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    ITTING with the mother-daughter duo of Malati Srinivasan and Geetha Rao and chatting about their new cookbook, The Udupi Kitchen, centred around the satvik (pure) vegetarian cuisine of the Madhwa Brahmin community, I was transported briefly back to a time where purity of ingredients and simplicity of flavours ruled. And the world-famous food of Karnataka’s temple town of Udupi wasn’t yet as famous as it is now.
    Dose, idli, bisi bele hulianna, thindi (snacks), saaru, palya, an array of masale pudi and chutneys made with simple yet unusual ingredients, delicious raithas, gojju – these are made in many households even today, but for many younger people or those living abroad, the food remains something of a dream, lost in the frenzy of modern existence.1
    Not so for Srinivasan, who grew up observing the daily kitchen rituals of her aunt, Padmavati Bai, called Athi. Watching from the kitchen door as she wasn’t allowed in, Srinivasan grew fascinated by the food she saw her aunt cook daily. After she married, she began cooking herself. Soon her children and later, her grandchildren began clamouring for her recipes. The entire family consists of excellent cooks and passionate foodies, including her sons, admits Rao, who started cooking herself while posted to Australia, desperately missing her saaru anna.
    It seemed a natural extension of this love for their own cuisine to create a cookbook – based on the 170 plus recipes Srinivasan had jotted down in a large notebook, which grew over three years into The Udupi Kitchen. This wasn’t her first foray into the cookbook universe. Madhur Jaffrey, grande dame of Indian cooking consulted Srinivasan for her cookbook, A Taste of India. “The perception of Udupi food is idli-dose but there’s much more,” points out Rao, whose favourite among the 12 sections in the book is on the fragrant vegetable curries or gojjus, a Madhwa specialty, particularly the kitle hannu sippe gojju, made from orange peel in a sweet- sour gravy. “And I love the sweets,” confesses Srinivasan. Truly, the mouthwatering photos of the Mysore Pak and payasam are enough to send any sweet lover into a rapturous sugar high.
    Of course, writing a cookbook on traditional cuisine into something easy enough to be used anywhere in the world isn’t a breeze, so the duo spent time researching equivalent weights, measures and terms – seeme badnekai or chow-chow translates quaintly into ‘foreign brinjal’ but rather than confound newbies, it’s listed as chayote squash. Similarly, tappele became saucepan, kadhai became wok, and nearest equivalents to Karnataka’s famous Byadige chillies were found.
    Rao expects the book to evoke childhood memories in those who are familiar with the food (“I remember bore chittu – sweet-sour berries mixed with red chillies, jaggery and asafoetida I’d eat at my grandmother’s”) and introduce those unfamiliar to it, to the delicious food of their homeland.
    m firstimpressionbangalore@gmail.com

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