Much before arriving in Badami, I was contemplating where to feast with an authentic North Karnataka meal. North Karnataka has a distinct cuisine compared to its southern counterparts comprising Rotis made from Jowar/Bajra; raw salads, lentil based curries, cooling curds and an enhanced spice levels which is attributable to the climatic conditions. I think the universe was smiling at my thoughts and no sooner than I had completed my round of Mahakuta Temples, I found makeshift eateries laid out under century old banyan trees. Residents from the surrounding village had prepared food for the pilgrims at home set up stalls under the trees.With all the hectic marketing going on, the younger women were convincing scores of pilgrims to come their way !! Frankly, I was ignored, partly due to language and partly hesitation since they did not believe that a jeans clad city dweller would actually squat under the tree for a meal. Then my gaze met hers, the elderly Ajji (grand mother) pleaded with her kind eyes for she and her assistant were too old and frail to attract customers. I gravitated towards her, for love, patience and time hold the key to real taste of food.I was served everything she had in a roti for Rs 20/- that had to be kept on the palm and then eaten with the vegetables by breaking the sides. The roti was crisp and broke easily so that it could be used like a spoon to dip into the curries. The salad is a combination of cucumbers, raddish, mint, chilly and spring onion to be munched on the side.The boiled green mung was peppered with the chutney powder made from a combination of dals, chilly powder and groundnut. The dark brown channa was just salted right and was very easily chewable. It seems like Ajji had soaked it over days to get that texture. The Pithles are some thing like Gujarati Dhoklas made from powdered channa dal / besan but a lot more dense without the baking soda. It was soft and mushy and the shredded coconut sprinkled on it added an after taste.
The creamy home set curd in black pots was drenched in sugar but just what I needed to cool the spice. The most authentic food is from the home kitchens and no hotel no cook nor chef can bring that touch, since it is mixed with unconditional love. As I was walking outward towards the auto, spotted this man frying away potatoes and chillies with utmost concentration. They looked crisp and tasty and I grabbed a paper cone full for the road to Pattadakal.
Mahakuta is 12 kms away from Badami and is best visited as a part of the sightseeing circuit around Badami. Base yourself in Badami where there are hotels to suit every budget located in and around the Badami Bus Stand.
Badami is connected by rail and there are trains from Bangalore, Hubli, Bijapur every day. It is about a 12-13 hour journey from Bangalore. You can plan a day trip to Badami if you are planning to visit Hampi and station yourself there for a few days.