As a part of my recent trip, I travelled to Melukote, Karnataka. Melukote, if not for it’s great historic aspects (there are too many-not sharing here), should ring a bell for it’s famous shooting spot in Narasimha (Padiyappa) movie, where RajniKanth gives judgement in a scene. He comes to the temple before every movie for lord’s blessings. Now, Melukote is also famous for one thing I have been searching for, after I had it in a homestay in Kudremukh trekking in Western Ghats, ‘Puliyogare’. Firstly, no! Puliyogare is not lemon-rice. Puliyogare has lots of versions in South-India, where people started calling every tangy version of rice-preparation as ‘Puliyogare’. But the Tamil-Nadu version is spicy with dry chillies, the Andhra version is full of mustards. Although the Tamil-Nadu version is very similar to Melukote’s, I found this better, personally.
Why is Puliyogare very famous here? Long long ago, a famous Iyengar Sri Ramanujacharya, who ardently follows Vaishnavism used to serve Lord Cheluva Narayana. The Iyengars settled here and the Puliyogare is synonymous to Iyengar’s cuisine. It was said that the Lord here loves Puliyogare/Puliyodharai and sakkar pongal. So, it became famous just like Laddu became famous in Tirumala. And the Puliyogare here is just divine in all terms of taste, looks and the aroma. The Sakkar Pongal also is not a trivial dish here. It was equally tasty with the generous amount of ghee, coconut grating and the sweet mixture of rice and jaggery boiled in milk.
I had it in a small shack of an iyengar and believe me, that puliyogare satisfied my 5 months hunger for Puliyogare ever since my Kudremukh Trek. The Puliyogare was aptly tangy, a very little bit bitter, the usage of powdered roasted urad dal gave it a coarse texture. The grounded black sesame gave it a greasy texture. To balance off the sourness and the hotness, a little bit jaggery was used. In every possible way, it would be the best puliyogare you could ever eat (If in case, you made a better one, please invite me).
After striking a conversation with the Iyengar, who takes a lot of pride in their hometown’s history and his Puliyogare, I was astounded that what I had was a second grade puliyogare. He said that they make the first grade only on special orders and large quantities as it would cost them much higher for commercial retail purposes and it only comes out good for larger quantities. When I asked why the Puliyogare elsewhere would not impart the same taste as their’s, he said that roasted Til seeds, asafoetida, mel powder (mix of chilli, dhaniya and urad dal) makes their Puliyogare stand out from the other variants. Even the usage of the type of chillis (Byadagi variety is what they use) can make a difference. And he shared a flabbergasting unknown thing with me. He said that they would use fresh Molasses liquid instead of jaggery for their first grade Puliyogare, which will add a tart-sweetness. I so wished that they had some 1st grade waala at home for me to try.
My search for Puliyogare ended here. Although Puliyogare sounds very lame to most of the people, it’s the pain that a certain food craving kills and the ecstasy that it brings while having matters.
Cost for one plate was 20 INR. The Puliyogare mix costed 70 INR for 250 gms.