Think of India and you think of Taj Mahal. Similarly think of
Andhra Pradesh and you immediately think of Nawabi cuisine. However,
do you know that there is something called Andhra food, quite
What will you
have? he asked me reeling off the names of the items on the
menu card. What caught my fancy had an unusual name. It was called
MLA pessaratu. MLA is the acronym for the member of the
Legislative Assembly. Pessaratu is an Andhra dish, a spicy
pancake made of pulses, the recipe of which I will give you soon.
Visions of the political goose being cooked in this griddle pancake
kept my spirits up till the dish arrived. The pancake was an
appetizing colour combination of mustard and brown. When I queried
as to why it was called differently as savoury pancakes are normally
called dosas, the waiter pointed to the combination that was
intriguing. The pessaratu was filled with another exotic dish, the
uppuma! (dosas are usually filled with potatoes or served
While the pessaratu
cools, let me tell you all that I have learnt about Andhra food on my
visit to this colourful, vibrant state.
Of Hyderabadi cuisine
most of you would have heard, for it is famous all over the world.
The Nawabs who ruled over the Deccan brought some of the best cooks
from all over the country to make the Deccan the food capital of all
items. So much so that when you talk of Andhra or its capital,
Hyderabad, visions of a mouth-watering biryani come to mind. If
there is any one statement that can, in a nutshell, describe the
Andhra kitchen, it is: Andhra food is hot! Local legend says there
was once a severe famine in the area and all that grew, and grew
well, were chillies red chillies, famous in a place called
Guntur in Andhra. So people made as many dishes as possible with
A more realistic
explanation comes from nutritionists who say that being a very hot
area, there are more chances of stomach infection for the local
people. They probably make use of large quantities of chillies to
guard against stomach infection. A parallel can be found in the
desert state of Rajasthan in northern India.
The invitation of dinner
at a friends place in Hyderabad did not bring me many surprises
in terms of the ambience that makes the dining are. The dining room
is generally a well defined region outside the kitchen. It is a
multi-purpose room which acquires the role of a dining room at meal
times. Banana leaves are laid out and mats, or slightly raised
wooden seats called manias, are placed on the floor. This
culture is common to the whole of South India. A glass of water is
placed near the leaf. Now, if you want to impress your local
friends, just sprinkle a little water from your glass on to your leaf
and brush it on its surface, thus cleaning the plate.
Rice is the main dish.
Invariably a few drops of melted butter are poured over it. The
aroma kindles your appetite but, if you host is a heart patient, do
not be surprised if he does not treat you to this delicacy, People of
yore, never knew about the linkages between cholesterol, butter and
the heart so they relished the taste of the freshly melted butter as
it mingled with the softly butte as it mingled with the softly cooked
rice. May be you could suggest the butter ingredient. Since Andhra
food is so hot, the butter helps tone down the impact of the chilly.
There are infinite
powders and chutneys that come as the first course, along with some
vegetable preparation which is generally simple, retaining the
freshness and taste of the green. The powder could be of anything,
like groundnuts. Mix this spicy powder with rice and you have a
delicious dish! One chutney which I love and you must taste is
ghonghura chutney. Ghonghura is a leaf widely grown in the
state of Andhra. The chutney they make with it is beyond
description. It is out of the world. Even commercial preparations
are available so if your host does not favour it, buy yourself a
Moving over to the
pickling story of Andhra kitchens, one of the most famous pickles is
the avvakkai. It is a pickle made with mangoes. Some chick
peas are also added to the pickle. The best avvakkai can be
had only in Andhra. Similarly there is a ginger-garlic chutney, that
will leave you licking your fingers. By the way, chutneys and
pickles get that extra touch of pep when licked from the forefinger!
Before you think I am
getting too excited, let me move on. The pappu is the
equivalent of smabar of Tamil Nadu. It is a dish prepared with
pulses, tamarind and vegetables. There is a soup-like dish called
rasam. It is of very thin consistency, made of pulses and
really spicy, often flavoured with pepper. A curd rice, where
freshly set yoghurt is mixed with rice, ends the meal. Fried
poppadams, a largish crispy made with pulses accompany the
For the rest there are
many rice preparations and varieties of pappu, like Usirikai
Pappu, nimmikai pappu and so on. The sweet dishes and the
embellishments to a meal on festive days with items like vadas are
similar to the rest of South Indian. Of course, the manner in which
they are prepared is different. One of the main reasons why
savouries are different is because of the extra use of chillies in
the state of Andhra Pradesh.
The same is true for
snacks too. Pessaratu is a unique Andhra dish. It comes with
uppuma filling as mine. Uppuma is a dish made with semolina
and can be served by itself too. So the dish, named for no
fathomable reason as MLA pessaratu, was actually a two-in-one dish.
The pessaratu may be smeared with some chutney and finely cut onions.
It may come with black pepper
. I shall leave the rest for you
to find out Happy eating!
Peeled Green Gram
Pulse: 1 Cup
Cumin Seeds: 1 Tsp
Green Chillies: 3
Red Chillies: 3
Finely Chopped Onions: 3
A sprig of coriander
Soak the gram for four
hours. Wash and grind to a smooth paste with the chillies. Chop the
onions finely and add to the paste along with salt and coriander
leaves. Shape into a round pancake on a griddle and let it cook with
a little oil sprinkled on its sides. Turn it around and cook on both
sides. Serve hot.
It may be eaten with
jaggery, or coconut chutney.
Scrape a quarter of the
coconut and grind it to a smooth paste with a green chilly. Add salt
and season mustard.