Bengaluru: My memories of Mangalore have been mostly of the beaches, Coconut water, my friend Pallavi and the way I sneaked into her hostel and stayed there for days. Oh yes, I did that. It was never food because as a student I frequented Mangalore and most of the time I didn’t have enough money to explore food. It could also be because the interest in the beaches was more than that in food. As weird as it can get, I have been exploring Mangalorean Cuisine in Bangalore.
I have a lot more to dig into in that department. For me, Mangalorean Cuisine is all about Chicken Ghee Roast, Chicken Sukka, Neer dose, and Kori Rotti. Just these are the dishes I order when I’m at a Mangalorean restaurant. The maximum my palette asks for is prawns and nothing more. There are a few reasons for this behavior or preferences of mine. One being the smell of seafood and two being not knowing how to eat seafood.
Curry leaves and coconut is often related to Kerala Cuisine and identical is Karavali Cuisine is the most common disbelief. There is a lot more to Mangalorean Cuisine and, in South India, coconut and curry leaves are mandatory ingredients. It is important to note that Mangalore’s food is heavily influenced by the culinary traditions of different communities like Bunt, Brahmin, Poojary, Jain, Catholic, Protestant, and Beary.
I recently explored more Mangalorean Cuisine and seafood and that’s at Coast @JPNagar. Ashitha Shetty, Co-Founder of the restaurant first question was if I eat Crab. My reaction was something I don’t think she understood. She asked the chefs to make the best-sold dishes and there came the show stopper, Crab Sukka along with the tools. Ashitha, being a good Mangalorean, taught me to eat a crab, with a lot of patience. The moist meat with freshly dry roasted spices like coriander, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, cloves dry Kashmiri red chilies, and coconut added a real depth of flavor and paired perfectly with the sweetness of the crab meat. Fresh Coconut and coconut oil yelled out Authenticity and Tradition.
Kori Rotti and Karavali Chicken came to the table and I rolled up my sleeves. Mind you, it is a messy business. But, nothing can beat the satisfaction of slurping this off the plate. The crispy rice rotti and creamy Karavali Chicken is a combination made in heaven. It is thought that kori rotti is descended from Kundapur chicken, despite some culinary historians claiming otherwise. According to some, it may have originated in a hotel in the town of Udupi. It is usually associated with the ‘Bunt/Konkani’ community in Mangalore, with their recipes being the most sought-after. Regardless of the history of the dish, its essence is clearly coastal and South Indian with sweet, fragrant spices, fresh cilantro, and coconut notes.
Anjal Uppumunchi is yet another show-stopper. The sight of it was such a pleasure. Fresh Anjal fish thinly sliced, marinated in the green chili masala, wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked to perfection is the most famous dish at Coast@JP Nagar. In Mangalore’s local language Tulu, ‘Puli’ means ‘tamarind’ or ‘sour’, and Munchi (pronounced as ‘moonchi’) means ‘chili’ so essentially it is a hot and sour fish fry made by the Konkani community. They say fish helps improve eyesight, skin, and hair health. When there is a dish like Meen Uppumunchi, why wouldn’t anyone want to eat it, right? The second I put this seluctant dish in my mouth, it was like a celebration for all the taste buds. I would never forget the taste in life.
After eating all of this I was full and as they say, there is always space for dessert. Coast serves Ragi Manni and Bonda Payasa, the two traditional sweets of the coastal region. Bonda Payasa was the winner here. There is a belief that in the late 1990s, a restaurant in Tamil Nadu invented the Bonda Payasa/Elaneer payasam which became one of their signature desserts. As I refuse to believe that I can say hands down to the world that Coast@JP Nagar makes the best Bonda Payasa. Trust me when I say this because this payasa was rich, creamy, and full of tender coconut with the right amount of sweetness.
Coast@JP Nagar is founded by Ashitha with the support of her husband Preetham Shetty who was able to get a few people on board to start this homely cuisine. They were suggested by friends and family to start a Mangalorean Kitchen in South Bangalore as the area lacks it. They took it seriously and have completed one year of successful management. Ashitha and Preetham are in the marketing event experiential space, and they always had in mind to start an authentic restaurant line of business. They travel so much and feel good authentic food always has the market. They plan to serve Bangaloreans homely food and the authentic richness of Karavali and Kundapura in various locations in the coming future.