Feb 26, 2011
Mangalorean Catholics love food. The fact that most of us have triglycerides and heart problems is a proof of how enthusiastic we are towards food. Recently, on a Sunday morning, my friend called me and said, "Anil, I feel like eating crabs man." My mouth started watering as soon as I heard "crabs," they being one of my favorites, and moreover, it had been over 16 months since I attacked a crab. Within half an hour we were on our way to the fish market to check out the sexy crabs. To our utter disappointment, the market was closed. How could somebody close a central market on a Sunday? We cursed the authorities and everyone else who came in between us and the crabs.
Anyway, both of us, now sinking into depression yet shamelessly dripping saliva from our mouths, went to a supermarket and bought fish, mussels, squids and clams and came home to make it up for the crabs. Our story ends here - we cooked, we ate and we slept like logs. This small incident sparked a huge discussion over lunch and the topic of attention was the delicacies we Mangaloreans savour. The list may be only one-tenth of what I know and what I have eaten.
In this article I intend to go about disturbing your taste buds and would be honoured if I could make at least some of you water at the mouth. Let’s start with appetizers. Chicken fry, chicken ghee roast, fish fry - naked fry, masala fry, rava fry. One of our very own and excellent caterers in Halealve "NItyadhara Caterers" has a copyrighted taste over "Surmai Masala tava fry". I bet each one of you would be licking off the masala from the plates. One should taste their chicken and pork delicacies as well. These are all recent innovations, but for me traditional dishes like Tendli-cashew nisthen, kuvalyachen bapath, chik peas mixed with coconut, sprouted moong salad make very healthy appetizers which prepare the tummy for the savouries to follow.
There are a whole bunch of varieties when it comes to curries. Fish curry is the most loved one across the Mangalore coast. Mangalorean oldies prefer fish to meat and some youngsters too. I remember, my granny used to wait for fresh fish to come home by 11 am and then go for the masala grinding procedure. There are a thousand ways in which fish masala is ground for different kind of fish. Apart from fish, we have chicken and mutton delicacies, with distinct flavors and tastes like "roce galli kadi", "piyav galli kadi" and so on.
My mom makes a special curry out of chicken which we call "Sheetak Kadi"- simply finger-licking good. Usual curries like Bangde curry, tarle kadi, vaalchi baji – prawn mixed curry, though not menu leaders, have a fan following of their own.
It would be an insult to a Catholic reader if I haven’t mentioned the variety of pork we have – pork bafat, pork chilly, pork vindaloo, sorpatel, pork salad and many more. If at all we Catholics have to choose a community animal, there are no second thoughts about who the winner would be. Every function’s success is measured by how good the pork is and every caterer in coastal Karnataka strives to better the pork preparations with each order. Every mother in and around Mangalore will give her children at least one kilo of bafat powder when they go abroad, even before thinking about basics such as toothpaste and brush.
Then comes our daily bread - something to dip and eat in the above listed curries. Sanna (Idli) with a tinge of toddy in it for better fermentation is a class apart just like Sachin Tendulkar. Aapam, a Kerala dish, but very well known in Mangalore is one of my favourites and goes well with any Roce (coconut milk - chicken or mutton roce curry). I can easily eat 6 to 8 aapams in one serving. Panpale (neer dosa) with chicken sukka or even kundapur chicken. Shevyo, Indian noodles which tastes awesome with coconut milk and any curry.
The menu which rules on Sundays in our house is Bhakri-Dukra mass and Bhakri-chicken curry. Bhakri is very famous in Maharastra and I remember pithla-bhakri on top of the Sinhaghad fort of Pune very vividly. Kori rotti, the thinner and more popular brother of bhakri rules many menus in Manglorean restaurants at home and abroad. Fuge Bhakri, one more cousin of the Bhakri also is an equally tasty competitor.
Going back to traditional dishes, we have Pathrode - a dish made out of some kind of leaves. My friend was like, "We in India eat Pathrode twice or thrice in a year, but in Dubai we get it every day." Just a bit more concrete proof of the kind of gourmets we are. Khube-mootli - a tasty mixture of clams and mootli or bhakri, kaylole-roce, shevyo-roce, purna sanna (sanna which is made with a mixture of coconut and jaggery), dodalle panpale, aape (kind of gol gappe prepared from rice and jiggery), bhakri, patholi (seasonal jackfruit dish), manni and cucumber mandaas (if it is baked in an oven, the completely crusted sides are very tasty)...the list goes on.
Bunts in our area prepare some amazing dishes like jackfruit kadabu and Koli Taal (chicken curry) to eat it with. There are many other dishes like Daali Toy, Kulith-Saar and Khotte-kurma. I remember having breakfast every Sunday for at least 4 to 5 years in my dad’s friend's house and I just cannot forget the breakfast. Simply superb. This aunt was an expert cook and an excellent organizer, who made sure every person who enters their door goes back with a full stomach. Muslims make amazing biryanis and I was lucky that my sister had some amazing Muslim friends who used to invite us for Eid.
I don’t know why I am writing this, maybe I long to eat all these dishes. There are a couple of websites which give out Mangalorean recipes, and I am cent per cent sure that this is one area we must venture into and make others realize how rich we are if we look into our kitchen. Almost all recipes are worth being spread across the world. India is a land of curries and I have no doubt Mangalore is the capital of gravies. I have been living away from my home for almost 7 years now and every time go back home, I get lunch, dinner, breakfast invites from all around which I never let go off. Please feel free to invite me for any kind of food. Be assured I wont act like "UNDU HODHA, KONDU HODHA."
The only concern facing us now is a smooth transition of our delicacies to our next generation. Just like our language, our recipes have to be passed on to them, as they are a very strong part of our culture and tradition. The world is becoming aggressively competitive and foreign food courts are ballooning in every nook and corner of the city. I recently read an article on the same website which said Konkani style eateries are diminishing. So very true. I remember a small house near Gundmi which served steaming hot idlis, with a little homemade butter spread on top of it served with a generous helping of chutney. Almost every person who has traversed the pothole-filled NH 17 must be knowing this place. In an era of chicken mcgrills, big macs, double crusted pizzas and chicken popcorns, taushyaso maandaas, pathrode, Khube bhakri and Manni should be given an opportunity to compete with the so-called FOOD.
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