Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ganesha habba utsava - Part 1

Ganesh Chaturti happened to fall on a Saturday, the 11th, and the festival was also the start of the nearly 12-day long Ganesha habba utsava. For the uninitiated, habba is Kannada for festival, while utsava is Kannada (from Sanskrit utsav) for festivities. I'd never been to any of these before (the board mentioned this is the 48th such event, so obviously it's been there longer than I have). VP and I, along with a junior of ours from school (let's call her D) who works at the same place where VP does, landed up at the APS college grounds in Basavanagudi last evening.

Apart from the usual cultural events, primarily singing by several popular singers, I'd been informed that the event also had several food stalls. The cuisines of Karnataka were divided into 6 food districts: Karavali (Mangalore, Udupi, Karwar), Old Mysore (Mysore, Mandya, Bangalore, Chamarjanagar), Hyderabad Karnataka (Bellary, Raichur, Gulbarga, Bidar, Gadag, Koppala), North Karnataka (Belgaum, Dharwad, Hubli, etc), Davanagere Bayaluseema (Davanagere, Chitradurga), and Malenadu (Coorg, Chickmaglur, Shimoga). I was there for the food, and the six stalls seemed like the gates of heaven (if you believe in such a thing); if not, let's just say that it seemed terrific, and my stomach began to do hoops in excitement.

Before hitting the six main food stalls, we 'bumped' into a stall selling butter + gulkand. So we bought two: one with butter and gulkand, and the other with butter and a dry-fruit compote/jam/syrup. The butter used seemed like it was made from buffalo milk - it was very white, like it'd seen a ghost.

Butter gulkand (l) and butter dry fruit. Yes, I know, you can't tell the difference.

So we then reached the stalls with the 6 cuisines. You'll need to buy coupons for the food based on the prices put up. We could see only two counters, and they were being worked overtime. This is one area where I've noticed can do with a lot of improvement. Conducting a huge event is all good, but when it comes to logistics and operations, it's quite clearly the Achilles heel of Indians. No lines, people shoving money from all directions into the face of one hapless soul at the coupon counter...sadly, it's such things, although extremely important, that get brushed under the carpet in India if the event went on to be a success overall.

Click the image to read clearly and plan your expenses :)

We knew we'd not able to cover all 6 cuisines, so settled to do so one by one until we were full. Since the Davanagere Bayaluseema stall was first, and I've been aching to have the famous Davanagere benne dosa, that's where we headed towards.

The benne dosa was great. Now I don't know how authentic this is since I've never had it before, but this was very good. D settled for the kai kadubu, which is something like a rice cake stuffed with jaggery and coconut. It was nice, but I've had so many of these (there are several like these in Mangalorean cuisine) that maybe I'm not the right person to say that it wasn't special. VP tried the Nargees mandakki, which I"m given to understand is an absolute favourite of the people in Davanagere. Maybe it's just us, or maybe it wasn't done right, but it seemed plain-Jane - nothing great.

Davanagere benne dosa

Kai kadubu

Nargees mandakki

Next up, Hale Mysore or Old Mysore. D decided to have a tatte idly, steamed idlis where the batter isn't poured into the grooved hollows as in most cases, but into a plate (tatte is Kannada for plate). This was served with a superb red chutney and something called Bombay saagu, which had potatoes, chickpeas, onions, lentils, and seasoning. Haven't been able to trace the origin of this dish and why it has 'Bombay' as a prefix, since saagu is a common term used here for a medley of vegetables with a gravy, usually served with rava idlis or pooris.

Tatte idli

We also had a sweet called athrasa, which in the coastal areas is called adrasa. More details about this dish later (I haven't had time to ask mom about this...I'm at work, sneaking in lines into the blog whenever I take a break from coding). And of course, no meal near the Mysore region would be complete without the famous Maddur vada, served with the same red chutney.


Maddur vada

By this time, we were almost full, but VP wanted to have neer dosa, so we moved towards the Karavali stall and bought a plate of neer dosa. Usually, this is eaten with a gravy, but when eaten for breakfast, this is had with chutney, and for those with a sweet-tooth, with a mixture of grated coconut and jaggery. The ones served here came with coconut chutney and the coconut+jaggery mixture. Surprisingly, the person serving it poured ghee on top of the dosa, and it was then that I realised that this guy was certainly not from Mangalore (probably never been there). Who pours ghee on neer dosa? So then I looked around and saw banners of the popular chain Vasudev Adiga's, and the banner mentioned that they were the caterers for the food. Since the name Adiga is a surname that originates from the coastal region, maybe I thought they'd get the coastal dishes right, but I guess nobody's perfect.

Neer dosa

D saw that pathrode was available, and so she decided to have it. Pathrode is something that's made from the leaved of the colocasia plant, also known as the elephant ears plant, or taro plant. So imagine how maki rolls are made in Japanese cuisine. The seaweed is flattened, and then stuffed rice and whatever, and then rolled, cut, and cooked (steamed). Same process, different ingredients. Usually the stuffing here is rice, dal, cumin, coriander, coconut and spices, but the one served to us seemed to have brinjal in it (well, it tasted like brinjal). Overall, good dish.


I settled for a plate of goli bajje with chutney. These are little ball-shaped snacks made from wheat flour (and a little gram flour), mixed with curds, chilies, ginger, garlic, asafoetida (sometimes), and deep fried. Again, not the best I've had, but decent I guess.

Goli bajje, or Mangalore bajji

We were stuffed, and by this time the crowds and increased as the main singing events were about to start. People were thronging towards the venue in large groups (and we seemed like the only clowns trying to leave the place!). I was reminded of a line from one of the ads on TV: "Pet full, dill house full".

Ganesha habba utsava, APS college grounds, Basavanagudi, Bangalore. The fest goes on till the 22nd of September.


Reuben said...

Man all that food made me salivate. I'm bloody jealous of you :).

Eveline said...

Wow, these do sound amazing! Luckily, I at least have a chocolate in hand while reading this so I’m not drooling as much. Just wish those bajjis could be mail-ordered so I wouldn’t have to travel so far.

What an awesome blog you have here! I have just spent the previous twenty mins going through quite a few of your posts, and have additionally bookmarked your page. I will definitely be back to read more soon. :)

Karthik Shetty said...

Thanks Eveline, glad you liked the blog. And if you aren't too busy, you could visit the fest... it's there till tomorrow :)

Anonymous said...

Dude - Shettre ,

How was the chutney at the stalls ? Chutney is the quintessential South Indian ( Karnataka ) ketchup. Agree ?

The maddur vada looks awsome .


Karthik Shetty said...

Swaroop Sham, bun-butter-jam...where've you been? The chutney was good in all instances.