We love our feasts in Coorg. At weddings, festivals and family gatherings, not to mention innumerable other occasions when generous feasts are cooked up at a whim, there is always so much good food on the table that you might think we take it all for granted. But we don’t, and we prepare each and every one as carefully as the other. There’s plenty of planning that goes into a feast, but some of the most interesting things happen around it, away from the table, in little islands and pockets of time over the evening. Those glasses of brandy, whiskey and rum, homemade wines and liqueurs that always fill hands at any occasion in Coorg –big or small, special or everyday –never come alone, but bring along a procession of finger foods and ‘small snacks’ trailing after them. Platters of fried liver, mutton or pork, chopped into small, compact pieces that fit just right between thumb and forefinger, spicy, carelessly scattered with the potent little paringe mollu. There is always something for vegetarians too, but somehow, whatever it is, it never seems to remain in your memory or your taste buds like these meats. Pandi barthad is a dark, shiny, undulating landscape. You always scoop a spoonful or two onto your plate, pick up a piece with your fingers and pop it into your mouth. A bite into every tasty morsel releases a rush of kachampuli and lime, shockingly sour and delightful. Soft, succulent pork coated in a layer of fat, with just the right spice combinations, followed by a sip of whatever drink you favour. Its use of just three spices is deceptive, because its flavours were deep, rich and lingering. It may pretend to be a ‘small snack’, but it most definitely is much more than that. Pandi barthad invokes a host of memories: family gatherings where, invariably, men clustered together on verandahs, or outdoors; the nearby forest and coffee estate creaked loudly into the silent night. Voices were swallowed up by the darkness, and a much older Coorg was visible in the far distance: a Coorg of dark, dense forests, teeming with wild boar to be hunted and carried home in triumph. The women created their own, closed world between kitchen and dining room, excluding the men, but happily wandering out into the masculine preserve as and when they pleased – the advantages of being a Coorg woman are infinite! Familiar stories resurfaced and floated around, and well-worn jokes made their rounds yet again. Small children ran helter-skelter, shrieking with delight, playing games they had just invented, snatching helpings of pandi barthad as they ran. A few minutes later they would be back, tongues hanging out like little puppies, shouting for water as the spice hit their palates. Other memories of drums, and the haunting call of the long, curved horn of the Coorg band (valaga) playing at a wedding float to the surface too, and old conversations and images swirl around in your head. Images of aunts and mothers bustling around in peacock bright saris, welcoming guests, directing, play across your memory. For just a few moments, you watch the lovely scene from far away, immersed in a small, private feast of your own: pandi barthad on the small paper plate balanced on your lap, with a glass of something to keep it company held in your hand, and contentment envelops you in a warm cloud. Conversations ran on endlessly. Everyone seemed to have so much to talk about; nostalgia wafted around everywhere. Dinner was always a long way off at such gatherings, but it never seemed to matter, because by the time you got to the table, your senses had feasted in more ways than one.

There’s another, fabulous variation to this dish which will follow sometime soon!

Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is a widely published independent writer on food, wine and heritage, based in Bengaluru. Her features appear in leading publications. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

  1. Kaverappa Padeyanda says:

    The way you describe each recipe, the story behind it makes it very interesting. So always I will be eagerly waiting for your articles. I enjoy reading each phrase in it. Even if it is veg or non veg or related to any topic it doesn’t matter for me bcoz it always connects me to my joyful days of my childhood. I always enjoy…….Thanks!!!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kaverappa, you are one of the most enthusiastic supporters of The Coorg Table, and I really appreciate your writing in each time I post. It always motivates me to come up with something better. Do keep reading these pages, and posting your responses. I am working on the pickle recipe, you will hear about it in the near future. Warm wishes.Kaveri

  2. Veelma D'souza says:

    Hello Kaveri,
    Thank you for the recipe which shall be prepared.
    can this also be tried out for wild.boar.
    if you have recipes for wild boar could you please.share.
    warm wishes

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Veelma, yes of course you can use the recipe for wild boar, in fact you’ll get even more flavour. The original pork recipes were for wild boar, which was abundant in our forests at one time and were hunted regularly. Just make sure that you adjust your cooking time according to the meat, as you know, wild game cooks very differently from farmed meat. Warm wishes. Kaveri

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Ponappa Subbaiah, thanks very much for writing in. I’m so glad you like the stories – do let me know if you try the recipes, they are very easy to follow. And do keep visiting The Coorg Table! Best wishes. Kaveri

  3. Ashwin Uthappa says:

    Tried this out yesterday….added more pepper since I just love the spice…..came out amazing! Thanks for posting the recipe, Kaveri

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Ashwin, thanks very much for your feedback, I’m so glad you liked the pandi barthad. I love the sheer simplicity of this dish, and of course, you are most welcome to add whatever levels of spice you like.I am very fond of pepper too – in chops, keema…the list goes on and on.There’s another version of this dish I plan to share sometime later, a little more elaborate, but very tasty. Do look out for it. I wish more readers would post their experiences, like you, it makes everything so much more interesting! All the best. Kaveri

  4. Sunil Sharma says:

    Hi Kaveri ma’am

    Ma’am you have mentioned that a pressure cooker can be used after the 3rd step. Can you please advise how many whistles.

    Thanking you
    Sunil sharma

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Sunil, you can cook the pork for 10 mins in the pressure cooker, don’t forget to reduce the water by half.Allow the pressure to drop completely on its own before you open it. It needs just 10 mins, as you will be cooking it again in an open pan. I won’t say how many whistles, as each pressure cooker is very different, depending on its age and condition! Good luck with your pandi barthad, I am sure it will turn out delicious – let me know when you have made the dish. Warm wishes. Kaveri.

  5. Jishnu Sen says:

    Hi Kaveri, my friend Radhika Misra told me that you are one of the best food writers she knows and your website truly proves that. I was wondering ( and i must confess i havent been everywhere on the site yet) if you could share a recipe for pandi curry. been dying to take a crack at it.

    regards

    Jishnu

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Jishnu, thank you for visiting these pages – it’s really very kind of Radhika to have directed you here and with such generous words too. Made my day! Here’s a link to a classic Coorg pandi curry post on this website. It’s my grandmom’s recipe, and I still think it is the best of many versions I have cooked and tasted. You will find two recipes on the link – please try the pressure cooker version, and let me know how it turned out. Kaveri: https://kaveriponnapa.com/pork-tales.html

  6. Gopal says:

    Love your blog and the photos. I was in Coorg in May and along with the Pandi dishes I also happened to taste the mutton dishes made in a Kodava home and I must say that the quality and taste of the meat in Coorg is the best.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Welcome to The Coorg Table, Gopal, I’m delighted that you enjoy the posts and images on this page. I love to present our traditional cuisine in this way. It’s great to hear that you ate good food in Coorg and yes, the meat curries and fries are really delicious. Some of those dishes will be coming onto the blog soon, so do look out for them -in the meanwhile, I hope you will try out some of the recipes here, and let me know how they turned out. Best wishes. Kaveri

  7. Kushi says:

    Dear Kaveri, Love your pictures and recipes. But I’m unable to view the Pandi bhartad recipe. Could you pls send me the same. thanks a ton.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kushi, I’m so glad you enjoy the blog, thanks for writing. The recipe for pandi barthad and many other dishes will all be available in a cookbook. I hope you won’t have to wait too long for it, but in the meanwhile, please do try out some of the recipes that are posted, and I would love know from you how they turned out. Warm wishes, Kaveri.

  8. Maria. K says:

    Hi, I’ve been wishing , waiting and wondering when I’ll be able to access yr cookbook —-! Every time I think of making something based on the picture – I get disappointed as there is no recipe…. hopefully my wish will be granted some time soon!! Thanku

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Maria-I know, I know! I have been taking ages, but there are so many writing and other projects I also deal with, and life gets very rushed. Please bear with me a little while longer, and I promise you the best possible cookbook, with a lot of great material. Warm wishes. Kaveri

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