Shhh: India’s best mango pickles come from here

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: This small, Mangalore-tiled house is a landmark in Sagar in the Malnad region of Karnataka. Seetharama Bhat, who is famously known as Uppinakayi Bhattru has been selling the best Appe Midi Uppinakayi—pickles made from tiny mangoes—from this address for over 40 years.

Almost anyone in Malnad can make Appe Midi. But nobody can beat Uppinakayi Bhattru at the craft.

He does everything on his own, he chooses his own ingredients, and his recipe is a closely guarded secret. And, on top of it, Bhatttru is not your typical pickle maker. Sometimes his fearful moods keep people away; he even refuses to sell his appe midi pickles to people whom he does not like.

During April-May, he scouts for the best mangoes in and around Shimoga district. Normally, he gets it from Rippon pete (a small town between Sagar and Thirthahalli). If he does not get it there, he goes to Sringeri, Koppa, Sirsi and even Hassan. And he buys the best red chilly from Byadagi in neighbouring Haveri district.

There have been occasions when Uppinakayi Bhattru has made no pickles due to shortage of good appe midi or red chilly or both.

On an average he makes over 10 quintals of Appe Midi every year. Most of his clients are regular buyers. Half his appe midi produce travels to the middle-east and the United States during monsoon. Professionals can learn the art of water tight/air tight packing from him.

Bhat, a native of undivided Dakshina Kannada district, came to Sagar almost 50 years ago. He became a disciple of a famous ayurvedic doctor and astrologer Govinda Pandit and worked with him till his guru’s death.

Result: lots of people even today come to Bhattru‘s house for astrological consultations. But he entertains only four clients on a first-come, first-served basis. Sometimes, when he is in the mood he asks customers, who have come for the pickles, to reveal their date of birth, year etc and predicts their future.

At times, he may even ask them to show their palms. If they are lucky, they can go back with a pack of appe midi in hand!

Whenever he is in a good mood, he also repairs watches and wall clocks.

He is also aware of Italian traveler Pietro della Valle‘s comments on the unmatched skill of the people of Sagar in making the best mango pickles.

Pietro travelled through the domains of Keladi Nayaks and even spent six months at Ikkeri (the second capital of the Keladi rulers, which is 6 km from Sagar town). He wrote that the rulers of Gerusoppa and Ikkeri ate a large quantity of rice and ghee with spicy mango pickle, thrice a day.

Uppinakayi Bhattru has helped sustain a grand tradition across the globe. If you couldn’t read the phone number below the name plate, it is 9242839837.