the last few years, this initiative was researching the cuisines of the district of Karnataka state and this year the same has been extended to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Chef Mathew with his team has visited home chefs in six different regions of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and culled out recipes from each of them. The same was presented at “MTR Telugu Ruchulu” a food festival organized at Banjara Function Hall, Banjara Hills. The festival presented about eighty unique dishes with distinctive texture and flavours. It was an effort to rediscover the authentic tastes of the two states.

Some of the highlights for me were the Dibbaroti and Allam-Pachimirchi Chutney from Krishna region, Pulattu (Curd Dosa) from Konaseema, Mokkajana Gatka from Karimnagar, Alessandra Vada from Kurnool and Usirikaya (amla) Pachadi from Srikakulam. The home chefs were present at the festival to showcase their food. The aim of this initiative is to create a platform for regional and home-style food and bring into limelight the efforts of home chefs.

Qabooli Biryani and Baghar-E-Baigan (Telangana)

It is not that this was the first time Andhra regional food from a district was presented in Hyderabad. Rayalaseema Ruchulu had roped in Home Chef Rajeshwari Puthalapattu earlier to showcase the cuisines of Southern Andhra, especially the Pattu cuisine of the Chittoor region through “Aha Rayalaseema”. Chittoor shares its border with Tamil Nadu, and thus a strong influence of Tamil cuisine is visible in the dishes. Details of the festival can be found here.

Chef Garima Arora (Top) and Yemeni Ho,me food at Barkas

Another initiative on a much bigger scale is “Food Forward India”. An initiative started by Chef Garima Arora, the only lady Indian chef with Michelin star for her restaurant Gaa in Bangkok. The initiative explores the food of a particular region, from the point of view of rural, urban and tribal food of the region, and aims to showcase Indian regional food to the world. Over five days, a team of around ten people went deep into the remotest corners of Telangana, venturing into local as well as long-forgotten recipes. A visit to Peddamaduru village in Warangal district, biodiversity festival in Goginapally, Chenchu tribes in Nallamala forest as well trying out the local cuisine of Hyderabad as well as Yemeni influenced food of Barkas formed parts of the itinerary. The idea was to study the niche and micro-regional cuisines and offering help in promoting them.

The Urban Adda (top) and Mahua Flowers

On the last day, an Urban Adda was organized with many inquisitive food enthusiasts from the city attending the presentations. Aparna Pallavi was first to present the dishes made from Mahua flowers which are slowly moving into oblivion. She explained in detail the socio-cultural reasons for the same, and the need to revive the dishes. Kudmul, a Mahua stuffed poori was showcased in the adda, and Pallavi talked about thirty-five dishes from Mahua, found in the different states of India. Most of us know it as a source of drinks, but we ignore that tribals in the past used the flowers as an ingredient to many dishes. Telangana has its own share of tribal population, and even the Reddys here had a few Mahua recipes here. A similar presentation on Millets and how the healthy carbohydrate so prevalent in the region has been sidelined by rice and wheat was discussed by Dr. Dayakar Rao.

Animated Discussions at "Urban Adda"

One of the major highlights of the “Urban Adda” for me was also the food served, especially the regional food of Telangana. Thus there were Sarvapindi, Sakinalu and Mirchi Bajji among the snack, and some delicious main courses like Vankara Koora and Goat Brain Curry from an eminent home chef from Telangana Ms. Jyothi Valaboju.

Food from Telangana at "Urban Adda"

This is just a start. I feel the ownership of promoting any regional cuisine has to be also taken up by the government.  Funding of studies as well as publication of books (in English too, for the awareness of non-Telugus) is some of the initiatives they can take up. But the food lovers, researchers, chefs, and columnists cannot absolve themselves from the responsibility too. There is also the need to study district wise and community wise cuisines in detail as well as explore the influence of flavours of neighbouring states into our cuisine. Finally, a series of events need to be conducted in other states and countries to showcase the finer nuances of the food of the region. It is heartening to see some initiatives which are playing their part in bringing about this change, but a lot needs to be done.


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