Sunday, August 03, 2014

Charmuri Upkari/Masale Mandakki/Masala Bhel

Any festival, fair or school function in Mangalore is not complete without Charmuri sellers. They have ruled the street food scenario from time immemorial. They were already there, when I opened my eyes and realised that I am also on this earth, that too in such a lovely coastal city of Mangalore!
When we Mangaloreans hear the name Charmuri Upkari, the first thing that comes to our mind is 'Sukrunde Vittal'. Sukrunde Vittal Shenoy was a legend of all times and he taught rest of the Mangaloreans how to make perfect charmuri upkari. Slim and short guy clad in khaaki shorts, khaadi kurta and a white gandhi cap, he was mostly seen in Temple Square near the Temple making and selling charmuri upkari, raw mango pachchodi and excellent quality masala peanuts for many decades. He passed away in the early years of the new Millennium. Now his son Raghuram Shenoy runs the charmuri stall in front of School Book Company in Car Street.

I remember that in mid Seventies when I attended the Pratishta Poornima festival in Mulki, we friends asked a charmuriwala to make charmuri as good as Sukrunde maam made. He said, "Sukrunde maam is our guru and no one can beat his expertise. I shall however make charmuri upkari in my own special way, which please taste and comment on!". He made fantastic charmuri, but I appreciated his respect and concern for Sukrunde maam.  Another famous personality is 'Mangli Maam' or Ananth Shenoy, the sugarcane juice and bhel vendor near St Aloysius College till the Eighties. He now sells only sugarcane juice near Mangala Stadium.

In spite of innumerable modern Chinese and North Indian fast food sellers showing up on Mangalorean streets, Charmuri Upkari stalls are always there with people swarming around to grab their packet of this spicy tangy chatpata yummy treat that doesn't satiate your hunger but makes you feel good. The tingling sensation left on the tongue is mostly washed down with a cold sugar cane juice or lime soda but I have my own choice, a cup of hot coffee following the charmuri upkari!

Yes, the counter irritant effect of hot coffee on the already sensitive tongue is simply ecstatic. Only a few contemporaries know the real pleasure within this combo!

Charmuri upkari is very simple to make. It needs some common ingredients that are mostly present in a typical Mangalorean kitchen. My mother used to make it with chopped onions as well as with grated coconut for evening tea. The one we get on the streets is with onions. In 1971 when I was in school, we friends erected a stall near Ballalbagh circle where Gurji festival was on. We made brisk business selling charmuri like hot cakes. I was mostly making the charmuri upkari that evening, as my measurements were more or less perfect!

In summer, the street vendors make it special by adding chopped raw mango. In monsoon months or slightly colder winter months, they make it special, adding some grated carrot, namkeen mixture(Chivda) or rosted/fried peanuts. In Sirsi and Sagar I have tasted masale mandakki with green masala and added boiled potato chunks and green peas. Each region has its own style of preparing this.

Here is my formula for charmuri Upkari with chopped onions, that's made special by adding tomato masala flavoured potato wafers. I have added Haldiram's Sev Murmura that comes in 5 Rupee packets. That has its own added masala which makes the charmuri upkari slightly different than the traditional one. To make the traditional one, please use plain charmuri/mandakki/bhel. Makes your day lively on a dull rainy day.

Plain Charmuri/Mandakki/Bhel - 2 cups(or Haldiram's Rs.5/- Sev Murmura packets 4)
Choice of namkeen mixture/roasted peanuts or potato wafers - A handful
Onions - 2 medium finely chopped
Coriander leaves - A handful finely chopped
Lemon - 1/2 small squeezed
Salt - 1/2 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Coconut oil - 1 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)

Mix all the ingredients except charmuri and other crispies.
Add charmuri and toss well.
For better results you can use two bowls inverted one over the other as shown in the pic and shake them well.
Serve immediately, topped with potato wafers or other crispies as garnish.

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