Sundays during my stay at Manipal meant a bus ride to Malpe, binge eating spicy fish fry, kori roti, neer dosa and gulping down toddy. Though far, Mangalorean cuisine always made me feel at home, thanks to the profuse use of coconut and the availability of seafood.
It had been 3 years since I left Manipal when I received a call from Sareeka, owner of Guestronomy, inviting me for a Mangalorean pop up by Chef Shriya Shetty. I did not have to think twice before accepting the offer, it was an opportunity to reunite with some of my favourite delicacies and girl was I pumped! The pop up was to take place at Xandari Harbour, Mattancherry, Kochin. I had read of Xandari before, of how a spice warehouse that overlooks the Kochi harbour was renovated into this beautiful upscale hotel. Now I had two reasons in hand!
Sarika, Chef Shriya Shetty and her team awaited us at Restaurant 51. The place looked just like how it was in the pictures, serene and peaceful. The tables were adorned with lit candles beaming from within empty coconut shells, banana leaves spread across the length and garlands of jasmine placed alternatively. From the menu card, we received a fair idea of the 8-course meal that was in store.
- Amuse Bouche: Avalakkai: A jackfruit leaf piled up with a mixture of flattened rice flakes, garnished with a curry leaf on top was what was served first. A bomb of flavour exploded in my mouth – there was jaggery that made it sweet and the tempering of mustard seeds, coconut bits and curry leaves to make it savoury. We knew we were in for a treat.
- Holy Smokes: The dish was enough for us to realise how determined Chef Shriya is to showcase Mangalore’s culture to the world. The Lavancha smoked prawn in a cold coconut Tamboli represented so many elements of Mangalore at one go. The fragrance of Lavancha and fried onions to the use of prawn oil in the dish made it an avant-garde composition. I honestly wanted to help myself with another serving!
- 7 Courses are Too Less: I clearly remember how much Teenu (@letsstalkfood) loved this dish, in excitement to try it I forgot to click a picture of the pineapple Menasakkay with steamed ghee rice with urad, and pomegranates. So simple yet too delicious, just how regional cooking is.
- If You Love It, Lick It: The message was clear and loud, we were to stay prepared. From between the head and tail of the lobster was its creamy white flesh placed on a bed of spicy masala topped with garlic chips. Three small discs of Kappa roti accompanied. Kappa roti is similar to our dosa just that it is not left to ferment. Dressed up for fine dine I realised I was shamelessly gorging on the meal. Spectacular should be the word, yes!
- Do You Guys Put Coconut In Everything?: As Malayalees, these words resonated with us. We were served what I was on the lookout for-Kori Roti, not just with Chicken Gassi, but also with Chicken Sukkha. Talk about double-dhamaka and all that. The moment I saw the dish being brought out of the kitchen I was transported to Malpe and its shacks. The Kori Roti (crisp flatbread) was arranged to form a tower on top of the chicken Sukkha and hot Gassi was poured on. I admit, I burnt my hands a little in due course and dived into a meal that made me nostalgic.
- What the Hell Is Ghee Roast?: I am almost always intimidated before an event so I tend to read up about the people involved. Chef Shriya Shetty was known for her Mangalorean Ghee Roast recipe, after having had some of the best variants from Shetty Lunch home in Kundapur and Bacchus Inn at Manipal, I was worried if I would prejudge her take on the classic. She proved me wrong. The dish reflected years of her research and experiment. It needed no mighty presentation, just a leg piece of chicken slow-cooked in a delectable masala rich in clarified butter. I was sold!
- I will Just Take One Bite of The Dessert: I received death stares from Anna (@Annafoodieandherfeast) for breaking my promise of offering her my share of the dessert, I just couldn’t stop at one bite of the dessert! The restaurant was filled with the fragrance of cinnamon that was dusted on the crispy Chiroti. This flaky dessert made of refined flour and ghee was topped with cold almond milk, what followed was a dreamy mood and endless craving for more!
- OK, Seriously the Last Bite!: I knew I was about to be served something familiar. Holige. Boli is a sweetmeat I boast of, Holige is its kin from Karnataka. What was fascinating about the last meal was how the drizzled pickle on the dessert gave us a feeling of wrapping up a traditional oota or sadhya. It was topped with a peanut brittle that was a bit too hard, but the rest of the elements made up for this flaw.
All of this followed by a serving of petit fours. I regretted my decision of wearing a dress that was fit to the stomach. I was bloated and was yearning for a good night’s sleep.
Chef Shriya Shetty’s story is inspiring, how she relocated from Mumbai to Mangalore to learn from her roots and to bring her land’s cuisine under the limelight. The effort and love were visible. Her team along with Sarika from Guestronomy made this pop up a memorable one. PS: I clicked some of the best food pictures of my life during this event. Just saying! Looking forward to when I could enjoy a meal at Pupkins Kitchen in Mangalore.