A walk down Mangalore’s Hampankatta market and some good eats.

 

 

For me, one of the most satisfying experiences of a trip are the memories you make. Thats why, whenever I plan a trip, I look to find out somewhere that is not regularly visited, may be mot mentioned on social media, or something that is like a hidden gem locked up somewhere is the deepest corner of a cupboard.

Today, is an era when shopping is done on a click or at your fingertips. Convenience is the name of the game.  In such a time, visiting a market may seem passe; but I believe if you wish to understand the ethos of a place, or its culture, you must visit a market.This post is about my visit to Mangalore’s Hampankatta market. This wasn’t my first visit there, I had been there on my earlier visits but this time I spent enough time there to document it on the blog.  To give you an idea, Hampankatta is to Mangalore, what Pettah is to Colombo or what Crawford is to Mumbai or what souks are to Dubai.

Now Hampankatta is about an hours drive depending on where in Mangalore you are. As  you reach, you can see the imposing Milagres Church (Milagres is Miracles in Konkani and the church in the British era was called ‘The Church of Our Lady of the Miracles’). At certain times, you can hear the rhythmic chiming of the bells to the Angelus prayer. Its almost like the Lord is watching over the happenings there.

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I reached the market and I grinned.  Almost like a kid in a toy store. I could almost feel the vibes and I knew this was going to be a memorable visit.

Milagres stores.

Right opposite Milagres church is the Milagres bypass road. A small shop here is known as the Milagres Stores. But entering the shop you would feel like Ali baba entering the den of the forty thieves. It literally has everything you need. Household items, Groceries, Masala’s, Ready to eat meals and the likes. They have a particularly wonderful range of masala that you can use like the Bafat masala, Chicken sukkha masala and list goes on. Ask the very friendly and cordial owner. He will recommend some to you and my word you wont be dissappointed. Here is my stock of Bafat masala for the next few months.

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The Taj Mahal Sweet Shop

Mangaloreans claim that you cant come to Mangalore and leave without purchasing from Taj Mahal sweets. This place is diagonally opposite to Milagres church.The shop it self is about 90 years old and the star product is the ‘Mysore Pak’ or as the locals call it ‘Mysore Pa’. I was recommended this place by my cousin on my last visit and I had absolutely loved the Mysore pa that time. Again, simple ingredients like ghee, besan and sugar combined to form a delicacy that simply melts in your mouth and may times even in the palm of your hand. That is the true test of a genuine Mysore pa. My request is dont miss out on this.

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Ideals ice cream parlour

I had mentioned Ideals in an earlier post on Mangalore. I have had ice creams, Gelatos and desserts,but  this chilled dessert simply warms the cockles of your heart. The flavours are simple and fresh.What they usually do is to create a particlaur ice cream using a combination of flavours. So simply you would have a vanilla combined with Gajar halva. a  I’d had a late lunch and so i didnt really want to overly stuff myself. But though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. we walked in and settled ourselves. After a discussion, we went in for the parfait. The combination was vanilla, orange and pista ice creams with choppped fruits and nuts. Salivating already? We did too. This is how the icream looked when it was served.

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This is me attempting to finish it off.

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We spent nearly 2-3 hours in the market and we had to rush back. But I guess, I did more in that time than in my earlier visits. However, each time I visit the place there is something new to experience, something new to see. Like they say, a joy of a journey isnt measured by the amount of money you’ve spent on it or in the miles per hour. The joy of a journey is in the experiences you gained in that trip.

 

 

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Parle G and why train journeys got a bit longer

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‘When you travel it’s not so much about reaching your destination but enjoying your journey.’

I came across this quote just as I sat to pen this post, and its relevance in the context of today’s post couldn’t be truer. For us in Mumbai, the local trains are more than just a mode of transport. They are a way of life. For all the bad press and media they’ve gathered over the years, there is no truer mirror to the Mumbai life than the train. Inside of it, you will see a number of characters. A motley group discussing how the stock market fell or rose that day, college boys discussing the mushy “you know she smiled at me” stuff, the bespectacled bloke engrossed in sending out his new presentation, and the stories can go on and on. The outside is no less a spectacle either. Just as the train leaves Churchgate, the iconic Wankhede stadium looms up – the venue of many a joyful and dejection-filled cricket matches, then comes the silent and brooding Mahim creek – one look and you can tell she nurses an anger within. And then, you have the distinct aroma of biscuits coming from the Parle G biscuits factory at Vile Parle.

I’ve been traveling to work by train, and over the past month or so, I’ve noticed the aroma missing. Somehow, I couldn’t figure out why. Last week, the newspapers solved the riddle. The iconic Parle G factory had apparently stopped production. Another one of the city’s iconic landmarks had bitten the dust, and I felt a bit of my childhood had been taken away.

I grew up in pre-liberalisation India. The India of Ambassador cars and Bajaj Scooters, the India of HMT watches and of course, the India of Parle G biscuits. Unlike some of the biscuits we get today, there is no ambiguity about Parle G – it is just a simple biscuit, like a biscuit should be. More importantly, they were easier on the pocket.

As a kid, I remember going to the grocer, and there would be the sunlight yellow butter paper covered biscuits peering out at you from the shelves. We’d carry them for the mid-morning lunch at school. My teachers would pull my ears, but I’ve been known to pop a biscuit or two into my mouth when hunger struck before the lunch break. I can’t even remember the number of times mum gave me a pack of Parle G biscuits when going off for a picnic or an outing as Plan B to the lunch she’d packed. That was quite some time ago. Life has rolled on ever since but Parle G remained just what it was; the biscuit of our childhood. In fact, one of the deepest regrets I have is missing out on a school field trip to the iconic Parle G factory due to an illness. Even today, after so many years, the joy of dunking a biscuit into the morning cuppa, to the extent that it softens up and breaks into the same tea cup is akin to winning a gold at the Olympics. Thankfully, the biscuits will continue to roll from other units of the Parle group.

The train journey to work remains the same. The train still stops for a while near the biscuit factory. Just that the familiar aroma is missing. But it remains in our hearts. Like Amitabh Bachchan said of his friend Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand.

Anand maraa nahi, Anand maarte nahin

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How mai nurtured my love for food.

 

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Like most kids in the ’80s, I grew up with with my grandparents. Everyday, mum would drop me off to their place on her way to work and pick me up on her way back home. In between that, the day would be spent either creating a ruckus around the house or prodding my grandfather to tell me some stories or to take me along for his market trips. But, the one memory  that remains with me is of my grandmother (i called her mai in konkani) lovingly serving me more (than the usual quantity) rice, curry and whatever else coaxing me to eat saying “Samma jov putta, oodlo zaije ne maa” (eat well my son, you’ve got to grow up well). Not that I was a fussy eater, I never was. It was just her way of making sure the apple of her eye was well fed. I was very close to my mai, a woman who was simple, hardworking and caring. The warmth in her demeanor only being superseded by the love in her food. My abba (grandfather) had a slightly more public profile and my mai the more homely, quiter kinds. To her, the house was her kingdom she’d nurtured with her sweat and blood. 

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you will know how big an influence my mom has been on my cooking. But, in retrospect I think I got infatuated with food in my mai’s house. It was there that I fell in love with groaning and grunting of the ‘waan’ (the huge stone mill used in mangalorean homes to grind coconut for curries) as she ground the masala for the curry, the aroma of the curry simmering on the stove made me hungry way before lunch time. And, the rhythmic sizzle of the vegetable being tempered would lead me to the kitchen invariably questioning “Kale randtai mai”(what have you cooked mai)

My grandparents were generous hosts and I am told no one ever went back without being well fed. In fact, the first question, she’d ask as soon you enter the house was “Zovlai gi” (have you eaten). As far as i can remember, my mai would spend most of her day in the kitchen. Her food much like her persona was simple and to the point. But in the simplicity of her food lay its beauty. The spicy pork sorpotel, the amber coloured fish curry where the fish had to be put in just before the curry reached a particular sizzle and that cardamom flavored vorn into which you could almost dive in and remain there for eternity.

In the last days of her life, mai was ill. But that smile never left her face. As she sat on her chair;  fingers devoutly clutching on to the rosary, that reliable Christian intercession of hope. I was about 8 at that time and unable to comprehend her illness. I had always seen her active. And when i would drop by to visit her, she’d smile. With great difficulty, she’d move her hand around my cheeks. She couldn’t speak, but I know she asked me ” Kaso asai putta” (how are you my child)  She left us a few months later. It was difficult for me to come to terms with the reality. The reality that mai is no more there. No one behind whom i can hide incase I’ve made some mischief. I thought she’d always be there.

Truth be told, I hadn’t planned to write this post. But it was mai’s birthday yesterday (July 10) and i felt that needed to mention mai here. After all, wasn’t it her cooking that set the background for my romance with food. 

There are so many memories and stories that I could narrate of mai and abba and one among them is this. In most Christian homes, there is a tradition to ask the elders to bless you when you leave home. When I would leave i too would do the same. Mai would hug me tight and respond “Devache besav puta. Oodlo zaa” (God bless you my child, grow up soon). I know for sure even after she’s long gone, to her I will still be her tiny tot.