Regional Winter Speciality Karnataka

Roopa Rajan n, a passionate chef innovating readyto-eat nutrition-packed and chemical-free soups, pickles among other savouries, says cooking is her first love. Cooking inspires, rejuvenates and destresses, she says. From choosing and buying the finest ingredients, to perfecting the technique of preparation and finally mastering the aesthetics of presentation, she can spend hours in the kitchen, her haven. Here is the first in the series on food.

A cup of masala chai with justout-of-the-kadai crispy palak pakodas, a piping hot mug of filter coffee with fresh ridge goard bajjis, makkai ki roti and sarson ka saag, our humble cumin and pepper rasam and garlic rasam, avarekai rotti. The cravings are endless. Wondering what this prelude is all about or did you get the drift.

Well, we are in the thick of winter! Bengaluru winter this year has been particularly nippy, with rains unwilling to recede, and continuing well into the winter! The familiar picture here as elsewhere during the season: woolen clothes, dry skin, chapped lips etc. As the prelude reads, winter, I confess is so much about the seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs and the endless delicious dishes you can cook up, not to mention the hot beverages. Savoring special winter foods with your family and friends brings so much fun and warmth. Have you noticed that during winter, you feel hungrier and the craving for food doesn’t seem to end? Ever wondered why? Our body temperature drops and to generate heat, appetite is stimulated. Since food helps generate internal heat the body craves for foods which warm and nourish our body. According to Ayurveda, our digestive fire works best during this season, aiding assimilation of nutrients, making winter months the best to build, boost and strengthen our immunity. Pots of tea and coffee and kashaya (a concoction of herbs and spices) replace chilled juices, smoothies, milkshakes, icecreams and tender coconut. Cardamom/elaichi chai, masala chai and a host of other varieties with immunity boosting herbs make the rounds.

Well, we are in the thick of winter! Bangalore winter this year has been particularly nippy, with unprecedented rains, after a good 14 years! The familiar picture here as elsewhere during the season:woolen clothes, dry skin, chapped lips etc. and warmth.

I’m sure you will agree that winter foods have a special place in every Indian home.

Interestingly, food habits, flavours, taste, ingredients, techniques change every few hundred kilometres. Every region has evolved its own unique cuisines/recipes in consonance with the geography and in harmony with the culture; besides, nature knows best the needs of the human body and offers food grains, herbs, fruits and vegetables sumptuously for a balanced diet.

Every season has its own uniqueness and so the type of food. Man from time immemorial has learnt to use the seasonal produce to extract health benefits and minimise the vagaries of the environment and his own temperament. So, what’s the wisdom behind eating seasonal foods? You are assured of consuming fresh produce, sans preservatives and chemicals, and no wonder, the food tastes more delicious. It is better for the environment and easier on the wallet too! That’s great. Isn’t it?

The ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda advises the habit of Ritucharya ‘eating according to the season’. But today’s globalized world and advances in food preservation technology, chemical-induced growing in off seasons make available fruits and vegetables all through the year

This has led the present generation to less appreciate seasonal produce and the delicacies made from them. But let’s accept the truth, we all love food and the urge to explore new places and cuisines.

Eating what’s in season is perhaps the best way to explore and appreciate every kind of food. Seasonal foods and regional cuisines give us a wealth of knowledge about the rich and diverse geography, climate, culture, traditions, and of course the food culture of the region, be it cuisines, spices, vegetables and the usage and method and technique in the recipe to derive the best taste and nutrition. In that sense, every state reflects a wide variety of seasonal delicacies and so no matter where you travel in India, you are not going to be disappointed!

Talking about winter foods, every region or state has its regional winter specialties whether it’s lapsi (Rajasthan/ gujarat), kadhi (many parts of North India), gajar ka halwa, Undhiyu (Gujarat), tukpa (North east and Himalayan region), nolen gur Sandesh (West Bengal), makki ki roti, sarson ka saag (Punjab), raab, milagu rasam (Tamilnadu), beetroot thoran (Kerla) or avarekai dishes of Karnataka.

There are innumerable articles about winter foods of India. However, I have noticed that winter foods of Karnataka hardly get any mention. Being a Kannadiga, I thought of giving a peek into the winter foods of my state.

Let me begin with one bean that every Kannadiga, no matter which part of the world he lives in, craves for and relishes -- the Avarekai or Hyacinth bean. According to me, it is one of the most versatile bean, which finds its way into every possible dish -- be it saaru (rasam), sambar, bisibelebath, chitranna (lemon rice) idli, dosa, rava (sooji) uppittu, pongal, rotti, ghee rice and kurma, usli, the list is endless. Well, if you think it stops here, then you are in for a surprise. Several dishes are made by peeling off the skin of the avarekaalu such as hitkidhbele (peeled) saagu, hitkidhbele kootu. And then there are deep fried varieties of snacks that you can munch in the evenings with your chai or coffee, the hitkidhavare mixture, being the most famous. There is something for the non-vegetarians as well, hitkidhbele kaima gojju, hitkidbele mutton/chicken saaru to go with idli and dosa.

Why is avarekalu so sought after? How do you choose the best variety? Although its available all year round, what makes the winter avarekalu special. To understand this, you must familiarize yourself with the term ‘sogadu’. Sogadu refers to the quality of the bean that is harvested in December when the winter is at its peak, and it gets misty, and when the bean is at its best, in terms of size, aroma and flavour. These seasonal goodies come with a whole lot of health benefits and are a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

Do you know in a popular locality called V. V. Puram in South Bengaluru, a fair is held in its name? It’s called the Avarekai Parishe. An entire street (which in fact is called ‘tindi beedi’ or food street) of shops sell over a 100 different types of avarekal delicacies for almost 10 days. People from all over Bengaluru visit this street to relish the food. This, along with the Kadalekai Parishe (groundnut festival), held a couple of weeks earlier is the most awaited street-food festivals of Bengaluru.

These seasonal produces are cooked with various Indian spices with special mention of fresh ginger, black pepper, cumin and asafetida among others to make tasty, flavourful, digestible food to mitigate the vata which can affect digestion for some people. So, the wisdom of using these spices and incorporating these wholesome beans in season makes them very special.

Apart from avarekai the other very special produce of the season, which makes its way into every household is the Togrikai. Bassaru and uppusaru - a rasam made typically with greens, and togrikalu are best enjoyed with Ragi mudde or Ragi balls. Togarikai easily blends with any recipe, be it a soppu palya or a sambar.

Just add a fistful of this kai into any recipe and it gives a very unique and subtle flavour to the recipe. Other seasonal specialties include the alsande kalu or butter beans which when added to saagu, vegetable kurma, ghee rice, pulav renders a unique taste. It is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Winter is the best season to enjoy all kinds of greens. Be it palak (spinach), methi (fenugreek), dantu (Amaranth), harive, kirkire soppu, sirkh harive, kempu harive, anne soppu (water spinach), hongone soppu and kasi soppu. Anne soppu and hongone soppu are a winter specialty of Mysuru and Bengaluru region.

These are incorporated in the various regional recipes and cooked with very minimal ingredients and spices infusing a burst of flavours.

During these times, when fastfoods and packaged foods are taking over our dinner tables, it’s important that we spend time and energy recreating our ancestral cuisines and passing on the know how to our youth. Sticking to the earth’s seasonal growing routine helps us create sustainable eating patterns. Sustainable eating and seasonal eating go hand in hand as they rely more on natural resources and environmental conditions.

Seasonal and sustainable eating is not only good for the environment, it is also the way for a healthier and happier life. So now you know the winter specialty of Namma Karnataka. Make sure you try out some of these recipes before the winter ends. Next time you think about winter foods, do not forget avarekalu and togarikalu.

Here is a simple, tasty and nutritious recipe of Avarekalu Saaru, a dish made in every home during this season:

Avarekalu Saaru
  1. 1 to 1.5 cup avarekalu / hyacinth beans
  2. 1/2 cup of Togari bele/ Tur dal/Arhar dal
  3. 1 tsp tamarind paste
  4. 2 tsp shredded jaggery
  5. salt to taste

For Masala/Paste:

  1. 2 tbsp of shredded coconut
  2. 2 to 3 tsp boiled avarekalu and togari bele/turdal
  3. 2tsp of Rasam powder
  4. 1 tsp jeeraW
  5. 1 tbsp of roughly chopped fresh coriander leaves a pinch of asafoetida

No need to roast the ingredients. Grind the above ingredients into a fine paste and add it to pressure cooked mixture of Avarekalu and tur dal. Now, add tamarind paste, jaggery and salt.

Allow the mixture to boil for 10 minutes and switch off the heat.


Mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing, 1 red chilli (broken), curry leaves and ghee or oil. Heat oil/ghee in a pan. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing(asofoetida), curry leaves and red chilli. Serve with Hot Rice and Ghee.