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A mango snob, an Alphonso and a mango ‘idli’

The best way to enjoy the mango season in the grand, old royal city of Mysuru is to have a mango idli. But not any old mango

Alphonso mangoes (left); and mango idli. (Photo: Istockphoto and Samar Halarnkar)

By Samar Halarnkar

LAST PUBLISHED 03.06.2023  |  09:50 AM IST

Travelling from Bengaluru to Mysuru for a mango festival seemed a bit much, notwithstanding a new expressway. But there was no excuse left when our friend, Afzal, and his two daughters said they were flying in from Noida, Uttar Pradesh, for said festival.

We set off early one morning, battling our way through Bengaluru’s traffic—yes, even at that hour—for nearly 90 minutes before we hit the expressway. It took us just over an hour from outskirt to outskirt, where once it took almost three hours.

The expressway was fine and smooth but entirely lacking soul and food. In the haste to inaugurate it, proper exits to familiar restaurants and food had not been created and a host of familiar towns were reduced to blink-and-miss-it highway signs.

Gone were the grand arches welcoming you to “toy town" Channapatna, “silk town" Ramanagara and Tipu Sultan’s old capital, Srirangapatna. Economic desolation had hit hundreds of businesses that once obtained their clientele from the old highway. If this was the price of progress, I was willing to forsake it. Anything for a thatte idli and Maddur vada.

I did see hasty, makeshift exits for thatte idli, literally plate idlis, named for their size, but when you are on an Indian expressway, it’s hard to stop. When you have momentum, you keep going—at least I do. As for the famous Maddur vada that I used to stop for in Maddur, I never saw Maddur this time. It was like it had been wiped off the map.

By the time we reached Mysuru, we were ravenous and I drove straight to Hotel Original Vinayaka Mylari in a lane in Nazarbad. The hotel’s name has been modified to distinguish it from the copycats across town. It serves up a soft dosa of the same name, a mylari dosa, with a vegetable curry, not sambar.

It was too late. The lines on a Sunday spilled out into the lane outside and we were told to wait at least 40 minutes. We walked over to a similar mylari hotel nearby but that too was full. We gave up and drove to a tourist trap with perfectly adequate dosas.

The thing that struck us most about Mysuru, apart from its leisurely pace and sylvan roads, was its vast collection of old houses, many in mint condition, some renovated and some run-down. Either way, many were intact and had not been torn down—as is the norm in Bengaluru—for gaudy apartment blocks.


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It was a particularly grand, rambling bungalow that served as the site for the mango festival, a happy collection of mangoes, mango aficionados and artists, including singers and fire jugglers. As we walked up the driveway—yes, Mysuru still has driveways—we were distracted by Harish Acharya’s little table at the entrance.

An amiable, rangy man, Acharya was offering what looked like idlis steamed in leaves. They were irregular and rough, not round and perfect.

We were intrigued. Acharya, a farmer, said these were—appropriate to the festival—“mango idlis".

Acharya's mango idlis. (Photo: Samar Halarnkar)

We tried one with simple coconut chutney—and we couldn’t stop at one. They were light, fluffy rava idlis with just a hint of sweetness, which Acharya said came from the mangoes. I had never heard of mango idlis. He said it was his own recipe. How, I asked, did he think of a mango idli?

“It just came to me," said Acharya, grinning.

It all began at a local organic market that Acharya and 18 farmers organise every Sunday, from 7-10am, in the Mysuru neighbourhood of Vijayanagar.

“Some of them complained, ‘Harish, we need something to eat,’" said Acharya.

“I said I will make some dosas. All the customers used to stand around and say, ‘Give us some also.’"

So, on Sundays, in addition to being a farmer, he’s a cook, offering his customers plain dosa, masala dosa, ottu shavige, or vermicelli, and soppina dosa, made with spinach or other greens. He also makes bisi bele bath—rice with lentils and spices, supposed to have originated in Mysuru’s royal kitchen—and lemon rice, or chitranna, with raw mango.

Acharya was kind enough to part with his recipe, which I tried out one evening. I did not think it was as delicious as Acharya’s but the family—as families tend to be—thought it may have been better. I think the difference was the mango.

I sampled more mangoes at the festival than I ever had and some were decent. You see, I am a mango snob. You may wax eloquent about the Langda or the Dussheri or whatever, but, sorry, there is only one worthy mango.

The mango festival in Mysuru. (Photo; Samar Halarnkar)

The pulp I used in my mango idli was from a juicy Alphonso. If I don’t get an Alphonso, I would rather not make the mango idli or, for that matter, eat a mango. There, I said it. Kindly excuse.

Serves 4-6


Two cups idli rava, soaked for at least one hour with about a cup of water, which should be just above the rava after mixing. Add more if you need to.

In a food processor, grind:

Pulp of one-and-a-half mangoes
Half cup grated coconut
2-3 tbsp fresh, chopped coriander
2 green chillies, chopped
Half inch piece ginger
Salt to taste


Add the mango-coconut mix to the rice rava. Mix well. Pour the batter into an idli steamer, grease individual idli holders with a drop of oil and steam till done, usually about 10 minutes. Serve hot with sambar and chutney and a drop of ghee if you wish (I would never). If you want a sweeter version, add a teaspoon of jaggery or sugar to the food processor when grinding.

Our Daily Bread is a column on easy, inventive cooking. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking—And Other Dubious Adventures. @samar11 on Instagram.