A food lover would go to any lengths (by that I mean climb mountains and cross oceans) to forage or hunt down, and savor good food. That said, a couple of weeks ago, a few friends and I embarked on a mission to travel across the city for an hour and a half to visit Coringa for an unparalleled taste of rustic Andhra food. I was quite curious about this restaurant that has been talked about so much in foodie circles, and looked forward to seeing what they had in store.
So far, my expectation of Andhra food has been built by the various Andhra-style restaurants in the city that have a traditional collection of dishes like Biriyani, Pappu, spicy starters and more. While most of them do not really have any ties to the original Andhra cuisine, a fusion of the spices and adulteration of chillies often does the job of transforming the dish.
The menu at Coringa was a pleasant surprise, with a list of delicacies that I hadn’t seen in any other restaurant, but reminded me of certain recipes circulated in my family through word of mouth, linking back to Andhra. In fact, it was indeed a culmination of family recipes passed down through generations and finally to the kitchen at Coringa by the restaurateur’s mother and grandmother. A perfect blend of home food that is presented beautifully, Coringa delivers comfort food that every cell in our body unknowingly craves for.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and induce our mouths to salivate, shall we?
It was an extremely hot afternoon (this was back in April, so you remember those burning days), so we began our meal with a Nimmakaya Rasam (Pudina lemon juice served with honey and pepper). The vibrant color of this drink is enough to refresh you at sight, and of course those tangy and punchy flavors need no description. This was again followed by Tomato & Pepper Rasam, simply because it was one of those days that we yearned for hot after cold just to warm our throats a little and drive our cravings wild for the whole meal.
The drive left us absolutely starving so we took no time to dig into Chamadumpa Fry (Arbi Fry). My father is quite a specialist at making this dish. Having a mouthful of it at Coringa suddenly reminded me of how long it’s been since I saw my dad work at it in the kitchen. The taste you ask? Impeccable! Have I ever mentioned that I do not like bittergourd very much? I bet a lot of you will share that feeling with me. However, I did brave myself to try the Stuffed Kakarakaya (Bitter Gourd) at Coringa which turned out to be surprisingly delicious. It had just a hint of bitterness to balance the spice and sourness in the stuffing. And Oh My! Deep fried anything seems to knock my socks off these days!
We then moved on to more familiar entrees like Bangaladumpa Cashew Fry (Potato and Cashew fry), and of course the world famous Mirapakaya Bajji that was presented in such a lovely way that it was hard to stop myself from ordering another plate.
You wouldn’t believe how quickly we can clean the plates with our palates at this place. You have got to dine at Coringa to experience that feeling. It was soon time to order mains. As you all know, I’m a sucker for Biriyani. While not many people (including the guys at Coringa) agree that there can be such a thing as Veg Biriyani, I still look for the best, and order up wherever I go. Despite their beliefs, Coringa’s Biriyani knocked the ball out of the park. Fragrant rice and vegetables that were so thoroughly mixed and delicately covered with succulent spice marinade, it is till today the dish I crave for at every second.
The manager also suggested Plain Rice, Mamadikaya Pappu (Mango Dal), Kandi Podi Rice (Spicy Lenthil Powdered Rice). You may think that these are what we make at home. Why go to a restaurant to eat it? Well that’s the specialty of Coringa. Taking a home food recipe and making it so fabulous that you’d rather eat it there than cooking at home. The Kandi Podi Rice certainly opened my eyes to the fact that we may all have Podi, Ghee and Rice at home, but only those who come from heritage know how to mix it in the right proportions and make it taste like heaven.
You can imagine how full my tummy was at this point, and understand that I could only make space for a tiny piece of Dibba Rotti and the flavorsome chutneys.
My meat-loving friends shared all these dishes and also enjoyed a beautiful plate of Grilled Baby Seer Fish, some Grilled Boneless Chicken and a potful of Kheema Biriyani before we all settled for one last bite of a special take on a traditional Andhra dessert exclusively available only at Coringa – Poota Rekulu (layered sheets of rice and sugar served with sweetened grated coconut). It was melt in the mouth, sweet, fattening, yet light and crunchy all in one bite. The best, swiftest and sweetest end to a big meal.
I would certainly visit Coringa again, even if I move to the other end of the world. And I suggest you do too, if you want a real taste of Andhra.
BOO! 😛 Just checking if you read this till the end.