SHOPPING IN COORG
Friends and acquaintances visiting Coorg always call to ask, what they can buy in Coorg ? Coorg has no fancy shopping malls, or speciality store! And after all, is holiday ever complete without souvenirs to take home? On a holiday one has all the time to indulge, and “shopping ” admit it or not is therapy for most people and in this respect whatever men might say there is no gender bias.
I thought it might be an interesting exercise, to put together a list of things one can take back from Coorg. The district was once well known for its honey. Unfortunately today the quality is never consistent, though one could buy at the Honey Cooperative Society and take a chance. In Madikeri and the resorts in Coorg one can pick up packets of pepper, cardamom and coffee, often vacuum-packed to retain freshness. Also available and highly recommended is “ Kachampuli”, a tamarind like concentrate, that is specially used to flavour meats. A packet of the Coorg “pork masala” would be useful for any kitchen shelf, it could be used with chicken and meat, adding a very special flavour.
Seasonal in nature is “bamboo shoot” and “ Koilemeen (tiny fish caught from streams) pickle” but worth taking home, as are the “passion fruit juice” and “mint juice” — the very colour is enough to make you drool! Many of the major towns in Coorg stock homemade wines. Some are too sweet but one could get lucky, with an excellent batch of ginger wine or apricot brandy.
Some of the Coorg snacks are unique — a packet of “Kajaya” dark deep fried circles, with a hole in the centre, very much like a vada, made of rice flour and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Also different is the “Chikalunde” which fortunately is not overly sweet. Coorg has an array of jewellery shops, a unique set of ornaments, and excellent workmanship. However one has to be careful with the quality of gold. There is a variety of “Kadagas” or bangles, beautifully crafted pearl jhumkas, long malas with hollow gold beads strung traditionally in black, but now also in other colours. Some jewellers make the bangles in silver with the same intricate work, which looks stunning.
The baskets in Coorg are very tempting — There are flat round platter like baskets, the square ones with high sides and moulded rims, the “polia” basket, used in the wedding ceremony, in pink and white, which has a lid and has many uses. Carrying it back, might cause a marital rift and spoil your holiday!
The Centre for Environment Education in Virajpet makes excellent handmade paper and utility bags using recycled plastic. Many people have also been enchanted by the thin towel (chelemund), with printed patterns that they have taken back from Coorg. It is used to dry ones hair, but also useful when traveling since it dries so fast! It used to be available only in white, now it has vibrant patterns.
The Coorg Wildlife Society has some nice T-shirts, umbrellas, caps and very informative books on the flora and fauna of Coorg.
True, there are no exotic stores in Coorg, but a walk along the “high street” in each town, could spring some surprises! And always keep an eye open for the homemade goodies that you find at the stores. Coorg women are mostly excellent cooks, and you might chance upon some yummy guava cheese, marshmallows, or macaroons, the kind you haven’t tasted in a long time.