The tradition of a population and the area it inhabits is often represented by the eating habits of the residents. Certain food preparations stand out as unique symbols of a region.
The city of Belagavi is also known as “Kunda Nagari” on account of the sweetmeat “Kunda”, a milk-based preparation, making which is an art mastered by sweet shop owners in town.
Living in the shadow of the “Kunda” is another dish that has gained its own unique repute and spot in “Indian Cusine”. This wheat-based preparation called “Mandige” or “Mande” has made its presence at select occasions and culinary celebrations around town.
The sweetmeat is also a part of festive menus in Maharashtra and Karnataka and it is purchased from Belagavi to serve the purpose. Although it is commonly consumed nowadays, traditional practice was that it was served only during festivals as part of the offering to the Gods.
It is not really clear as to who introduced this culinary delight in Belagavi but the man who is known to have patronized it was Shri Krishnamurthy Saralaya, in 1965. His sons Vijay Kumar, Prabhakar and Laxminarayan continued the legacy of their father and continued the making of Mandige on a commercial basis.
The ingredients that go into making Mandige are wheat flour, sugar powder, ghee, cardamom and poppy seeds. The dough is laced with a mix of powdered sugar, sesame, and ghee, rolled very thin, carefully transferred to be cooked over spherical pots that resemble large inverted karahis, and deftly folded into neat bundles as it cooks. The cooks work in the early hours of the morning. Each piece is separately packed and stored in baskets.
The existing price of is Rs. 280/kg and the same is packed in four packets of 250 grams each. Mandige is crushed and eaten with warm milk or only with ghee. Microwaving the Mandige enhances the flavour profile owing to the fact that the ghee rises to the surface and there is also an enhancement in the texture, mouth feel and the toasted flavour.
The first Mandige was made at their residence, the “Krishnamurthy Saralaya” at Konwal galli and presently it is also made at their Tilakwadi residence. The making of Mandige finds a reference as an art that has been passed from generation to generation in many families in the region; presently, however, most other families have given up on this tradition. Changes in eating habits of households and the shift to the savories, fast food, and fried food in place of sweets, especially the traditional ones, are threatening this culinary tradition.
One can only express a sense of gratitude to the Krishnamurthy family that has upheld this tradition and helped sustain this art which once was part of many occasions and families in town.