Sunday, March 01, 2015

Kudla Food Corner - A Taste of Namma Kudla on Wheels

Since my childhood days, I have been watching the food habits of Tuluvas. I have many friends who hail from Mangalorean Bunt, Billava and other communities. One thing common among them all is their food habit. Being a foodie myself, I do relish most of the Tuluva cuisine like Kori Rotti, Sukkha and Pulimunchi. Local ingredients highlight the taste of country chicken which is cooked on slow fire to get the right flavour. Masalas should infiltrate the meat and make it more tasty the next day. Needless to mention that all this has to be cooked in earthen pots on charcoal or wood fire!

Modernisation of our city has snatched away authenticity of traditionally cooked food. I grew up in a household that used charcoal 'Sigri' for cooking till the early Sixties when we got our cooking gas connection. I have witnessed the traditional cooking of fish curry rice and fish fry on firewood at Hotel Narayana. I have seen Halwa, Theek Rotti, Tuppa Dosa and kaapi of Taj Mahal prepared on wood fire. I have seen many other restaurants cooking on charcoal fire.  Now this scene is rare but they all endeavour to bring the traditional delicacies with the best of flavour and taste to us. For that we should be thankful to them.

Cost of living has risen sky high following modernisation of the city. So, if we want authentic Tuluva preparations made with pure natural ingredients using mostly local ingredients and no frills like cheese, cream and artificial colours flavours and sauces, we should go to remote rural places where shacks and small eateries cook traditional food in authentic Tuluva style. Another option is to find one of those mobile canteens that do brisk business in the evenings. Some years ago there were a few of them around KSRTC Bus Stand area in Bejai lined up till the gateway to Kasturba Medical College, but after MESCOM setup the station, they all vanished. One near Lady Hill Bus Stop that existed for a couple of years also vanished following DC's strict orders to stop street food outlets those days in the mid 2000's. Now we get to see mostly Chinese food carts all over Mangalore and very few mobile canteens serving local food.
Few days ago, as I came out of our colony in Chilimbi, opposite Sony Center I spotted a big pantry van with a bright illuminated board on its side that seemed to loudly announce that 'Kudla Food Corner' is here! I also was fascinated to see the Kambala Sport picture highlighted on a banner atop the cabin of the van. Yet, I waited for some foodie to taste the food there and give me an honest report or writeup about that online. I was disappointed not to get any feedback. So, like most of the joints we try in cities other than Mangalore such as Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, I decided to explore the van and see what all stuff they cater there. I went there and was greeted by a young enterprising lad Harish with a broad smile, asking me what I'd like to have. I observed a few youngsters sitting on plastic stools eating Kori Rotti, Idli Pulimunchi and Neeru Dosa, Chicken Gravy with Chicken Kebab or Chicken Chilli. 

I told him that I just came there to see what kind of setup they have and what all they prepare and sell, so that I can highlight about the van in my blog to enlighten people on eating out authentic Namma Kudla food. He gave me the handbill on which very few items were listed with a foot note "And many more items". I saw Chicken Pulimunchi, Chilli, Idli, Neeru Dosa, Kebab and some egg preparations they offered. They said, Mutton items are also made but they were sold out. Chicken Sukkha is also made in limited quantity on alternate days. I decided to try Pulimunchi and idlis with Chicken Gravy(Not Chicken Masala or Curry as we usually get) first and then take other items the next day if I found them OK. I also didn't forget to get one portion packed for Uma Shenoi, our good friend and well wisher who is also  foodie, who gives us the right feedback on any food.
Not bad at all. Pulimunchi had fleshy curry size bits of chicken with skin. Now some people may wonder why they add chicken with skin! In authentic Tuluva cooking, whole country chicken is normally dressed with skin intact, cleaned and then baked on a fire and is cut along with skin before cooking with the masalas. This enhances the taste of the dish. Here, they use broiler chicken and not country chicken. Country chicken is way too expensive and nobody prepares curry with it commercially or at parties! So pulimunchi passed the test and also the soft spongy idlis.

Chicken gravy was spicy, tangy and aromatic with heavy use of pepper and coriander seeds typical in authentic Tuluva masalas. Though the gravy was a bit greasy, it was tasty. Extra fat came from the bits and pieces of chicken with the skin that they cook with the masalas to make the gravy. This gravy is also served with Kori Rotti and Neeru dosas to those who seek plated food. Plated meal has different combinations that you can ask for, and is priced according to the combo served.
The next day I got Chicken Kebab and Chicken Chilli. Kebabs lack the flavour of ginger-garlic and garam masala like we get in typical kebabs sold in restaurants or on street carts. Taste was spicy and tangy with a few curry leaves sticking on to the deep fried crisp coating. Chicken is well cooked and tastes soft and juicy. Chicken Chilli is typical Mangalorean style saucy curry with chicken pieces cooked in a red chilli, ginger, garlic, tamarind and capsicum based thick gravy. It has garlicky flavour predominant with a hint of capsicum flavour. Goes well with idlis neeru dosas and bread. Chicken is properly cooked. So my experience for the first and second time was overall good. Food is clean, properly covered, properly packed and the pantry is well maintained on the outset.

Kudla Food Corner is managed by the youngster Harish who is enthusiastic to serve Mangalorean authentic local traditional dishes. He said it is a hobby, a passion that made him get into that line. The main hand in cooking is extended by the strong, tall, firm and friendly looking middle aged guy Dinesh, who prepares the food on pantry van. There are four cooks who prepare the food at the catering kitchen, pack them in big vessels with properly closed lids and kebab pieces are marinated with the masala. Hot Kebabs are prepared by frying as and when people order them. Street food like Charmuri, Egg Omelet, Egg Bhurji, Egg Stumbler and Egg Chilli are also prepared instantly as per order. Bottled soft drinks are stocked in an ice bucket to quench the thirst of the foodies who relish the spicy stuff. Mutton preparations include Mutton Dry fry and Mutton Soup. The pantry van is fitted with a plastic overhead water tank and gas stove inside. It is a neatly decorated Matador van with one side opening as counter, where food stuff is arranged in a line of vessels covered with lids. They have proper food vendor's license from the City Corporation authorities.
By 7:00PM the van was swarmed by many people who came for eating out as well as for take away. I surprisingly met someone who is an ardent follower of Kudpira's Garam Tawa, a young woman who was overheard talking to Harish, asking him if he had seen the mention on their food by Garam Tawa on Facebook! I spoke to her and introduced myself. She looked excited to meet me and talked at length, while she sat on a stool by the sidewalk and relished her chicken sukkha and idlis. She said, she's coming there for the 6th time already and she can authenticate the cleanliness and taste of the food. She also spoke about various restaurants including Hotel Narayana, Giri Manja's and Hindu Military Hotel, saying she's a regular at those places as well! However, she didn't want to disclose her identity and preferred to remain anonymous. Uma Shenoi also called me personally and gave her opinion that she relished the food and it tasted like authentic Tuluva preparation

"We haven't started making seafood delicacies as yet. We will start it very soon" said Harish. He emphasised that they don't want to rush up things, announce many items at a go and spoil the show. 'Slow and steady wins the race', he seems to believe in that adage. 

Try Kudla Food Corner if you are a seeker of traditional authentic Mangalorean food. You may not get Chinese or North Indian stuff here, but they are good enough to make you proud about 'Namma Kudla'. Their preparations are hygienic, their presentation is clean, their packing is good, service is a bit slow but it's worth a try, looking at the hard work sincerely put in by the owners and the team. 

One thing is sure, Kudla Food Corner has value for money.
Name of the Mobile Canteen: Kudla Food Corner
Location: Opposite Sony Center, near MORE Retail Chilimbi, Urva Mangalore.
Open on: Monday through Saturday
Weekly off: Sunday
Contact mobile phone no.: 9731564015

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