Konaseema is a region in Andhra which has lush green paddy fields, quaint villages dotted with homes having tiled roofs, endless stretches of coconut groves, canals crisscrossing and the Godavari delta spreading out, creating mini islands or Lankas as they are called.
It is a land where life moves at a leisurely and gentle pace, where people speak in a dialect that is peculiar to the region. While technically Konaseema refers to the delta area of East Godavari district, the culture of the region applies to both the districts- East and west, lying in the Godavari delta. If you look at it in strict geographical terms, Konaseema lies in the region between Vasista Godavari on the North and Gautami Godavari in the South. For years, Konaseema and the Godavari have come to represent Telugu culture in their own unique way. Dotted with lush paddy fields, coconut groves, mango groves and cashew fields, and one of the most fertile lands ever, the entire Godavari delta and Konaseema in particular, developed a cuisine, that has been heavily rice and coconut based.
With its fertile soil, and lush fields, Konaseema has always been blessed with nature’s bounty, and has never had to depend on food from other areas. The cuisine of this region, is based solely on the local food produce and proximity to the sea coast, as well as the large number of canals, small rivers criss-crossing the region, has ensured that fish, prawns and crabs, are a staple of the region too.
A Brief History of the Godavari Delta.
To understand the culture and cuisine of the Godavari Delta, one needs to have a look at its historical background. The Kakatiya Empire that ruled from Warangal, one of the greatest empires down South, came to an end with the capture of Pratapa Rudra in 1323 AD, by the Delhi Sultanate, and the destruction of the city. It was around this time, that Prolaya Vema Reddy, who was a feudatory under the Kakatiya kingdom, declared his independence, and established the Reddy Kingdom. Initially located at Addanki in Prakasam district, the Reddy Kingdom later shifted the capital to Rajahmundry, and from 1325 to 1448 CE, they held sway over the entire Coastal Andhra region, till they were conquered by the Gajapatis of Odisha, and later on became part of the Vijayanagar Empire. The fact is that the Reddy Kings, themselves reputed warriors of note, and provided an effective bulwark against the Muslim invasions down South. Quite effective at guerrilla warfare, the Reddy Kings, made lightning raids, and recaptured the forts of Kondavidu, Vinukonda, and Bellamkonda from the Muslim invaders. Prolaya Vema Reddy the founder of the Reddy Dynasty, was given the title of Apratima-Bhudana-Parasurama, for bestowing a large number of Agraharas on the Brahmins. The reign of the Reddy Kings from Rajahmundry was also a period, when Telugu literature flourished under their patronage. They gave liberal grants to Brahmins, encouraged Vedic studies, rebuilt and renovated most of the temples, right up to Srisailam and Ahobilam in Kurnool district. The banks of the Godavari River, was the abode for numerous, poets, scholars, writers of Telugu language, and famous writers like Srinatha, Nannayya Bhattu, Potana, Errapragada all received patronage from these rulers.It is due to this historical background, that Coastal Andhra, has had lesser Muslim influences in its culture, compared to the Telangana region, where the Nizams and Qutub Shahis held sway.
Well with that brief history lesson, over here are some dishes that you would be finding in the Konaseema-Godavari districts.
Generally the Andhra version of Dosas are softer compared to the Dosa and generally referred to as Attulu. In Konaseema and Godavari districts, you generally have middle aged women, making these soft Attulu, by the roadside, often referred to as Putakulamma. The standard plain Dosa is called as Minapattu made of Minapappu (Black Urad Dal) along with Menthulu or Fenu Greek seeds, heated on a frying pan. This is generally eaten with coconut chutney, sambar or peanut chutney. While the default version is plain, this does come in different sizes too, including one called as the Cone Dosa, and fillings as per your choice. For a more detailed recipe check here
One of the more popular breakfast dishes in the region is the Pesarattu, a variant of the Dosa, made with Moong Dal and the toppings used are cumins seeds mostly. The more popular version of this Pesarattu in the Godavari districts, as well as Krishna and Guntur, is Upma Pesarattu, generally a combination of Pesarattu with Upma filling that is guaranteed to melt in your mouth. The best way to be eating the Pesarattu, is with green ginger chutney, makes for a terrific combination.
For a more detailed recipe check here
Non Vegetarian dishes
The most common non-vegetarian dishes in the Konaseema-Godavari area, is chicken and sea food. And this has to do with the topography of the region. The entire Godavari belt is the hub of the poultry business in the state, almost every village, town, mandal headquarters, in the region, will be having a poultry farm by default. The numerous streams, canals, rivulets crisscrossing the region, as well as the ponds and small lakes that you find in every place, ensures a steady supply of fish, prawns, crabs, shrimp. Add to it the proximity to the sea coast, ensures that sea food plays an important part here. Mutton is relatively less consumed in this region, compared to Rayalaseema, Telangana or even Krishna-Guntur region. One thing to note, non-vegetarian is consumed by certain communities, notably the Kapus, Rajus (Kshatriyas), Kammas and Reddys here, as well the other OBC castes. Also while these communities generally consume non vegetarian, it is not served during weddings in the region, except the Rajus, for whom no wedding is complete without a non vegetarian spread. Also most of the non vegetarian dishes in this region are heavily flavoured with coconut milk, including the gravy.
Royalla Iguru (Prawns Curry).
Prawns are a favourite dish among the people in Godavari area, as well as the entire coastal region. Royalla Iguru is prawns cooked in Iguru that is thick gravy made with masala, spices and onions. You sure are advised to watch your calories if you are trying on this dish. This can be eaten as a side dish with rice or chapattis, makes a great accompaniment to both. In fact, so delicious this curry is, that quite often, you just finish off the curry first, it is spicy, hot, tangy, and has a delicious flavour that just melts in your mouth. If you are seeking a more detailed recipe, check here.
Natu Kodi Pulusu (Country Chicken Stew).
Pulusu is the stew we generally use in Andhra, typically sour, cooked with tamarind paste, or at times with tomatoes or mangoes. Natu Kodi Pulusu is generally one of the more spicier non vegetarian dishes, where you have country chicken pieces mixed with red chilli powder, turmeric, ginger and garlic paste. Again this dish is quite oily and very spicy too, generally taken as a side dish to rice or even chapattis. Also this is a country chicken with skin and bones here, so it might not really be up to every one’s taste, it can be a bit too strong, so keep that in mind.
Peethala Vepudu (Crab Curry).
Crabs are a favourite delicacy among the entire coastal region, and even more so in the Godavari districts, where the crab curries or the crab masala is one of the popular dishes. Making the dish however can be a really time consuming task, and often difficult. For starters most of the crabs are sold live, and you need to break the shell in such a way, that it should be a slight crack, but not crushed. After that the crabs need to be cleaned, boiled well, and it needs to be mixed with the right mixture of ingredients. While eating the crab curry, ensure that the shell is soft boiled enough to be cracked open, the flesh is the most delicious part. But when you finally break the shell, dig into the soft tender flesh, the entire effort is worth it, just for its sweetish and delicious taste. If you are attempting this curry, check out the recipe here.
Kodi Pulao (Chicken Pulao)
While the Hyderabad Biryani is rightly famous in its own way, the Andhra Chicken Pulao or Kodi Pulao, is a completely different dish. In Biryani, you arrange the meat (cooked or raw) and the partially cooked/boiled rice in layers, and then cook them in an air tight vessel or pot. The juices released by the meats, and the steam released by the air tight containers, cooks the dish. In Pulao, you mix the cooked meats with uncooked rice, together. Also while Hyderabadis would go for a Biryani without any second thoughts, people in the coastal Andhra region, prefer the Pulao. In keeping with the culinary tradition of the Godavari region, coconut paste, poppy seeds, with generous garnishing of yogurt is used.
Konaseema Chepala Pulusu
With Konaseema being famous for its fishes, you should be trying out this dish, which is basically fish cooked in a tamarind sauce with ground spices. The fish used here are generally mackerel or tilapia, and do ensure it is well cleaned, to avoid any unpleasant smell, coming out. This is one of the numerous non-vegetarian curries offered on the 3rd day of Sankranthi in Andhra Pradesh, called as Kanuma. Generally it is the day, when the son in law of the household is treated with non vegetarian dishes, in his first visit to his in laws home after marriage.
For the Veggies
And for this that abhor any form of meat dishes, and are strict vegetarians, worry not, Konaseema-Godavari region, throws up a plethora of delicious, vegetarian dishes. With its fertile fields, fresh farm produce, vegetables and fruits, the possibilities are endless. A typical meal in an Andhra household would consist of the following ingredients.
Pickles (Pachadi) – No meal is complete without a pickle of any sort, and it can be used as side dish, or even mixed with rice. The pickles range from mango, ginger, tomato to beetroot, carrot. In fact name the vegetable or fruit, and you have a pickle ready for it.
The pickle shown here is called dosa avakayai, basically a mix of cucumber pieces (dosakaya) with the traditional mango pickle (avakayi), and is one of the more popular ones.
Pappu(Dal)- The most commonly used dals are Toor Dal( Kandi Pappu) or Moong Dal( Pesara Pappu), which are mixed with a vegetable usually. One of the more popular ones is the Mamidikaya Pappu, which is Dal mixed with raw mango pieces.
Another popular dish in the Godavari region especially is the Beerakaya Pappu; dal mixed with Ridge Gourd, in fact a staple in most homes.
Along with the dale, or papa, the next course is the Charu or Rasam, primarily a soup made with tomatoes or lentils. The most popular of the rasam, is the Ulavacharu, generally taken during the colder times, in winters or rainy season. The Ulavalu or Horse grams are a staple item in most families in Andhra, and it also has medicinal properties. It is believed to be an effective aid against formation of kidney stones, and also an effective antidote against cough and cold too. In fact for people suffering from cold in Andhra, the best medicine is believed to be a bowl of steaming hot rasam, mixed with spices. Compared to the traditional rasams that are lighter, the ulavacharu is a bit more thicker, and more often than not, served during special occasions. Generally Telugu people love their dal and rasam, and you have umpteen combinations, including pappu charu, where the dal and rasam are mixed together. And finally the last item on the course would be curd; no meal in Andhra would be complete without it. There is a good reason for it, with most of the curries, both veg and non veg, being spicy and hot in nature, the curd acts as natural coolant in the stomach, ensuring you do not end up with ulcers.
What I have mentioned in this article, is only one part of the Andhra cuisine, it is in fact so vast and diverse, that I would need more posts to complete it. In fact the sweet dishes of Andhra Pradesh by itself would make a separate topic. And then you have cuisines specific to Telangana, Rayalaseema, Nellore, Krishna-Guntur, that would need a separate coverage altogether.