Karavali or Canara is Karnataka's coastal region.
This coastal strip of Karnataka lies between the Sahyadri mountain range (Western Ghats) and the Arabian sea. It was named Canara (also Kanara) by European traders. There are many theories among historians as to how the name Canara came about, but the commonly accepted one is that it was a corruption of Kannada, which in turn came from the Kannada dynasty that was ruling the place when the Portuguese stopped by. The British took over the region in 1799, split the region into North Canara and South Canara, and made the former a part of the Bombay Presidency while the latter was made part of the Madras Presidency. After independence in 1947, the two districts were reorganized into the Mysore state which later became Karnataka. They now got the indegenous names of Uttara Kannada and Dakshina Kannada. (Uttara and Dakshina mean North and South respectively in Kannada) In 1997, Udupi district was hived off from Dakshina Kannada.
In common with Kerala, this region has a mythology about its origin. Parasurama, an avatar of Vishnu, flung his axe into the sea, asking it to recede. There is some controversy over why exactly he flung said axe, the version accepted in this region says that he wanted land that was not created by Brahma for his penance.
Tulu is regional language. Other common languages are konkani,kannada, havyak kannada.
National Highway NH66 (formerly NH17) connecting Cochin with Mumbai is the main mode of entry. The scenery along the drive is beautiful. You can see lush coastal greenery and the occasional beach. Unfortunately, much of this highway is undivided, and in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts, speeding private buses make it hazardous to drive on. Worsening the problem is that the project to turn this highway into a 4-lane divided highway has been in progress for ages and is likely to take years more, which means that you are apt to run into road diversions due to construction activity at random intervals.
Road connectivity with the rest of Karnataka is provided through four ghats, or mountain passes. These are the Subrahmanya, Charmadi, Shiradi and Agumbe ghats. The National Highway 48 connects Bangalore to Mangalore through the Shiradi ghat. The ghat roads are in a perpetual state of disrepair, and monsoons make the problem worse. They are dangerous to drive on because of rash driving. On the plus side, the view is absolutely stunning.
The road was not in good shape till some time back.
Karavali is famous for beaches, rivers, temples and forests. Beaches in Mangalore, Karawar and Gokarn are very famous. Temples in Dakshin Kannada, Kumta, Gokarn, Dhareshwar, Murdeshwar are very attractive. The Gokarn is famous among foreign visitors.
While the cuisine of the Karavali region might seem at first glance to be similar to South Indian cuisine, and specifically Karnataka cuisine, it has some distinctive features of its own. The cuisine of Karavali is dominated by coconut and fish, as you might expect from the fact that the region is on the coast. Coconut is added to virtually every dish here, and coconut oil is the primary medium of cooking. While this will do no good to your cholesterol level, coconut adds a distinct taste and thickness to most dishes.
The staple food of Karavali, in common with most of South India, is rice. Apart from white rice, parboiled rice is popular here. The poor family's meal is the Ganji, which is a rice gruel, made with parboiled rice, with only salt for taste, usually consumed with pickles on the side. If this sounds similar to the Kanji or Tamil Nadu or the Congee of East Asia, that's because it is the same thing. In earlier times, it used to be consumed for for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But now, it has been relegated to a dish to be had only when sick
One distinctive feature of Karavali cooking that it shares with Kerala is the great use of steaming that it makes. There is a theory that this is because this region had close links with China and Southeast asia and the technique was imported from there.
Like the rest of South India, you will find that this region eats idlis and dosas for breakfast. But skip those and try out some breakfast dishes found here rarely found elsewhere. Among them is the the version of idli called moode in Tulu (other languages in the region have other names) It is best made in moulds of kedige leaves that give it a distinct flavour. If you've been to Kerala, it may remind you of the puttu, but the taste and texture are different. Another steamed breakfast option is the pundi gatti - a rice based spin on the idli that is called kadubu elsewhere in Karnataka.
Try the Neer Dose, the counterpart of the dosa, prepared with rice. Thinner and crispier, it is usually eaten for lunch along with chicken curry - it is one half of the famous Kori rotti, but for vegetarians, it is a good breakfast option when eaten with chutney as well. Other variations of the rice pancake with red chilli added, often with lots of vegetables, are also common.
The Shevige, or rice noodles, is another dish that must not be missed. The South Indian upma is called uppittu here, and is naturally made with a lot more coconut than you will be used to. Finally, avalakki or flattened rice, prepared with a masala that is unique in this region, is a light, but tasty breakfast choice.
Lunch and dinner in this region usually comprises of rice with wet and dry curries. The South Indian sambhar is called huli in Kannada or koddelu in Tulu. The thing that will strike you when trying out the huli in Karavali is that it is thicker. Needless to say, this is because of the coconuts.
Other spins on the sambhar that you must try here are the Menaskai and Majjige Huli, also called Kodakyana in Tulu. In the former, conflicting flavours - sour, sweet, hot and sometimes bitter - are mixed to make it a tasty concoction. Can be made with any sour or bitter vegetable or fruit, most often with bitter gourd, mango or pineapple. The Majjige Huli or Kodakyana is a dish where the sambhar is overloaded with butter milk to give it a nice sour taste.
Karavali cuisine makes excellent use of leafy vegetables. They are used as the main ingredient for curries, they are used to wrap around the main ingredients to add flavour while steaming, they are added to flour and made into pancakes, and banana leaves are also used as plates to serve food on! Among them, special mention must be made of the Basale or Malabar Spinach, which is found in very few regions, among them Karavali. Basale huli is a delicacy you must try when you are here.
Other vegetables characteristically used in Karavali cooking are raw bananas. The banana tree is in fact a source of many other ingredients - the banana flower and the stem also make their appearance. Pumpkins, especially the variety that is ash coloured and native to the region are also a delicacy here. This region is also known for a variety of eggplant (known locally as "brinjal") that is green in colour. It has a milder taste than the purple coloured one. The "Matti gulla" variety found only in Udupi should not be missed.
During summer you must try the mango, both raw (February/March) and ripe (April/May). The number of varieties is large, and the number of preparations that can be made out of mangoes is even larger. Try the rasayana, a squash made from ripe mangoes and jaggery, or the mambala, dried mango pulp made into sheets, for distinctively Karavali versions.
The jackfruit is another awesome fruit that has its origins in this region. It ripens during the summer. Its raw form is used as a vegetable. The ripe fruit can be eaten uncooked (preferably mixed with honey) or made into a wide variety of preparations, including a steamed sweet dumpling and a fried snack. A cousin of the jackfruit is the breadfruit which is even less known, but is arguably tastier when cooked as a vegetable - only the raw version of the fruit is consumed.
The variety of banana that is available in this region is probably unequaled anywhere else. Once you're done with sampling the elakki bale (literally, cardamom banana, so called because it tastes like the banana has been flavoured with cardamom) or the pachhe bale, (literally, green banana, but it is not actually green) you will find the normal Cavendish banana boring. Also make sure that you try the Nendra bale - it is quite difficult to digest uncooked, so it is eaten after being heated for abit on a pan, but it is delicious.
Tender coconut is main source of liquid required to get rid of heat and humidity. Soda sharabat and ragi water are equally famous.