Published: 23rd September 2019
This design graduate from Bengaluru has written a book on Bidar's distinctive food culture
Swetha Ramachandran discusses some of the unique dishes she discovered during her visit to the district of Bidar in Karnataka
Food and delicacies are part of our culture and they give us a sense of identity. Likewise, discovering the food of other cultures allows us to soak in some of their culture. In the hopes of such exposure, Swetha Ramachandran visited Bidar, a district in the northeastern part of Karnataka, to document some of the local food and dishes specific to the district. Swetha, who recently graduated with a Bachelor's in Design from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, says, "Visiting Bidar was part of our college project. Students were divided into five groups to explore different dimensions of the place including monuments, food, social entrepreneurs, agriculture and so on. It was a four-month visit to the district and I selected food as my subject of research."
Swetha was not alone in her journey to Bidar. She collaborated with an NGO called Yuvaa who knew all about the city and its food culture. "When we were staying out, we had to eat either in restaurants or dhabas. But there, the food would be limited to North Indian or South Indian thalis. When I enquired further about authentic food, restaurateurs said only home-cooked food could deliver that authenticity. Therefore, people from Yuvaa arranged my visits to several houses in Bidar. I learnt about the cuisine that is cooked every day and the dishes that are prepared especially during festivals. I was exposed to a type of laddu which is sweet, seasonal and made from coconut, dry fruits and jaggery. This laddu has been given different names by different people in Bidar. I now know it by the name ghane undi," explains this 22-year-old who loves exploring various Indian cuisines.
Important food item: Palya is part of their daily food. There are two to three different palyas available everyday to eat with roti and chapathi
Along with ghane undi, Swetha also discovered at least ten other dishes and the specific ingredients used in Bidar's cuisine. All these dishes have found a place in her book, Conversations in Bidri Kitchen. "Ten different people told me about these dishes and their history. So, I have described them in the form of a narrative in my book. Chukka leaves is one of the ingredients that I found out about. These leaves grow in large numbers on the roadside and even in the wild in Bidar. When there was no proper transport available for people to travel to the market and buy vegetables for their meal, they would use these leaves in their dishes. This is how it became famous and even today, these leaves continue to be part of people's diet. They add it to dal and cook palya to eat it either with roti or chapathi."
Unique sweet: If you love sweets then you must visit North Karnataka to eat varieties of sweets. This one is called Huggee and cooked on all the festivals, weddings and other occasions
Now, Swetha's book is likely to be included in the Bidar archive which will soon be set up by the NGO and her college. But before that, Swetha wants to include a few more dishes, their names and ingredients which have been missing from the pages of history for a while now. "If it is confirmed that the book will be included in the archives, I will have to go back and do more research in Bidar and include more in the form of illustrations," she concludes.