I was born and brought up as a Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin. Sounds quite heavy duty, no? Otherwise called Bhanap, this small community is mainly concentrated in Karnataka and can trace its origins to Kashmir. Our cuisine, however, is anything but like that from Kashmir. Mainly vegetarian, the food is simple, easy to prepare and delicious. When I was little, ‘amchi’ food – as it is called colloquially – would be prepared by my mother regularly, sometimes interspersed with other dishes.
Contrary to common thought, ‘amchi’ food is different from its Mangalorean and Goan cousins. Predominantly vegetarian, the cuisine covers a large variety of vegetables and at least five different ways in which each can be prepared. The Rasachandrika – the Bible for all Amchi women – covers each and every recipe from the Bhanap cuisine.
When Perzen of BawiBride asked me to contribute to the making of her e-book, Best Kept Secrets, I jumped at the opportunity. The question was which dish should I choose? There are so many – the quintessential Dali Thoy (a simple preparation of Tuvar dal with a curry leaf and red chilli tempering) or Tambli-Bendi (a combination of a coconut curry that is served with rice combined with a tamarind and red chilli curry with white beans) or even the Kayras (a coconut preparation using beans, capsicum, carrots and peanuts). Each has its own uniqueness, its own flavours.
Then, I asked my husband, who is a non-amchi, and he agreed that Batata Saung (yes, it is pronounced ‘song’) was definitely something different and really easy to make. Saung is a simple potato preparation made using onions, boiled potatoes, chilli powder and tamarind. The original recipe calls for whole dried fiery byadgi red chillies that are ground along with the tamarind. But, I follow the recipe like my mum would make it.