A taste of the hills – January 29, 2015]
There is unusual fare at The Taj Vivanta as its Badaga Chef prepares a traditional Badaga feast for you
The Badaga platter Wholeseome and packed with nutrients (Photo: S.Siva Saravanan – The Hindu)
It’s a combo of bathalu, sandege, and uppukorai that introduces us to the traditional Badaga fare at Vivanta by Taj Surya. Bathalu is crispy sun dried potatoes, sandege is the tangy onion and garlic chutney that we dip into, and uppukorai is steamed and salted beans. That’s starters for you and they score high on taste. It gets better with a cup of hot rasam or maasu neeru, as the Badagas call it. The Badaga farmers are known for their mixed farming of millets, barley, wheat, and commercial vegetables including potato, carrots and cabbage, and hence the food they eat often uses seasonal and locally grown vegetables.
“Traditionally, our staple diet includes millets, raagi, saamai and wheat. The Badaga menu is our effort to revive and promote the forgotten recipes of the community,” says executive chef H.N. Vijayan. Taj Vivanta promotes regional cuisine and the food of the Badagas who inhabit the Nilgiris is an automatic choice. It is not that well known either and is not usually available in eateries. Lucky for Vivanta that Chef Vijayan is a Badaga himself. So he brings a lot of love and passion into the menu. He and his team have stuck with the tried and tested recipes, and the result is the delicious and honest taste. Venugopal, associate director of Sales says the Badaga menu will be available a-la-carte from February. “We wanted to add something that is very local and authentic.”
Ragi mudde (ragi flour ball) is another Badaga specialty. Before eating, we make a depression on the buttery mudde, just enough so that it holds the molten ghee poured into it. And then we take a delicious bite. To go with it there is a choice of avarai uthakka curry made of seasonal beans and potato, a double beans curry, and baby brinjal. A special spice powder, hatti maas hudi, made from chillies, coriander seeds, jeera, pepper, fenugreek, cinnamon, asafoetida, and khus khus, is used in the vegetarian curry preparations. While for the non-vegetarian counterpart, it is a deep black masala made from chillies, whole coriander seeds, jeera, pepper, and cloves. Soppu, or greens is the other healthy component to the menu. There are a variety of greens, simply prepared and wholesome. There is methi leaves prepared with mashed potato, and other greens tempered with spices and sometimes with coconut.
Also on offer is gassu dhotti (rotis), made of maida, mashed potatoes and butter. It is melt-in the mouth and goes well with the Nilgiri kaai curry, a traditional preparation of mixed vegetables in mint and coriander sauce. There is kaara dhotti and a sweet one too. Chef Vijayan says all the preparations form a part of the Badaga platter and is traditionally served on a brass plate.
Meen baruthathu (masala fried fish fillets), koi uthakka, a traditional chicken curry and aadu baadu uthakka (mutton gravy) make up the non-vegetarian menu. While the fish is tangy, the chicken and mutton gravies burst with a fine balance of spices and flavour, and make for a perfect combo with the rotis.
After a round of mosuru hittu (curd with raagi dumplings), we have hattchike (saamai soaked in hot milk and finished off with grated coconut) and thuppadhittu, a deep fried sweet snack for the sweet platter.
Available from first week of February. To find out, call 6681000/ 2224050.
Recipe of HATTI MAASU HUDI, a special spice powder
Ingredients (for veg curries)
Red chilli : 2kgs
Coriander seeds: 1kg
Saunf : 10gms
Fried gram: 100gms
Turmeric powder: 250gms
Khus Khus: 100gms
Dry roast all the ingredients except turmeric powder and grind to a fine powder.Add turmeric powder and mix well. Store in an air tight container.
Note: The quantity of the red chilli can be reduced according to the required spice level.
Ingredients (for non-veg curries)
Dry red chilli: 1kg
Coriander seeds :1 kg
Cloves: 12 nos
Black peppercorn: 50gms
Dry roast all ingredients individually in a thick bottomed Kadai till they become little darker but not burnt. Grind to make a fine powder and store in an air tight container. This masala powder will be darker in colour which gives a black colour to the curry
Contributed by H.N. Vijayan, executive chef, Vivanta by Taj Surya
Read the article in The Hindu]
You can also see how to make ‘Koi Udakka Maasu Hudi – Masala powder for Chiken currry’ and ‘Udakka Maasu Hudi – Masala Powder[veg]’ by Ms.Anitha Gokul and other recipes for authentic Badaga cusine here – Wg Cdr JP