Traditional South Indian Brahmin Meal

I am from Bangalore, which belonged to the old Mysore State. Conservative  Brahmin recipes are pure vegetarian and strictly prohibit the use of Garlic and Onions and also several other vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, eggplants, cauliflower, cabbage, drumsticks, etc and also several fruits like watermelon. The reason for not using these vegetables is the belief that the food we eat, influences the way we think. Vegetables like onion and garlic were considered pollutants of the mind, and came under the ‘thamasic’ group. More information about food types in can be found here-
My family back in Bangalore still follow many of these customs. I have deviated a bit, I do eat and cook other vegetables, except garlic, mostly because I don’t find the smell very appealing.

A typical festive meal is supposed to be very well balanced and nutritious. It is served on a plantain leaf. Salt is always served first, in the top leftmost corner of the leaf. The other dishes that follow include-
1. A Pickle
2. Chutney
3. Salad- Called kosambari generally 2 types
4. Raitha
5. Gojju
6. 2 types of cooked vegetables
7. A fried fritter
8. Payasa/Kheer
9. Thovve
10. Flavoured rice
11. Plain rice
12. Rasam
13. Sambhar
14. Sweet
15. Buttermilk
16. A little bit of ghee, served on the Rice before starting the meal
Buttermilk or curd is always served at the end of the meal. It is said to aid digestion and cool the body.

The recipes of the Bangalore-Mysore region, where I am from, generally use fresh coconut or dry coconut is most dishes including sweets. The use of just a dash of jaggery or sugar to balance the sourness in sambhar or rasam is also typical of this area.

Madhwa cuisine

I started writing this blog to try keeping the nostalgia of some of the traditional cooking that was done in our family back in Bangalore. I would like to emphasize that, Kannada food is not just Bisi Bele bhath. Karnataka vegetarian cuisine is almost limitless, and each region has its own unique style and specialty.  For example the cuisine the Udupi- Mangalore region is very different from that of the Dharwad- Hubli region, or the old Mysore region. This has something to do with the type of produce that grows there.

I would like add on my blog, vegetarian recipes from around India( maybe, around the world too), but I would like to showcase recipes of a small group of people to which I belong, called Madhwas. We are followers of Guru Madhwacharya.

Madhwaism started in Udupi, the place most famous for food. Onion, garlic, tomatoes, carrots, brinjal, radish etc, are strictly prohibited for Madhwas. In fact the range of vegetables and fruits allowed is very small. It is amazing to see the infinite range of food that can be prepared with a limited number of resources. In Udupi, every day at least 40-50 dishes are served as naivedya (offering) to the Lord Krishna.

Madhwa cuisine itself is very diverse. The deshastha Madhwas, from Maharashtra, the Madhwas from Bangalore and Mysore or from north Karnataka, or the coastal regions, or Tamilnadu, all have different styles of cooking.

Madhwas have one day of complete fasting every 15 days, called Ekadasi. They do not eat or drink anything after taking a spoon of holy water after Pooja that morning. Ekadasi, is a must for all madhwas who are able bodied, though there are allowances for children, sick people, pregnant women and the elderly. Ekadasi is done to purify the body and try to instill discipline and self control, and is supposed to be spent in complete devotion of God.

There is another important religious vow or Vrath that all able Madhwas are expected to keep. It is called the Chaturmasya Vratha. ‘Chaturmasya’ means 4 months, and ‘Vratha’ means Vow. The chaturmasya is done every year. Each month the person keeping the vow cannot eat a certain food that is restricted. For example, in the first month, all vegetables and fruits are restricted, in the second month, yogurt and its products are restricted. In the third month, milk and milk products are restricted. In the last month, most vegetables and lentils are restricted.

Though I do not do the Chaturmasya here, I will try to post some recipes of the chaturmasya vratha once in a while. The recipes are very easy, and more like comfort food.

Madhwa food has stayed the same through the centuries, as is evident from some songs of our revered Saint Purandaradasaru and his decendent Dasaru.

My family is very mixed now, with lots of people from different sub sects. So not only cooking, but life in general has also been influenced in a very good and positive way:-)