Badagas of the Nilgiris their unique food habits

The food, eating habits, preparations of some dishes as well as the ingredients used by the Badagas the native tribe of Nilgiris, who live mostly in the hilly regions of Ooty and Kotagiri are discussed here . (Badagas cook in a traditional mud pot known as MADAKE in traditional fire place – OLE) It must be mentioned that though many masala powders are available in the market, the Badagas use a specially prepared curry powder known as ‘BADAGARU MAASU HUDI’ in their preparations.

Many hotels and resorts in Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri (in the Nilgiris) serves some exclusive Badaga specials like THUPPADITTU & OTTU KUDI curry.

Some of the variety of Avarai grown by the Badagas of the Nilgiris.

Some Authentic Badaga Recipes

Avaray with Gaasu Udhakka (Beans with Potato Curry)

One of the favourite dishes of Badagas. No Badaga wedding would be complete without this curry

soak 3 cups of Dry beans overnight. Add Gasu [Potato]. say 2 or 3 pieces. Add Masu hudi – 3 spoons , salt – 2 spoons. Cook in cooker for 30-40 mins [ based on type of Avarai].

Fry onion & Mustard and pour cooked content into fry and boil for few minutes. If it is Green beans [ Hacchai Avarai], Cook for 15 minutes in pressure cooker. Enjoy with Rice.

Badaguru Koi Udaka [Badaga Chicken Curry]

(Serves- > 4-5) Chicken – 1kg
small onions – 500 gms
Koi uduka maasu hudi (masala powder) – 1/2 cup (or depending on how spicy you want it)
cumin seeds (jeera) – 2-3 tsps
saunf – 2-3 tsps
kas-kas – 2 tsps
cloves – 3-4
cinnamon – 1/2 inch
cardamom – 2-3
ginger – 1 inch piece
garlic – 8-9 medium size flakes
salt to taste
turmeric – a pinch
mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
small or big onions for seasoning
oil – 3-5 tbsp

Clean and wash the chicken pieces well. Marinate the chicken in maasu hudi – curry powder [see below to learn how to make Koi Udakka maasu hudi], salt and turmeric.

Warm the spices (cumin, saunf, kas-kas, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom). Grind them in a mixer along with ginger and garlic and keep aside.

Peel the small onions, wash and cut the larger ones into 2-3 pieces and fry in a little oil on low fire. Keep stirring the onions so that they are uniformly and thoroughly fried. Remove from fire, cool and then make it into a paste in a mixer.

Mix the onion paste with the marinated chicken. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and the onions. Fry till onions turn golden in colour. Add the masala-ginger-garlic paste and saute. Then add the marinated chicken and water (according to how thick you want the curry to be). Cook for 20 – 25 minutes or till chicken is done. It is better to use a pan to cook the curry than a cooker as the flavour of masala and spices usually does get absorbed into the chicken when a cooker is used.

KOI UDAKA MAASU HUDI (Masala powder for chicken gravy)

chillies – 1kg
corriander seeds -2 kg
cumin seeds (jeera) – 250gms
pepper – 50 -100 gms

There is no need to add other spices like saunf, cloves, etc. They can be added while preparing the curry. Roast the chillies, corriander, cumin and pepper seperately in a hard bottom pan on low fire. The colour of the spices should turn dark as our gravies are usually dark (nearly black) in colour. Be careful not to over-roast. Mix the ingredients together and get them ground in a grinding or pounding machine. Pounding is a better option inorder to maintain the flavour of the spices. Cool the masala powder as soon as after it is ground. Seive and store properly. This masala can be used for more than a year if stored well.

UDAKA MAASU HUDI (for other gravies like aavarai udaka, maasu neeru, etc)

chillies – 1kg
corriander seeds – 1kg
cumin seeds (jeera) – 100g
saunf – 100g
pepper – 100g
roasted bengal gram dhal (potto kadalai) – 1cup
bengal gram dhal (kadalai parupu) – 1 cup
red gram (thovarum parupu) – 1 cup
raw rice – 1 cup
turmeric – 50g
fenugreek (methi) – 50g
kas-kas – 50g
mustard seeds – 50g
clove – 20-25g
cinnamon -25g
cardamom – 50g
asafoetida – 5g
curry leaves – 2-3 bunches
nutmeg, mace etc – 1-2 (optional, but when used enhances the taste)

Roast all the ingredients (uniformly) separately in a hard bottom pan on low fire. Wash and dry curry leaves in shade and lightly roast them. Mix all the ingredients together and grind or pound in a machine. Cool the masala as soon as it is possible after grinding, on newspapers spread on the floor. If not cooled the heat in the masala may burn it, thus affecting the flavour and colour of the maasu hudi. Sieve and store properly.


Maida-½ kg
Sugar-¼ kg
Water-3-4 cups(very hot)
Salt to taste
Powdered cardamoms or khas-khas
Oil for frying.

Sieve the flour, add sugar, salt, and cardamoms and mix well. Then add 2 cups hot water to the flour mixing well with a long spoon. when the flour is thoroughly wet start kneading with your hands adding more water to get the desired consistency(it should be thick and smooth).

The batter should extend when pulled. Now take about a ladle of the batter in your left palm and pat it with your right fingers and deep fry in oil. Use water to pat as the batter could be sticky.

Squashed bananas can also be added. If it is difficult to pat pour a ladle of the batter directly into the oil.