We South Indians love to “break the fast” by relishing steamy Idlies. Idlies are non controversial food to start the day. They are rice cakes got after the batter is steamed. The batter consists of de-husked black gram and rice. It is the fermentation of this batter which breaks down the starch and makes the idly ideal for the metabolism of the body. Idlies go well with Sambar, the toor dal (dried and split pigeon peas) based vegetable stew with tamarind. Idlies from any kitchen is a delight, but when it comes from Udupi Hotel its authenticity is doubled. The tag line “Udupi hotel” is the benchmark for taste.
What is the secret behind the taste at Udupi Hotel???
The story goes back to Mahabharata time. When the war was inevitable, the kings from all over the country started to take sides. Udiyanjeral, the Chera king who was ruling the Udupi region of South India remained neutral. The King went to Sri Krishna and expressed his feeling about the war, he said, “O, Madhva, the war between the two cousins does not bring any change in the lives of the people of my region. If we participate in the war there will be only bloodshed, also we cannot completely ignore the Great War too. Me and my people will cook and serve food for all the soldiers participating in the war. Serving the army is also a way to participate in the war. Kindly permit me and my people to do seva by providing food.”
“True, someone has to feed the armies, so let it be from you.” Sri Krishna said.
There is a custom which is followed by the women in our house hold, the women folk cook food for the day such that it is neither in excess nor will be inadequate. It is the knack that every Indian woman is familiar with. Now the King of Udupi too felt that the food prepared should be well quantified so that there is neither dearth nor there is wastage. It is not a difficult task to prepare food to any number of people when the cook is aware of how many are invited. Here in the war there was no roll register to know how many survived in the battle at the end of the day. In the 18 days of war thousands and thousands of soldiers died each day. Amazingly the food prepared by the King and his men was well quantified never surplus or insufficient. Everyone admired the catering service by King of Udupi.
“How is it you are able to cook the exact quantity daily? No one can estimate the number of death each day. How is it possible to cook and serve for the exact number of soldiers?” asked Yudhisthira.
King of Udupi smiled and replied, “Sri Krishna likes to have boiled groundnuts after dinner. So, I peel the groundnuts, count them and place them in a bowl and live it in His tent. After he has consumed the bowl comes back to me. I count how many He has consumed. If He has had ten groundnuts, it means 10,000 will die in the war the next day. So the quantity of food to be prepared next day will be for 10,000 people less. Every day the number of groundnuts decides the strength of the team for which we have to prepare the food. Never has it gone wrong and hence there’s no wastage of food too!”
When the Lord has graced the King of Udupi and his people with the calculation of number of people to cook, will He have not granted them the ratio and proportions of the ingredients to be added to prepare the recipe???