In Mangalore, food is the one single unifier that brings families and communities together.
In a typical Mangalorean household about fifty years ago, the woman would walk to the neighborhood market every morning to buy the freshest ingredients while catching up on the latest gossip with her friends, return home and cook together with other women in the family and then sit down with the family to a delicious, fresh cooked meal. A typical conversation at the table wouldn’t be about their day, but rather about the quality of the food; is the fish really fresh? How much was it? And other such not-so-trivial topics.
Just as with language, food is unique to the different religious communities in Mangalore. Each community boasts its own specialties and they’re all delicious in their own right. The food in Mangalore is bold and rich and diverse, and unlike what you’ll ever eat at an Indian restaurant anywhere in the world. The Indian restaurant cuisine comes from North India and is nothing like the food from Mangalore. To get a taste of typical Mangalorean food, you’ll have to, well, meet a Mangalorean!
Since I am most familiar with Mangalorean Catholic food, I’m going to share some of my favorites dishes! Due to its geographical proximity to the sea, fresh seafood is one of the mainstays of the local Catholic cuisine. But pork, mutton and chicken are equally popular, especially on a Sunday after church. Here are some of my family favorites that my grandmother Ena has passed down to us.
- Khube Mutli | Fresh clams and rice dumplings cooked in a flavorful coconut seasoning
- Sanaa Dukra Maas | Rice dumplings accompanied by a spicy pork curry
- Kori Rotti | A rice based cracker soaked in a flavorful coconut milk chicken curry
- Maasli | Fresh fish of the day fried to perfection and served with a side of salad
- Shevyo Roce | Rice noodles soaked in either savory chicken curry for lunch or in a jaggery based sauce for an evening snack with tea
The typical Mangalorean desserts are not too sweet, light on calories and the perfect accompaniment with evening tea. Here are some that my grandmother Ena would make for us, from scratch every time!
- Mandas | A soft cake made by combining rice, cucumbers and jaggery
- Macaroons | Similar to macaroons around the world, except these are made with jaggery and very often contain cashew nuts
- Devil’s Cake | One of my grandmother’s specialties, a rich, dark chocolate cake
- Haldikolyache Patholi | Sweet rice dumplings steamed in leaves from the turmeric plant
One of the joys of Mangalore is sipping on fresh coconut water straight out of the coconut, or “tender coconut” as it is known in Mangalore. It is one of the healthiest drinks in the world, it has a light, refreshing taste and it is available everywhere in Mangalore! That’s me in the picture below, a few years ago, getting probably my third or fourth coconut water while out shopping in downtown Mangalore!
This post about food and drink is not complete without talking about alcohol! One of my favorite memories from my summers in Mangalore is of the entire extended family sitting around on the porch in my grandparents’ home in Kankanady, singing old family songs, eating fresh fish, all while sipping on never-ending supply of wine, beer, whisky, rum or local toddy! Toddy is a local liquor prepared by extracting the sap of a coconut flower. It is bold and sharp and very potent. And a favorite in my family.
Mangalorean Catholics are also very adept at making their own wines at home. Pineapple, carrot, ginger and beet wine; just some of the wines I’ve had growing up. On my visit to Mangalore last year, my aunt picked up a bottle each of these wines for me from a close family friend who has been making these wines faithfully for years in her home. These wines are usually very sweet, so they’re perfect as a digestif after a nice meal.