Mention the word ‘Mattu Gulla‘ and it is sure to bring a glimmer to the eyes of anyone hailing from Udupi or the Dakshin Kannada region. A unique variety of brinjal native to the village of Mattu, about 10 km from Udupi, this one is a seasonal favourite in this part of Karnataka. Available from October to May each year, Mattu gulla is known for its round shape, green colour (which is pale on top and more dark at the base), light stripes on the outer skin and crown with thorns.
The seeds are sown just after the rains and the crop harvest commences from mid October and concludes just before the onset of the monsoon in June. It is an integral part of Udupi cuisine and the first harvest of each season is mandatorily offered to Lord Krishna of Udupi. It is also a significant offering during the paryaya which is a biennial festival that happens every even year of the Georgian calendar. It is a ritual wherein the puja and administration of the Udupi temple is handed over from the current mutt (one of the Ashta muttas) to the next one. The event happens in January and the next one is slated for January 2024.
Since the season has just begun, it is time to enjoy the vegetable in more ways than one. Sambhar, curry, gojju (a thick, pulpy gravy) and fritters are some of the most popular ways to use this vegetable. Again, every household has its own variations and the sambhar can be prepared in many ways. While some add toor dal with the conventional sambhar powder, others boil the cut vegetable along with tamarind paste and green chillies. Fresh coconut and red chillies are added in the form of a finely ground paste and the mixture is boiled well. Fresh coriander and a tempering of mustard seeds and asafoetida in coconut oil is added. Yet another way to make the sambhar is to add a generous amount of well boiled toor dal instead of the ground mixutre along with jaggery.
Another popular way to use this gulla is by roasting it over the fire just like Baingan Bhartha. Remove the skin after it cools down and extract the pulp. Crush in plenty of green chillies and then add either tamarind or curd. Add salt and finish with a tempering of red chillies and mustard with a pinch of asafoetida. This also has several variations and in Konkani cuisine, they normally add a ground mixture of coconut, red chillies and tamarind to the extracted pulp. It is mixed well and then finely chopped onion, green chillies and ginger are added. Coconut oil is added on top for a smooth texture.
You can also make a curry by cooking gulla with green chillies, salt and jaggery. Add in fresh coconut and give it a good mix. A perfect addition to rasam rice!