'Baanali' brings Artisanal Andhra to your plate

Read why actor Prabhas and director Rajamouli can’t get enough of Baanali’s lip-smacking sweets, savouries, and pickles.
Image for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

HYDERABAD: A couple of years ago, when a man approached the sets of a film and offered to cater to the crew, little did he know what was to come.

Shobu Yarlagadda, the producer of the Baahubali series, was head over heels in love with one of the tastiest pickles he’s ever had. He passed it on to filmmaker SS Rajamouli, from whom it eventually landed in Prabhas’ lap, and it never left his, say the founders of Baanali. The kitchen, where health and authenticity take precedence, has the approval of the who’s who of the city.

Baanali, meaning a frying pan in Telugu, is run by two sisters from Bhimavaram — Usha Penmetsa and Datla Seeta Rajeshwari. They shifted base to Hyderabad two years ago.

“They realised how people in the city love but miss the taste of authentic Telugu recipes. They wanted this to change and know that the recipes of such savouries have not been passed down to the current generation — thus, Baanali was born,” shares P Sudhakar, the director of sales and management at Baanali.

A Teluguite’s meal is incomplete without some good pachchadi, podi and gaarelu-burelu. “But, in a fast-paced world today, people barely have the time to make these at home. Also, they would certainly be apprehensive about buying packaged products from a store amid a pandemic. Our venture came in at the right time and we’re glad that it has become the favourite of many like Prabhas, Rajamouli, Shobu Yarlagadda, K Raghavendra Rao gaaru, the doctors at Rainbow and Omega hospitals, to name a few,” Sudhakar adds.

The long list only goes to show that they are a name to reckon with when it comes to health, taste and the love of home-cooked food. Some of their bestsellers are the nuvvundalu, chitti kaaja, khajjikayalu, thotakura fry, royyalu aavakaya, aavakaya pachchadi, gongura pandu mirchi pachchadi and kaju pakoda, among some 75 other savouries. Sweets, snacks and pickles have to be bathed in oils, how is that healthy, we ask.

Sudhakar responds, “We use cold-pressed oils that are healthy and even good for the body. We never use preservatives. We barely use any refined flour and make our sweets with jaggery instead of sugar and use lemon as a natural preservative. All of these used in the right proportions are actually good for health. For example, ghee and jaggery are good for the bones, ulava podi aids kidney functioning, karivepaaku podi is good for the hair, eyes and skin, kothimira mulakkaya is good for diabetics, and thota kura fry is packed with vitamins that are good for heart. There’s a reason why even doctors in the city love our food.”

Tollywood hunk Prabhas has to be on a strict diet for the various roles he plays, but the foodie in him forced him to keep going back to Baanali for the combination of taste and health. “He was recently in Dubai, shooting for a film, and had the pickles shipped there. Palli chikki, jeedipappu atchu and kaaju pakoda are some of his favourites, while Shobu is a fan of our boondi laddus,” a happy and content Sudhakar tells CE.

Not just Dubai, their food has travelled to Australia, Canada and Singapore too, thanks to their clean and airtight packaging. The lip-smacking delicacies are priced the same and sometimes even less than their competitors.

While they started out wanting to keep it limited to their small kitchen in East Marredpally, the thousands of the customers growing by the day, have forced them to mull opening another physical store, somewhere closer to where most of their current clientele lives — Gachibowli, Kukatpally, Kondapur, etc. They also have people back in Bengaluru looking to invest in a store there, but are yet to finalise on the same.

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The New Indian Express