A food trail through Andhra Pradesh is bound to leave visitors salivating - not only due to the generous use of spice, but also because of the sensational blend of flavours that come together in this cuisine.

The popularity of a cuisine can be best judged by how sought after it is outside its area of influence. Nowhere is this more evident than Andhra Bhavan in New Delhi, where hundreds queue up every day for a taste of fiery dishes, even though the capital has numerous international and regional cuisines on offer. In Andhra pradesh, the Andhra meal, which is called 'bhojanam' in Telugu, is a routine that is not tampered with any given day. While the number of items on the table never changes, the style of cooking each dish varies across the state. Rice, however, is the staple food that is eaten with most meals. The state is also famous for some delicious sweet preparations and pickles.

Andhra Bhojanam:
A typical meal in Andhra Pradesh, eaten for lunch, consists of rice, curry (which is usually dry), pappu (dal/lentils), chaaru (rasam), pulusu (sambar) and perugu (curd), all of which are eaten in the exact order they have been mentioned in, with rice. The order is strictly followed as it is believed that food gets properly digested when eaten in this specific sequence.

The items with high carbohydrate and protein content (curry and pappu) are eaten first and are then followed by charu and pulusu, which help in digestion. Items such as chaaru, pulusu and pappu typically contain hing (asafoetida) in them, which is not a common ingredient in north Indian food. Sometimes, appadam (papad) and pachadi (pickle) are served with meals.

Most items prepared in Andhra bhojanam (curry, pappu, chaaru and pulusu) have a common base called popu, which is made by adding mustard seeds, cumin, chana dal, curry leaves and dried red chilli to a tablespoon of oil.

Arguably Andhra's favourite curry, the gutti vankaya kura (stuffed brinjal curry), is native to the Guntur district. A single piece of brinjal is slit six times and a powdered mix of chana dal powder, salt, red chilli powder and cumin is stuffed into it. The brinjals are simmered for about 12-15 minutes before being served with rice. Kanda bachali, made out of boiled yam and red vine spinach, is another popular curry. It is usually served during special occasions.
The Godavari districts are known for pulasa fish curry, made out of pulasa or hilsa (a type of fish), which is considered to be the queen of fish, and breeds only in the backwaters of the Godavari. This fish is mixed with bhindi (lady's fingers) and butter and cooked in groundnut oil. Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam is famous for Bongulo chicken curry, which is cooked in bamboo shoots. In the Rayalaseema districts, natu kodi curry is extremely popular.

The fiery dish is made by marinating chicken in spices. It is usually eaten with ragi sankati (boiled finger millet, instead of rice). Royyala vepudu (prawn fry), mutton curry and kodi vepudu (chicken fry) are also popular dishes. Kantri chicken consists of chicken leg pieces marinated in Andhra spices, and then fried in oil.

Lentils that are cooked along with raw mangoes, yellow cucumber or green leafy vegetables is known as pappu. It is flavoured with hing and tamarind juice. Onions are not usually added to the dish (unlike north Indian dals). Otherwise pappu can also be eaten plain, with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder and mixed with rice.

This preparation is generally made with vegetables such as pumpkin, okra, radish, drumsticks, etc. that are flavoured with tamarind juice. Chepala Pulusu (fish pulusu) is savoured in various regions. Pachchi Pulusu is a Rayalaseema speciality which is made by simmering onions in a lot of tamarind juice till the stew becomes thicker than usual pulusu. Majjiga pulusu (made with curd) is Andhra's version of kadi.

The most famous pickles in Andhra pradesh are avakaya and gongura. Avakaya is made by cutting raw mangoes into small pieces and adding them to a mix of mustard powder, red chilli powder and oil. The pickle is typically prepared in the first month of summer (April) in large quantities. It is generally eaten with a mix of plain dal, ghee, and rice.

Gongura is another famous pickle made of fried roselle leaves, mustard seeds and chillis. Dosavakaya is prepared in the style of avakaya with yellow cucumber. Allam pachchadi (ginger pickle) is usually eaten along with vadas.

Putarekulu is a famous sweet in the East Godavari district. It is made by filling rice paper with powdered sugar or jaggery and then folding it. Another popular sweet is Kakinada kaja sugar syrup is folded into dough made of maida (refined wheat flour) and deep fried in oil. Kakinada is also famous for mamidi tandra, which is a sweet leather made of mango pulp.
Tapeswaram kaja is a folded dough of refined wheat flour deep fried and then dipped in sugar syrup.
Bandar laddoo and bandar halwa are popular sweets made in the Krishna district, so famous that they are literally synonymous with Bandar, which is the old name of Machilipatnam.
Sunnundalu is a ladoo made out of urad dal. Arisalu and flatbreads stuffed with rice, jaggery and sesame seeds, prepared during Sankranti. Kajjikayalu is the Andhra version of gujiya stuffed with coconut, Burelu is jaggery mixed with rice, dipped in flour batter and deep fried.

The Krishna district is known for the various podis (powders) it makes. Not just gunpowder, but powders made of several other items are also available here. These powders are versatile and can be eaten with almost anything. Usually, they are added to curries, or eaten with idli or dosa or pickle and rice. Pappula podi (channa dal powder), kandi podi (gun powder) and karam podi (chilli powder) are the most popular of these powders.

The most popular out of all Andhra snacks is the mirapakaya bajji, or mirchi bajji in short. Large green chillis are stuffed with masala, dipped in channa dal and then fried in oil. Punukulu-dumplings fried in oil-are also a favourite amongst roadside snacks. Muruku is a savoury dish made out of channa dal powder or rice powder. Pesarattu, a kind of dosa made out of green gram, is unique to Andhra pradesh. It is generally eaten with upma, sambar and ginger chutney.


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