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Taste of Mangalore

For authentic flavours of Mangalore, check out the food festival at Dakhni, Taj Banjara.


SAMPLE THEM: A special red chilli, badige, imparts the fiery colour and taste.

A TRADITIONAL ambience awaits a visitor to Dakhni restaurant, Taj Banjara. Floral decorations and a kuthuvilakku nestling amidst a floral rangoli. Walk down the Italian marbled floor under the intricately decorated wooden panels to settle in plush chairs. This restaurant, which serves cuisines of the South, is now having the Mangalorean food festival (for lunch and dinner) till June 23.

Most of us have been eating a bit of Mangalorean cuisine (in the thalis) at the Kamath restaurants in the city. This vegetarian cuisine is popularised under the label of Udupi food. The South Kanara region, however, has more cuisines - that of the Bunt (Shettys and Rais) community as well as the Christians and Muslims. The food festival provides a sample of these flavours.

As you settle down with the menu card made specially for the occasion notice the colourful striped border at the edges of the card. "This is the border of a Mangalorean sari," says Avijit Chaturvedi, Food and Beverages Manager of the Hotel. "For all future festivals, the sari borders will be used on the menu card as they define the region. Since the woman of the house is the lord of the kitchen we felt that this was a good way to string all the festivals together," he adds.

Chef Murali explains how this cuisine is now getting its due. "The speciality of this cuisine is the use of coconut and a special red chilli called badige which imparts the fiery colour and taste to the cuisine," he informs.

The menu card is impressive - from soups and starters to main dishes, breads and desserts - there is enough variety (veg and non veg) to choose from for the gourmets. Mangalore boasts of some `breads' and cereals like sanna, modde and neer dosa besides the layered paratha. These are had not with chutney and sambar but with a variety of curries and gassis. Sanna is a variant of idli though the proportions of rice and urad dal are different. Modde is somewhat like the Kerala puttu in shape but is actually a batter of rice steamed in cylindrical `vessel' made of leaves minus coconut. One has to unwrap the leaves to take out the modde.

Neer dosa is pure white dosa made of rice folded into triangles. For those who have not sampled these items they should check them out. The adventurous can try out red rice, the traditional rice eaten in Mangalore.

These can be had with a variety of accompaniments. Most of these gravies are coconut based with different spices.

At times some coconut milk is added to the dish. Some of the dishes worth trying are tarkari gassi (mixed veg cooked in finely ground fresh coconut masala and coconut milk), noorje badne koddellu (spicy gravy of drumstick and brinjal) and padangi upkari (whole moong cooked with coconut) which is akin to a Kerala thoran.

The jeegujje fry (breadfruit marinated with dry red chilli masala and shallow fried) looks like fried fish but veggies can relax and have it as it is like a bajji.

It is certainly something novel. For those who cannot do without dal there is dal thove (toovar dal cooked with slit green chillies, fresh coriander and grated coconut)

The non-veggies can feast on sea food - particularly fish which is popular in Mangalore. There is mutton and chicken too. The gravies are red in colour and flavoured with special spices.

The kori gassi (chicken cooked in finely ground fresh coconut masala and coconut milk), meen puli munchi (sour and spicy fish curry), fish bafat masala (prepared by the chefs Ramesh and Shaji Thomas and brought from Mangalore) fry, mutton kundapur (home-style mutton curry cooked in coarsely ground Kundapur masala) are some of the typical Mangalore stuff served here.

Those who do not want to have ala carte or wonder about what to order can opt for a veg or non-veg thali which serves quite a few items.

For those with a sweet tooth there is a traditional Mangalorean halwa which is loaded with ghee. It is rather difficult to cut as it is slightly hard (like stick jaw), it is nevertheless tasty. The khas khas payasam is another conventional preparation.

The food is good and wholesome and serves certain items which are otherwise not available in hotels and restaurants. This festival is certainly for those who want to check out new tastes and one wishes all the epicureans Bon Apetit!

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