4 In Food

The Best Of Malnad Cuisine Only At The Serai Chikmagalur

The Serai

Chikmagalur is charming and riddled with little joys. Located at the foothills of the Mullayanagiri range in the Indian state of Karnataka, this hidden gem is steeped in tradition. As exemplified by it’s culinary skills and local delicacies; which were demonstrated at the Skreem Experiential Bloggers Retreat hosted by The Serai Chikmagalur. I for one always thought that Karnataka was known for churning out 3 very popular cuisines i.e. Uttara Karnataka, Mangalorean & Kodagu. However, Malnad/Malenadu cuisine, rooted in the Indian ideal of ‘living off land’, is set to make Chikmagalur the new culinary hotbed to rivals Mangalore & Coorg. Let me tell you why.

The region receives very heavy rainfall, thus giving it the name ‘Malenadu’ meaning ‘The Land of the Rain’ in Kannada. The rural landscape is all lush farmlands, gently rolling hills and leafy forests, making it a source for some of the most interesting ingredients and produce this region has to offer. Hence, this bucolic town, offers food that is just as pristine and refreshingly free of fads; where farm-to-table is more than just a trendy catchphrase.

Not your average breakfast

The people of this region believe that all happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast that’s fit for a king. So besides sipping on their indigenous coffee, the day begins with a power packed breakfast. This commonly comprises of Benne Kadubu (Butter Rice Dumplings) and Tengina Kayi Chutney (Coconut Chutney).  Showcasing the ingredients, the recipes till today use age old methods of steaming and stone grinding, says Ms. Kanchana Raghunath (Senior Manager – Food Innovation for The Serai Group of Resorts). If you’d like to try your hand at making these dishes, check out Vidyascooking (fellow blogger) for the full recipe.

Ms. Kanchana Raghunath - Senior Manager - Food Innovation for The Serai Group of Resorts

Ms. Kanchana Raghunath – The brains behind Food Innovation for The Serai Group of Resorts


Coconut chutney at The Serai Chickmagalur

You are the Chutney to my Kadubu 🙂

Putting on a culinary show

It’s no secret that food is an integral part of any gathering, especially when it’s prepared live. So off we proceeded to Odyssey – The Traveller’s Restaurant at The Serai Chikamaglur, to participate in a live cooking demonstration. Koli Saaru (Malnad style Chicken Curry) and Neer Dosa (Rice & Coconut Crepe) were the dishes of the hour. The technique and ingredients used in these dishes caught our attention, making this a rich and informative experience. For most us, watching Chef Chandrasekhar in his element was quite mesmerizing, as he tossed and turned the gravy in mid-air!

Ingredients for the Koli Saaru (Malnad style Chicken Curry) at The Serai Chikmagalur

Ingredients for Koli Saaru (Malnad style Chicken Curry)


koli saaru chicken curry at The Serai Chikmagalur

Chef Chandrashekar working his magic


koli saaru chicken curry at The Serai Chikmaglur

Voila! Koli Saaru is ready – Can’t wait to dig in

It’s all in the details

Rick Bayless, renowned American chef and cookbook author, once said: ‘Great food, like all art, enhances and reflects a community’s vitality, growth and solidarity. Yet history bears witness that great cuisines spring only from healthy local agriculture.”

Nowhere has this been truer than in Chikmagalur, thanks to the gracious involvement of the local women folk. The Serai Chikmagalur brought together 8 gastronomical experts from the region to celebrate and host an authentic Malnad feast. Most of all, a feast for the eyes and soul which was put together under the patronage of Mrs. Vasanthi Hegde (Mother of Mr. V. G. Siddhartha, Chairman and MD of Cafe Coffee Day).

Mrs. Vasanthi Hegde presented the Malnad delicacies, with an aesthetic appeal by placing it on a banana leaf. Call us old-fashioned but Prashanth and I prefer eating our meal served on a banana leaf. Furthermore, the significance of eating on a banana leaf is simply hygienic and medicinal.  Hot food served on this leaf produces enzymes, which on being consumed elevates taste buds and helps in digestion.

The round of service began with ‘Course One’ being served on the top half of the banana leaf in a systematic row. Almost all of us, dumbstruck by the goodness and authenticity of each dish wondered if it could get any better than this. But to our luck, dishes served as part of ‘Course Two’ simply made us weak in the knees, asking for more!

Mrs. Vasanthi Hegde giving her final touches at The Serai Chikmagalur

Mrs. Vasanthi Hegde adding her final touches


Proud women folk and gastronomical experts of the Malnad region at The Serai Chikmagalur

Proud women folk and gastronomical experts of the Malnad region

Art of Delight

We savoured each delicious mouthful of these 18 Malnad delicacies:

Course One

  1. Harlikai Gojju – Made from local Pomelos marinated and aged with care
  2. Kosumbari – Soaked Urad Dal with fresh cucumber and coconut tempered in South Indian style
  3. Kalule Palya – A dry sabzi made from seasonal and locally procured fresh Bamboo shoot
  4. Halsinkai – A dry sabzi made from seasonal raw jackfruit
  5. Bendekai Gojju – Tender Okra fried in South India masala or gravy
  6. Hurlisaru – Horse gram curry
  7. Kaima Unde – Pan sauteed Mutton balls cooked in local spices
  8. Eery Fry – Mutton liver cooked in freshly ground black pepper masala
  9. Kesa – A dry sabzi made from healthy and iron rich Colocasia leaves

Course Two

10. Holige & Thupa – Sweetened and light Dal stuffed pancakes served with ghee
11. Kadubu – Rice dumplings served with a local chicken or vegetable curry
12. Gangalada Dosa with Meenu Masala – Local ‘Oul’ River Fish served with pan steamed and tawa roasted Dosa
13. Mavinhanina Gojju –  Mini Mangoes cooked in a sweet yoghurt masala with tadka
14. Steamed rice with Rasam – A peppery broth, flavored with tomatoes, onion and garlic
15. Mamsa Dry Fry – Succulent pieces of Mutton seared with fresh red chilli powder and spices
16. Curd rice – Soft rice with fresh yoghurt, chopped green chillies and cilantro tempered in South Indian style
17. Halagana Hittu – A traditional light sweet made with milk and flour
18. Kukus Payasa – Roasted poppy seeds, ground and slowly simmered in a sweetened milky concoction

malnad food at The Serai Chikmagalur

My hobbies include taking pictures of my food 😉


Holige & Thupa at The Serai Chikmagalur

Prashanth asking for more Thupa on his Holige!

Food for thought

Good food matters. But what matters most is the nutritional value it provides our bodies. As a result, Malnad food offers just that. A wholesome cuisine, where handmade dishes like Kaima Unde, Mavinhanina Gojju, Kesa and Halagana Hittu captured our hearts and created fond food memories. Hence, we ended our meal with gratitude by folding our banana leaves inwards, showing a sign of respect and gratefulness to the host, for the bounty we received.

skreem and bloggers at The Serai Chikmagalur

Winners of the Skreem Experiential Bloggers Retreat with the lovely ladies of Chikmagalur


Disclaimer: We were guests of The Serai Chikamagalur in association with Skreem. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

Photo credits: Dhruv Ashra of The Candid Theory & Vikas Badiger of Faces of Bengaluru

Have you ever travelled for food? Tell us about your fondest food memory 🙂

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  • Reply
    July 17, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Great write up! We must try the malnad cuisine on our visit to Chikmagalur!

    • Reply
      August 3, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you Saakshi! And yes, you should definitely get you hands on Malnad cuisine the next time you’re in Chikmagalur 🙂

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    August 3, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Like always, loved reading your post. You have taken pains to list out the Malnad delicacies that were served! As always great pics. The food looks so yum!

    • Reply
      August 3, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      Thank you Sandy! We are glad to know you love reading our posts 🙂
      Yes, the food served was definitely way above our expectations!

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