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Spicy & Tangy

The fiery cuisine of Andhra Pradesh isn't as well-known as that of its southern sister  Tamil Nadu, but it serves up some tasty fare

4/1/2015 11:28:29 AM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

It’s a case of Two States – not brought together by love, but divided by politics. As a child growing up in India in the 1980s, Andhra Pradesh was one large southern state that grew one of the best varieties of rice, usually teamed with some of the country’s hottest curries. But like the fate of several other Indian states, this too has been split into Andhra Pradesh and Telegana, for political reasons causing much confusion. 

Thankfully, for me, Visakhapatnam continues to be part of ‘Andhra Pradesh’ and, therefore, unaffected by political moves. My family and I did two stints in this port-city or town as it was then – the first when I was a new-born and later during my middle school years. I don't remember my infant years, except from what my mother would recall nostalgically about the house we lived in and the affectionate, childless landlords who happily babysat me allowing her to complete her daily chores. In fact, the first language that I learnt to speak was Telugu! There was really no food memory attached to that age, except that Amma is ever grateful to Chit Ammuma (little grandmother as I called the landlady) for teaching her how to make the most authentic Avakai (mango pickle). Even today, all our relatives look forward to a bottle from her large Avakai bharani (jar).

After spending a decade in Bombay, my father was once again posted to Visakhapatnam. There was some initial anxiety as my mother had faced severe shortage of milk and variety of vegetables during our earlier stay. However, these worries were soon dispelled and we settled very happily into a large house with wonderful neighbours. I had started going to one of the most picturesque schools  - Visakha Valley School – situated between two hills and the sea right in front of us. It was here that I got a good taste of Andhra cuisine as we school girls shared our lunch.

My lunch box was usually filled with North Indian and Western dishes like stuffed Paranthas, Chapati rolls, Dhoklas or sandwiches, while the Andhra girls carried different varieties of flavoured rice (tamarind, lemon etc) or Dosais, Pesarettu, Idlis and the unique Dibba Roti. The last dish is an interesting cross between an Idli and a Dosai and is prepared in an iron kadhai. Made of batter similar to Idli-Dosai, the outside is usually golden and crisp while the inside is soft and spongy (almost like a cake).

Gonghura Pachadi is another popular spicy-tangy pickle that is a good accompaniment to both tiffin items or with rice. Andhraites typically start their meals by mixing a pickle or chutney with rice and a dollop of ghee – a delicious appetiser. 

We reconnected with our old landlords and this time I started asking Chit Ammuma for recipes. Our immediate neighbour – the very affectionate Rao family – always kept their kitchen open and fed us some delicious meals - Pappu (Dal) and Koora (vegetables). 

The four years spent in Visakhapatnam were so memorable and fun-filled that we have formed life-long friendships. Even today we make the effort to remain connected, try and meet each other and relive those days.

Soon we moved to New Delhi, but our connection with Andhra Pradesh and its food remains. Andhra Bhavan, in India’s capital, serves delicacies from this state and is a favourite haunt for journalists. And we continue to cook dishes like the Drumstick Rasam at home. 

While foodies may try to dissect the taste and flavours of the two states – Telengana and Andhra Pradesh – I prefer to live with my memories of an undivided place.

Here are some interesting recipes. Try them and cook up a storm or should we say cyclone! 

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