Mangalore, the port city on the Konkan coast is situated between the picturesque Kerala and the urbanized Bangalore. The city is blessed with the best, copiously green and rich in culture; clean beaches, divine temples and coalescence of communities. The local cuisine is a union of this diversity. Coconut, rice, dried red chillies, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, tamarind and like in all coastal communities, fish is an indispensable part of the cuisine. But the cuisine is a lot more than just fish curry, boiled rice and mango pickle. It has a rooted heritage that is slowly losing sheen in today’s modern kitchens.
Mangalorean cuisine invented and proudly flaunt the Neer dosa (meaning water) and Kori Rotti (Kori meaning chicken made with spices and rottis are crispy dry wafers made from boiled rice) along with the famous Mangalorean Buns (Sweet banana pooris) which are exclusively available in the region. Vegetables grown in their own backyard are preferably cooked like Ivy Gourd (tendli), Field Marrow/Madras Cucumber (mogem/southe kai) or Malabar Spinach (valchebaji/basale) tossed with coconut and spices. The month of September is Mother Mary’s birthday which coincides with the local harvest feast and hence a festive meal known as the ‘noveinjowaan’ (new/first meal) is made. It is a pure vegetarian fare consisting of 9 different vegetables is made which is eaten with Sannas (yeast and sugar added to a batter of raw rice and urad dal). Sannas belong to the Idli family.
The Arabian Sea provides seafood and hence the cuisine makes the most of it. Surmai (Mackerel) curry, Pomfret fry with boiled rice and Kube Mutlin (Cockels and rice dumplings in a coconut curry) are widely enjoyed. Crab curry and Prawn curry made with coconut milk and spices are also famous delicacies. Rice and coconut is used in every other dish since it is widely available in the region. Pork Bafat is pork cooked in a gravy base of onion, ginger, garlic pods, cinnamon, bay leaves, vinegar a traditional favourite that goes well with rice, dosa or sanna. The bafat powder is now available in shops for modern kitchens.
For the sweet tooth, Mangalorean cuisine offers Vorn (Moong Dal Payasam), Pineapple and Mango Sheera and Gadbad ice-cream (mixture of different fruit flavours, dry fruits and ice-cream) to name a few. All these dishes though rich in culture are now less practiced and might not survive for the later generations to taste. Make the most of it now. Go get your Mangalorean thali or prepare one yourself.