The eating habits of a population and the area it inhabits often reflect the region’s traditions. Certain food preparations serve as unique symbols of a locality, representing its culture and heritage. Belagavi, also known as “Kunda Nagari,” is famous for its sweetmeat called “Kunda.” This milk-based delicacy is an art mastered by the town’s sweet shop owners. However, living in the shadow of the “Kunda” is another dish that has gained its own unique repute and spot in Indian cuisine. This wheat-based preparation, called “Mandige” or “Mande,” is a staple at select occasions and culinary celebrations around town.
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.
The origins of the delectable Mandige in Belagavi are shrouded in mystery, but it is widely believed that Shri Krishnamurthy Saralaya was the first to introduce it in 1965. His sons, Vijay Kumar, Prabhakar, and Laxminarayan, continued their father’s legacy and began producing Mandige.
The recipe for Mandige is simple yet intricate, requiring wheat flour, sugar powder, ghee, cardamom, and poppy seeds. The dough is infused with a blend of powdered sugar, sesame, and ghee, rolled out thinly, and cooked over spherical pots that resemble large inverted karahis. The cooks work tirelessly in the early morning hours, carefully folding each piece into neat bundles as it cooks. The finished product is then individually packed and stored in baskets.
Mandige is best enjoyed crushed and mixed with warm milk or ghee. For an enhanced flavor profile, microwaving the Mandige causes the ghee to rise to the surface, resulting in a toasted flavor and a delightful texture.
The first Mandige was made at the “Krishnamurthy Saralaya” residence in Konwal Galli, and it is now also produced at their Tilakwadi residence. The art of making Mandige has been passed down from generation to generation in many families in the region, but sadly, most have abandoned this tradition due to changes in eating habits and a preference for savory, fast, and fried foods over traditional sweets.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Krishnamurthy family for preserving this culinary tradition and sustaining an art that was once an integral part of many occasions and families in town.
Now the Mande or Mandige is available at most sweet shops over the counter.
Belagavi’s culinary traditions are a testament to the town’s rich cultural heritage. The unique flavors and preparations of “Kunda” and “Mandige” are a must-try for anyone visiting Belagavi.