Mitra SamajaJune 17, 2007
Walk around any of the busy commercial centres in the metros (or even non-metros) and you are bound to bump into at least one restaurant with a board that says Udupi Hotel or something associated with this town, which is located in South Canara in Karnataka. But enter their restaurant and order any south Indian dish, and more often than not you are bound to taste anything but South Indian food. So, be a little brave, speak to the manager behind the counter to enquire about the connection and you will be in for a surprise. Most hotel these days that claim to be making Udupi cuisine may not have any connection with the name at all. In most cases, either the crew would be hailing from Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu… riding on the back of Udupi cuisine. I did this with the Udupi Hotel on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Delhi and it turned out that it was owned by a Telugu guy. Huh.
To taste authentic Udupi food, either buy U.B. Rajalakshmi’s book on Udupi cuisines. This includes the history of the place including the Madhwa philosophy, what kind of utensils one should use, medicinal values of different herbs, formulae syrups for different ailments, etc. — all this along with several authentic curries, savouris, payasa (kheer), the works basically, originated from South Canara.
Another option could be a hands-on experience. Take a break from your schedule — visit the town and stay there for more than a couple of days. And no, don’t take the typical tips from Discovery Travel & Living show hosts — the latest being Vir Sanghvi’s A Matter of Taste, which to my mind, did a mediocre job of covering Udupi cuisine. Blame it on the time constraints of the programme or lack of good research.The irritating bit was taking the owner Udupi Hotels chain to Dakshin (ITC’s south Indian restaurant). And worse, talking to him in English while the guest was visibly uncomfortable with the language. I think during such a situation the host should also converse in the local language, in this case – Hindi, and both their conversation should be sub-titled. Back to the land of Sri Krishna Mutt.
To start with, during your Udupi darshan, visit Mitra Samaja on Car Street. Good place to have morning breakfast or an evening snack. A small place, probably can host about 40-odd people, I think. They serve all Udupi or say, south Indian cuisines, but the best of the lot is Goli Baje (a fried pakoda sort of a round ball made from a mix of maida, curd, coconut pieces, salt, etc. eaten with coconut chutney, or my fav combination, with ketchup). After Goli Baje, you could even have a dosa and end it with the amazing Badam Milk served here.
Some of my favourite Udupi recipes:
Pathrode: even Gujaratis make this. Bascially made of rice, coconut and red chill paste smeared on colocasia or arabi leaves, bundled up, steamed and later sliced into small pieces. You could either shallow fry it after it cools down or eat it directly.
Tambli: A starter, to be eaten with rice. Made from a paste of tender leaves or root of several plants with grated coconut and green chilli with little curd.
Kuchila Kadubu: Paste made of soaked lentils and green chilly (the spicy one) or even grated coconut and jaggery (the sweet one) stuffed in cooked rice flour and later steamed in cooker.
More on Udupi cuisine and the town itself later… as they say, watch this space for more.Thanks for your patience. Ta…