Mangalore is one of the oldest and most prominent port cities in India. Back in the day, this port would draw traders from the Middle East and Europe. This means that, even today, the city is vibrant and still very cosmopolitan. It is also one of the cleanest Indian cities I have visited. Rolling hills and the Arabian sea make for a cityscape unlike any other.
Once considered the gateway to mainland South India, the people who live here are equally diverse. This is evident when you see the kind of food on offer at restaurants and eateries all over the city. Like Udupi, many South Indian vegetarian dishes feature here. Unlike Udipi, so do non-vegetarian ones. Mangalore’s diverse community showcases their culture through their food. These restaurants are well known for some very special and exotic dishes. It is said that the cuisines of this city, along with some parts of Coorg (the nearby hilly region), parts of the Malabar coast (Kerala) and that of Goa is collectively called Karavali cuisine. I cannot be certain whether it includes Udupi temple cuisine or not. I somehow feel it doesn’t. This cuisine is known for its Masala blends and freshly-caught seafood.
To further de-classify the cuisine of this area, I have associated special regional dishes with the communities that eat them the most. Religion, playing a major role here, is the basis of this classification as it determines what you are allowed to eat.
Hindus (Tulu, Gauds, Saraswat Brahmins, Kannadas, Bunts)
Either completely vegetarian if religious.
In some cases, South Indian non-vegetarian dishes include fish, chicken and mutton.
Popular dishes include a variety of localized fish preparations, using different fish varieties. Neer dosai (a very thin dosa made with a watery batter) is also popular and a Tulu community favourite. This is where Chicken 65 hails from.
A unique mix of Arabic and local influences. Dishes as biryani, parotta (South Indian version of parantha) and pepper fry are found in menus. Beef is allowed. Pork isn’t. Malabar style biryani is the local variant in these parts, often accompanied with other mutton/beef based curries.
Christians (Konkani and Nasrani)
Goan influences are evident in Konkani cuisine, and the Nasrani Christian style borrows heavily from Kerala. The variety is stupendous. From duck to pork, and everything, in between, is allowed. (More on this cuisine in my upcoming post).
A common link is the fact that all the secondary ingredients are the same. Onions, curry leaves, spices, coconut. The ways through which are combined give them their unique identity. Make no mistake, this is a hundred per cent South Indian food. Most of these dishes are not easily available across India. Their demand diminishes as one moves away from their place of origin.
Managalore is probably one of the only places where each community is represented by a distinct culinary identity within a concentrated area. The Konkan coast is said to have mythological origins according to Hindu belief. It has everything from simple home-cooked food to spicy fish curries. Mangalore is different because of its cosmopolitan nature, where food is used as a medium to cut across different communities and religions.
In ways quite apparent, I feel this city showcases the best of South India in every way.
The tragedy of culinary and general prejudice against the cultures of South India is found all over the country, especially where I’m from. Nowadays, whenever I hear those generic stereotypical statements (“idli dosa sambar“) and other such narrow-minded remarks, I fondly remember one Konkani town in particular.
Then again, one wonders if those who say such things are even aware of such a town’s existence, or what the word “cosmopolitan” truly means.
And yes, the magazine has the same meaning as well.