4 Andhra recipes for the summer

In Andhra homes, menthi majjiga is on regular rotation in the summers. (iStockphoto; representational image)
In Andhra homes, menthi majjiga is on regular rotation in the summers. (iStockphoto; representational image)


Popular imagination colours most Telugu food a fiery, spicy red. But the cuisine has a whole host of cool or cold foods that are perfect for summer and require almost no time in the kitchen

With the heatwave in north India, and temperatures hovering perilously close to 50 degree Celsius, the uninitiated frown in confusion when faced with the prospect of an Andhra meal. The picture that comes to mind is red, oily, and spicy food – swimming in gravy, requiring them to gulp gallons of water later.

Understandably, generic restaurants that serve south Indian food do not dispel this notion, given the pulls and pushes of commerce, and the fact that home-style dishes don’t always translate well to restaurant consumption. However, most regions of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana deal with scorching hot temperatures through April and May, before the monsoons help calm things down. With this, traditional cuisines of both these regions have dishes that are remarkably different in texture, consistency and flavour profile through the summer months.

A few books have helped readers understand Andhra food with deserved complexity. The most popular in recent years has been Five Morsels of Love by Archana Pidathala, which came out in 2016. The self-published effort brought Vanita Vantakalu a popular 1974 Telugu cookbook by the author’s late grandmother Nirmala Reddy into English, also upgrading it for the contemporary reader and cook. In 2000, The Essential Andhra Cookbook by Bilkees I. Latif brought together the flavours and food customs of a unified Andhra Pradesh (before the formation of the state of Telangana in 2014), by also throwing light on Telangana and Hyderabadi food that are distinctly different from Andhra cuisine. More recently, in 2019, Komala Sista Rao’s The Andhra Cookbook: Traditional Vegetarian Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen documents not only recipes but also the combinations of dishes traditionally paired with one another, whether to boost taste, compliment specific textures, or augment medicinal value.

As a starting point, here are a few simple recommendations, quick to make and easy to eat in treacherous temperatures.


The vadapappu (also popular in the Tamil regions as kosumalli) is a tangy salad, made of split moong dal that’s soaked in water for a couple of hours. The softened dal is then strained and tossed with a small bit of chopped green chilli and some fresh, green mango. With just a bit of salt to taste, this is a cool and nutritious snack – usually a welcome back home from school, or filled to the brim of little cups as a midmorning snack and quickly wharfed down when sitting, preferably, in the direct line of a desert cooler’s draft. The tart crunches of the mango with one or two shocks of the green chilli, all between the soft and lightly nutty dal is a perfect summer flavour combination – light, fresh and tangy. Plus, the salad helps stay full without feeling sluggish or having to spend too long in a hot kitchen.

Also read: Sip, savour, soothe: Unique regional summer drinks of India


Pesara kattu

This runny dal, again made of split moong dal (pesara pappu) is a regular feature in summer lunch menus in Andhra households. The more pragmatic appeal lies in the fact that its mild, soothing flavour is achieved without having to spend too much time at the stove. The more season-specific nutritive appeal lies in the fact that moong is light on the stomach and cooling for the body given its alkalinity. Also, according to a paper published in Food & Nutrition Research, moong is “particularly rich in protein, containing about 20.97 – 31.32% protein content". The dal is first pressure-cooked and mashed. A pinch of turmeric and a some salt are mixed in. The tempering is made in hot ghee – a teaspoon of mustard seeds is crackled, a similar amount of jeera or cumin is added and lightly browned; a little knob of ginger (usually grated) is thrown in with a couple of slit green chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida for aroma. This is added into the mashed dal and stirred in. Served with rice, this versatile dish is mild enough to work well with any subzi or achaar, too.

Pachchi pulusu

A cold and tangy soup of sorts, this is another dish that requires hardly any cooking. Tamarind pulp is diluted in equal parts of water. To this, a medley of finely chopped curry leaves, coriander, onions and a couple of slit green chillies is added. These are squished together by hand to release flavours. More water is now added, depending on the quantity required. To this, a few tablespoons of jaggery is dissolved in, with salt to taste. The final act of infusing aroma involves a tempering of mustard and cumin seeds, in very little oil. This is poured on top of the cold, raw (pachchi) soup, which goes well with rice, upma, or pongal. A version of this is made with peeled and lightly muddled flame-roasted brinjals, too.

Perugu pachchadi

Pachchadi, a word that loosely translates to a crushed or pounded, is a staple in most Andhra meals. A sort of chutney usually made to be consumed fresh, a pachchadi is made of vegetables and/or their peels, with strong temperings that bring in aroma and flavour. In summer, versions of these are made with curd, too. Especially when made with vegetables like cucumber which can be grated in and allowed to release their waters into the curd, this versatile side dish requires minimal cooking. However, using produce like bottle gourds and snake gourds, requires a bit more effort. These are first cut into cubes and cooked in water just enough to cover the pieces. Once soft, the pieces are salted, and a tempering of mustard and cumin seeds, along with a pinch of hing and a sprig of curry leaves is stirred in. This mix is cooled and transferred into a couple of cups of curd. Meant for rice, but given its tzatziki-like texture, works with pita, or as a dip with chips, too.

Also read: The pickle platter of India


Menthi majjiga

Essentially tempered buttermilk, this is yet another cool and flavourful dish, on regular rotation for most meals, especially can’t-be-bothered-dinners. The trick is in the tempering, which comes with the punch of fenugreek or methi seeds and carom seeds, in addition to the usual suspects: mustard seeds, urad dal (split black gram), jeera, a couple of split red chillies and a sprig of curry leaves. This is added to well-whisked, diluted and slightly sour curd. Cool, tangy and lightly spiced, it is served with rice. Another dish that requires barely any kitchen-time.

Bonus: Bellam panakam

The first panakam of the year is usually made first as prasadamon Ram Navami, a festival that coincides with the beginning of summer in the southern regions of the country. Over the course of the summer months though, it keeps coming back in tall glasses thrust into the hands of unsuspecting kids who’ve just returned from school or the playground. As the sun beats down, the drink – essentially a handful of jaggery dissolved in a few cups of water with a pinches of ground cardamom and pepper stirred in – helps manage dehydration and acts as a coolant. The mildly sweet drink is infused with a scratch of heat from the pepper and the freshness of aroma from the cardamom. Fresh yet soothing, it is tailor-made for Indian summers.

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