Food in Belagavi is incomplete without its chutneys. Unlike elsewhere in the country with its staple red and green wet chutneys, Belagavi loves all kinds of chutneys, more so the dry ones. Being rich in coconuts, groundnuts, vegetables, and other grams, it becomes easy to concoct numerous recipes that tingle your taste buds.
It’s Sankranti time and homes are busy preparing the much loved Gural (Korte/ Niger seeds) and groundnut chutney which makes for a hearty meal companion. Both these leading stars of food get along with any accompaniment – pair it with curd, buttermilk, milk, oil, ghee or simply spread over toast, paratha, Bhakri, chapatti, or stuff inside a pav and savor its flavor.
See, told you, Belagavi chutneys are just like Belagavi people- they get along with anybody and add to the flavor. In fact, we have even welcomed ingredients from neighboring Konkan, Goa, south Karnataka, Maharashtra and given it our own signature touch.
Belagavi people love their Shenga chutney more than anything else. If it is ground by hand in a mortar pestle, it retains its oils and granular texture. If ground in a grinder, it becomes a dry powder which works well too. I personally prefer the hand-ground variety. As a kid, while I loved the Gural chutney, I was amused how it looked like tiny pieces of hair 😛 The chutney-Pudi (or Dharwad chutney) which is made with roasted grams and dry red chilies is also a staple of all households. On days when the kitchen cannot churn out your favorite veggies, pick up a jar of this chutney and you’re sorted.
Belagavi homes gorge on its other favorite- the pudina chutney. A fancy partner in the star cast of the Vada pav, Moong daal Chilla or even the Batata vada, the Pudina chutney adds so much drama to an otherwise simple dish. Food stalls make huge portions of the other favorites- tomato chutney and sweet chutney (made using dates, tamarind paste, and Jaggery) which can be balanced to perfection as per our taste in Pani Puri and Shev puri. Another of my favorite is the special chutney that you get at Atul Purohit with the samosas, which reminds you of another old-time favorite- the one still made by Khandelwal in Shahapur go with their famous Kachoris.
As a kid, I loved the raw tomato chutney and the one made with the peels of the ridge gourd (Dodke), popular even in wedding menus in this part, while the core of the vegetable makes for a tasty dish with whole chana daal. The peels of watermelon or cucumber are used in some chutneys. The highlight of all chutneys has to be our garlic chutney made with ground nuts or dry coconut (even wet coconut for immediate use). Pair it with Bhakri, Chapati spread on toast, it will overwhelm you with its classic taste.
You will find some scrumptious burnt red tomato chutney, chana dal chutney, Futane chutney (roasted gram) at homes and especially in hotels that enhance the flavor of Idlis and Sosas for sure.
As a kid, I would first polish off the yummy chutney whenever I visited Chaya Café (at Khade Bazar-now closed), Suvarn Mandir, or Ajanta. They make some of the yummiest chutneys for their Idli-Dosa-Vadas. A favorite among those who love chilies is the Ranjaka or Kharda made using raw red chilies mixed with garlic and salt to taste. It shines through even with the humble Bhakri or curd rice which I prefer. Its fiery taste leaves you all red in the face literally.
North Karnataka also makes its famous Sesame chutney – Til chutney with dry coconut with its slightly sweet taste is quite popular among kids especially. It needs either curd or ghee to balance its dryness. Come February – March and the markets are flooded with raw mangoes making way for the drum-rolls to beat for the raw mango chutney. Made in two variants- sweet, with jaggery and a dash of tadka with fenugreek seeds, or spicy with red chilies and coconut. It takes any dish to an all-new level.
Images Courtesy: Belgaum Foodies