Bengaluru has quickly emerged as one of India's most vibrant dining destinations with one of India's widest arrays of International cuisine options. Add the city's long established pub scene and newer craft breweries; you have a wonderful F&B mix that can hold its own against global culinary hotspots. With an eclectic mix of global restobars, restaurants that champion Indian regional cuisines as well as a dynamic street food scene, Bengaluru's heady F&B mix can be overwhelming. But what about local cuisine, signature dishes from Karnataka that has one of India's most diverse culinary landscapes? That's also an area where the state's capital won't let you down.
12 Local Dishes From Karnataka That You Must Try When In Bengaluru:
1. Bene Masala Dose
When I call this my favourite version of dosa, I almost always get a backlash of opinions from friends across South India. But I'll stick my neck out and say it again. Iconic eateries like CTR, Sri Sagar Hotel in Malleshwaram and Vidyarthi Bhavan in Basavangudi have been champions of the Bengaluru version of dose. It still hasn't lost its trademark crispness and golden-brown sheen over the decades.
2. Coorg Pandi Curry
Kodagu (Coorg) has one of the state's most distinctive cuisines that have evolved almost entirely with local ingredients even before 'farm to fork' was a buzz word. There's no dish that's more famous than the Pandi (pork) curry that combines two popular ingredients from Kodagu - Pork (wild boar in many homes in the past) and kachampuli, their own version of a Balsamic vinegar that is extracted from the ripe fruits of the Kodambuli fruit. Coorg Food Co. in Kalyan Nagar does an authentic version.
3. Donne Biryani
Bengaluru's signature biryani has to be the Donne biryani that takes its name from the arecanut palm cups that it's served in. This biryani is traditionally not as spicy as the Hyderabadi biryani; it gets its unique flavours from the short grain seeraga samba rice, generous quantity of mint leaves and the meat marination technique that also includes curd. This style of biryani is believed to have originated in the city's Military hotels a quintessential part of the city's foodscape since the beginning of the 20th century. Try this at iconic military hotels like Shivaji Military hotel or Ranganna (where it's not served in a donne)
4. Chicken Ghee Roast
Shetty's lunch home in Kundapura (near Mangalore) is a local legend. The restaurant does one of the most scrumptious versions of chicken ghee roast a coastal Karnataka special flavoured with bydagi chilli. Your best bet in Bengaluru is Oota (in Whitefield) that also offers a sinful prawn ghee roast.
5. Mutton Dalcha
The Hyderabad Karnataka region (also known as Kalyana Karnataka) in the Northeast of the state that includes districts like Bidar, and Gulbarga has its own distinct culinary identity. The Mutton Dalcha that combines mutton with dal is one of the most emblematic dishes here. Try it at Sulemani Chichas (at HSR Layout).
6. Bhatkali Biryani
Road trippers who drive from Mangalore to Goa can take some credit for making this biryani more famous. A popular food stop on this scene coastal route is Kwality hotel in Bhatkal that locals believe serves the best restaurant version of Bhatkali biryani. You can get a pretty similar version in Alibaba Café in Frazer Town. It's one of the only spots in town that serves a faithful rendition of the Bhatkali biryani marinated in a spicy onion masala.
7. Mysore Pak
Three ingredients - Ghee, chickpea flour and sugar, are all it takes to craft one of the state's most popular sweet treats that is believed to have been first invented in the Mysuru palace. The sweet takes its name from paka - the local word for sugar syrup. The texture of the traditional 'porous' Mysore Pak is meant to be slightly hard on the outside and yet 'crumbly' when you bite into it. Gundappa Sweets and Bakery (Majestic) has been one of the local flagbearers of this sweet for over seven decades. There's also Venkateshwara sweetmeat stall (Magadi main road).
8. Bisi Bele Bath
You'll hear the word 'bisi' a lot in Bengaluru. The city has traditionally loved its food served hot (bit). Bele refers to lentil and this flavourful dish combines rice, lentils and a medley of fragrant spices that is usually drenched in ghee. Many restaurants in Bengaluru top the bisi bele bath with boondi. The key to the Bisi Bele Bath is the masala that brings together an assortment of spices. Many traditional 'condiment' shops in Bengaluru including popular stores like Raghavendra Condiment stores in Malleshwaram sell this powder. Restaurants like MTR and Kamat's are popular stops for bisi bele bath.
9. Filter Coffee
From coffee snobs who hang out at hipster roasteries to a fine tradition of freshly brewed filter coffee, Bengaluru is India's unofficial coffee capital. I'm a big fan of the filter coffee in Bengaluru that's not as thick or viscous as its Chennai counterpart. There are scores of establishments where you can get your filter coffee fix including Brahmin's Coffee Bar and Filter Coffee (Kalyan Nagar)
10. Jowar roti
A staple from North Karnataka, especially in and around Hubli-Dharwad and Bijapur, this healthy bread (also known as Jolada roti) is available in eateries that specialise in food from the region like Brahmin's Kanavalli (on St. Mark's road) where it's also served as part of a jowar roti thali.
11. Ragi Mudde
Steamed finger millet balls are a popular staple in many parts of Karnataka including the Malnad region and the Mysuru-Mandya belt. A popular accompaniment is mamsa saaru (mutton curry). Bengaluru oota company (in Cambridge Layout) that offers a wide selection of traditional Karnataka cuisine is a great place to try this wholesome meal. You can also find ragi mudde at many military hotels in the city.
12. Chow bath
A concept that probably originated in Bengaluru's restaurants. It's essentially two dishes brought together on a single platter. There's the spicy Kara Bath or Uppitu (or what is also known as the Rava Upma) and the sweet Kesari Bhath (sheera or sooji halwa). Semolina (Rava) and ghee are the common ingredients but one's a savoury dish and the other is a sweet. This breakfast favourite is always served hot at spots like MTR, you can also order them separately; the kesari bath at Veena Stores in Malleshwaram is a 'hot' favourite.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. We already told you that Karnataka's culinary repertoire is exhaustive. But this is a good starting point to explore a taste of regional Karnataka cuisine in Bengaluru.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.