Andhra Pradesh, India's fourth largest state, is located in the south eastern coast of India and is the leading producer of red chilies and rice. Not surprising that Andhra cuisine is heavily influenced by these ingredients. Crushed Red Pepper forms a staple cash-crop of Andhra Pradesh, grown in the lush green fields and sprawling acres, exported all over the world to add a hot and spicy taste that is a wonderful accent to stir fries, pizzas and pasta dishes.
Andhra cuisine is known for its tangy, spicy and flavorful medley of coriander, chilli, fenugreek, cumin, tamarind, jaggery and sesame. The cuisine varieties change because of the diverse topology of native Andhra Pradhesh, ranging from Hyderabadi Nawabi Biryanis, Uttarandhra or Kalinga region coastal delicacies to Rayalaseema or Telangana meat and jowar specialties.
I grew up in a Andhra vegetarian household where pappu (dal/lentil based soup) and kurralu (curries), spiced pickles like avakai, maagai, gongura and dosavakai, pachadi (chutney/raita like saucy condiments) and podi (lentil based powdered condiment) served with a large scoop of biyam (plain white rice) were the norm at mealtimes.
|Tomato Pappu and Mixed Vegetable Pulusu - Photography credits "Sripriya Murthy Photography - Facebook"
The order of a meal is to start with modati mudda (first bite) with an appetizer of an ooragaya (spiced pickle) followed by a pappu, which is prepared with "soft" vegetables like tomato, gourds, raw mango or cucumber squash, eaten plain, or with a pickle accompanying it. Lentil forms the main source of protein for vegetarians and my twin daughters swear by "Pappanna" or rice and lentil pappu to make a satisfying meal. This is followed by a couple of kuras (curry/main dishes) and pulusu (stew) or sambar (thick or runny (based on your preference) lentil and vegetable soup with heavy tamarind and jaggery flavors) which add flourish to a proper sit-down Andhra meal.
Featured below are two of my favorite kuras - Gutthivankai Kura (Stuffed Eggplant Curry) and Kakarakai Kura (Stuffed Bitter Gourd Curry). Ah! The culinary journeys our families (my maternal, paternal and my married ones) have been through to enjoy these kuras!
|Gutthivankai Kura or Stuffed Eggplant Curry - Photography credits "Sripriya Murthy Photography - Facebook"
Small amounts of Neyi ghee add a hyperbolic grounding to steaming rice accompanying these pappus and kuras.
|Kakarkai Kura or Stuffed Bitter Gourd Curry- Photography credits: Vijay Jagannath
In case you were wondering about the chef whose signature dishes the ones featured are - its my Dad! I am still living in the finger-licking reminiscence of my parents' recent visit to our home...
|Mirchi Bajji or Chilli Fritters topped with Ginger Chutney
Mirchi Bajji is another Andhra dish to write home about. I remember our Tirupati visits being peppered by Mirchi Bajji stops. Bajjis made out of onions, gourds (especially beerakai) and Anaheim peppers punctuate the palette of Andhra cuisine with tangy, crispy, melty deliciousness.
Perugu (yogurt) or Majjiga (buttermilk) for the final course where Perugu (yogurt) is added to rice and consumed as a satisfying palette cleanser.
|Peruganna with Avakai - Yogurt Rice with Pickle
This is making me hungry for my own weekend special feast - an elaborate Andhra meal, an ode to my childhood, an excuse to call my Dad and Mom to discuss recipes and share pictures of gorgeous looking comfort food. But, before I go! The final rendition of the traditional vegetarian Andhra meal - paan (Areca nut on Betel Leaf). A colorful (don't worry, the stains fade in about an hour!), breath freshening digestive curtain call to a splendid gastronomic show!
|Betel and Arecanut "Paan" arrangement - Photography credits: Vijay Jagannath
I hope this feature post has given you as much joy as the well-loved dishes it features have to me, my friends, cousins, husband and kids over the years!
In case you are interested in the generational recipes for these favorite dishes, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.