Whenever we went on a picnic, there was always mor kool, wrapped up in wilted banana leaves. Never mind the more exotic, rich, dry-fried meats and other delicacies that were part of our picnic, but there was always mor kool -curd rice. Tiny flecks of green from a chopped chilli; refreshingly crunchy, fresh ginger and the odd curry leaf or two, and dark dots of mustard seeds against the white of the rice. It was cool and soothing on the hot, North Indian summer nights which is when we usually set out on large, community picnics.It turned up on long car journeys too, slightly messy, but always welcome. 

Decades later, when summer temperatures in Coorg began to soar higher than we ever thought they would, my mother-in-law and I would sometimes eat a comfortable helping of just mor kool and pickle for lunch. I have forgotten how many times I have made a solitary, deeply satisfying meal of mor kool with a generous scoop of dark, bittersweet kaipuli chutte pajji, the charred flavours of this quintessential Coorg bitter orange chutney melding perfectly with the seasoned rice and curd.It took many years more to link this ultimate comfort food to journeys across Coorg, when mor kool was carried in a small package, wrapped in a double layer of softened banana leaf, flavoured with just ginger and turmeric. Koopadi – wrapped and parceled food –filled with remembered tastes, carries so many subtle differences of occasion and emotion, it would not be possible to express all of them at one time. A series of images emerged from shared stories: of schoolchildren with a banana leaf parcel wrapped over again, carefully, in a handkerchief, a chunk or two of lime pickle wedged beside the moist rice to last them the walk to school and then back again. Of men setting out to graze cattle with the comfort of a weighty package to be eaten in solitude, in some wilderness, silence all around.It is easy to imagine these scenes, during this summer that never seems to end, and wish oneself on a hillside in Coorg with just a package of mor kool and pickle for company -although it is not always possible to travel back to places we have left behind.

All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa
Photo Credits: A.G.P Sathyaprakash

Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine. She is the author of The Vanishing Kodavas, an acclaimed cultural study of the Kodava people, and a collection of Kodava poems, A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu. Kaveri is an acknowledged authority on Kodava culture, history and food traditions.

  1. Gautam Cariapa says:

    Hello Kaveri,just to share something from Venezuela,they make something very tasty but with a cornfllour base filled with chicken,pork ,beef,green olives,and sultanas and are called Hallacas.They are double wrapped in smoked plantain leaves and boiled.It is served with special ham bread ,baked leg of pork,Russian salad .This menu is served for Christmas.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello, that sounds very much like tamales, which I have enjoyed in Oaxaca. Hallacas seem to have some interesting additions and combinations. Thanks for sharing. Kaveri

  2. Kausalya says:

    Kaveri I started with the Baklava and kinda ended up here in Mor Kool.
    In Madras where my parents grew up , the previous day’s rice would be soaked in water. The next day morning it is mashed well, curd added a pinch of salt and our version of Mor Kool. Generally tender mango pickle or Mavudu as we call it is eaten with it. Perfect for the hot summer months..

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kausalya, so glad you read the article on Baklava-it is a special one for so many reasons, not least the immense dedication to laboriously handcrafting a sweet in an era when everything is about speed and the moment. Mor Kool is the most soothing of comfort foods, and I can imagine how you must have enjoyed it in Chennai’s summer months. I love Mavudu pickle, which I pick up from an organic store. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  3. Swetha Mahesh says:

    I reside in Australia, but every time I read through a post of yours it transports me back to a lush green estate in Madikere . I would like to tell you Ma’am that I am an absolute fan of your writing, every detail is so well articulated there is something magical about it. Thank you for the brilliant work and thank you for the joy it brings to so many of us all around the world.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Swetha, welcome to The Coorg Table. Thank you very much for writing, and for your generous appreciation of what I do. I love to cook and share food with people, and it’s wonderful when someone writes from halfway across the world about a post that strikes a chord. I hope, that with my cookbook, I will be able to share much more with you. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  4. Kaverappa Padeyanda says:

    Mor kool looks so simple, but combination of Mor kool with pickles made of Ambate, mango and also kaipuli pajji makes it so special, also a best choice for summer… Thankyou for posting…

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kaverappa, ambatte pickle is something we hardly see these days, but it has been my favourite as far back as I can remember. It goes well with everything, but especially with mor kool. I’m happy you enjoyed the post! Warm wishes. Kaveri

  5. Kishore says:

    Every south Indian state has a version of this ultimate comfort food. I know of an entire generation of ‘un-adventurous’ cousins who refused to try something different ! There is no real underlying flavor other than the predictable tartness of the yoghurt which in Kerala meant ( ‘thair pulichu). The lime pickle or ‘ chettu manga ‘, that we served in Kerala, just added a different layer of flavor !!
    Delightful indeed

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Kishore, yes, it’s difficult to count the variations on this slender theme of rice and curd. As you say, the accompaniments make all the difference, and that’s where the secret lies. My personal favourites are lime pickle, and burnt bitter orange chutney. It’s one of the most soothing dishes ever invented! Kaveri

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