Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Simbly Superb Tulunadu Monsoon Food Festival by Simbly South

Tulunadu, the land of parboiled rice and coconut, the land of Kori Rotti and Sukkha, the land of Pulimunchi, Neeru Dosa, Khottige, Moode, Adai, Semiya, variety of chutneys,  pickles, curries and payasams has a range of traditional treats to offer during the monsoon months. Aati(Ashaad) month is specially marked for Tulunadu food festivals in nooks and corners of the undivided South Kanara district spreading from Trasi to Thokkottu and Udupi to Uppinangady, inhabited by various sects of Tulu speaking people settled around the lush green paddy fields greeted by the majestic tall coconut palms swaying to the rhythm of rain and South West Monsoon winds, welcoming travellers from other parts of the world to indulge in a feast offered by the various organisations, households and of course restaurants.

The Prestige Hotel in Balmatta Mangalore being pioneer in extending Tulunadu hospitality since the Nineties, has an exclusive restaurant serving local cuisine. 'Simbly South' is the name of the restaurant that is silently making waves with delectable hot and sour curries and other dishes at affordable prices. Though the restaurant serves many South Indian dishes, the zeal and determination of the management in bringing Tulunadu Monsoon food specialties to the connoisseur of fine dining made them arrange a 20 day long food festival which they aptly named as Tulunadu Monsoon Food festival. A simple decoration at the entrance reminding us of the Tuluva festivity, an arch made of bamboo dressed up in coir and 'Pingaara'(Areca flower) seems to stand tall and call the hungry passers by in Tulu "Balle Rayere, vanas aande? Banjara vanas maalpule!"(Come Sir, have you dined? Have sumptuous dinner) 

Yes. I was also one of those hungry people who was fascinated to see this unique arrangement. My friend Mahesh Nayak called me and asked me if I am interested in joining him for lunch on the last day of the Food festival on August 24, and the very mention of Tulunadu Monsoon Food festival made me jump for it! 

Having brought up in Ballal Bagh amidst Tuluva friends, where I have tasted many traditional delicacies since my younger days, having prepared many such delicacies at our own home for the last Three decades and also having hosted Michelin Starred Chef Vikas Khanna during the Mangalorean episode of Coastal Cuisine - Kori Rotti which was broadcast on Fox Life(Fox Traveller) in January last year, I had my taste buds craving for any Tulunadu special items that are offered during the monsoon season! Besides, since last two years I have been missing the food festival at Pilikula Guthu House named 'Aatidonji Dina', where I used to relish all the rainy day specialties.

We reached there at around 2:00pm and were greeted at the entrance with a 'Namaskar' and a broad smile by Nithin Shetty, the young and friendly Front Office Manager. I didn't fail to notice the attractive banner displaying typical Tuluva folk arts 'Yakshagana' and 'Bhoota Kola', the pictures showing few traditional delicacies, also a massive 'Poonja' or rooster that is usually employed in cock fight, gorging on paddy and ogling us with a curious look! 

As we entered the dining hall, first we heard Tulu Paddana(folk songs) like "O bele....." playing on audio, while Pili Vesha(Tiger Dance) was projected on LCD TV. I saw interesting counters on the right hand corner with Tulunadu artifacts from rural places, especially head gear made with locally available natural materials 'Muttaale', 'Pili Mande', Yakshagana Kireeta' and a big bonnet made with palm leaves used for protection from rains during cultivation in paddy fields. Other items on display included a Petromax lamp, Goli Soda bottles, Moode, Khotte, Betel leaves, Aracanut, Coconut, 'Vaale Bella'(Palm Jaggery), 'Gerase'(Dust Pan), 'Chenneda Gobbu'(A board game played with tiny shells), wooden 'Kalasa' for measuring rice, wooden plough, water lifting equipment and few other implements rarely seen in urban areas these days, since paddy fields are mostly converted into housing sites in Mangalore and the surrounds. Damodar Shetty, Director-Operations told us, that the guests can take their selfie pics while posing at the counter wearing any of the head gear and holding any of the props on display. Almost all the guests were seen taking their pics posing with those ethnic gadgets. I also didn't fail to notice crates full of Ginger Goli Soda in a corner which he said, are offered free to diners as digestive after having the sumptuous treat. Ginger soda is one beverage I had enjoyed drinking during my childhood days, which is not easily available these days in the market. I was thrilled to see goli soda bottle after a long long time!

The dining hall has cool a/c ambiance with pleasant lighting and decor. Plush seating and clean laminated tables laid with cozy dinner mats make the diners feel good. Damodar Shetty asked us what we would like to order. The menu had many items, each one more tempting than the other, but Mahesh said, we can have 'Agoli Manjanna Vanas', a special thaali which has over 25 items apart from welcome drink and digestive soda for just Rs. 275/- plus taxes. I checked the list of items that come with that package, agreed and said, "One thaali must be sufficient for the two of us! The list of items is too extensive, and I don't want to miss out anything!" While checking the contents of the thaali on our neighbouring table, the package seemed just right for moderate eaters like the two of us to share. So we ordered the Agoli Manjanna Vanas.

The waiters were looking homely in traditional Tulunadu attire like saffron 'Mundu'(Lungi), white shirt and a tricoloured shawl. They first served us chilled water in earthen 'Kooje'(flask) and then a glass of 'Panakam', a local drink concocted with jaggery and spices, which has a hint of black pepper in it, that energises the mood and also acts as appetiser.

Then they brought a hot soup made with tender bamboo shoot in terracotta bowls, which Damodar Shetty said is made with cooked rice broth(Ganji Theli) and added pepper and lemon. It was simbly delicious for words, and the floating bamboo shoot bits were very tender. Bowls filled with 'Ambade Uppaad'(Hog Plum Pickle), 'Timare Chutney'(Brahmi Chutney), 'Kudutha Chutney'(Horsegram Chutney) and 'Kukku Mudi Chutney'(Raw mango Chutney) were placed at our disposal, and the majestic Agoli Manjanna Vanas thaali made a grand entry along with a wicker basket containing 'Moode', Khottige', 'Pelatha Gatti'(Jackfruit Momo) and 'Manjalda Iretha Gatti'(Another kind of sweet Momo). Moode and Khottige are idlis steamed in Kaadu Kedige and Jackfruit Leaves, and the two sweet dumplings are steamed in banana leaf and turmeric leaf. Menthe Ganji(Fenugreek and Rice Porridge), a healthy dietary supplement was also one of the rare dishes presented.

The legendary 'Agoli Manjanna' popularly known as Bhima of Tulunadu was a macho man, who used to handle any manual task with ease. He also used to eat loads of food to tone up his body and muscles. Thus the name 'Agoli Manjanna Vanas'.

The thaali contained many bowls with a wide range of veg curries with sprouted grams, monsoon vegetables, bamboo shoot, pathrode, dry dishes, potato/rice happala, country chicken ghasi, sukkha, Mackerel fish pulimunchi, payasam and two other desserts 'Raagi Manni'(Finger Millet Pudding) and 'Bannangayi Pudding'(Tender Coconut Malai Pudding). Of course the Tulunadu staple steamed parboiled red rice 'Kajetha Nuppu' comes as accompaniment. As I gorged on each item, my memory drifted back into the past and made me reminisce over the good old childhood days when I had tasted most of those traditional delicacies. Each item was prepared carefully with right amount of pure ingredients picked by expert hands, with lots of love. I could feel that as I tasted each one of the dishes that had a special aroma and substance within. The bannangayi pudding was ultimate, and we went for a second serving, which Damodar Shetty kindly arranged for us. He also assured us that they make it quite often and it is also highlighted on their regular menu.

Praveen Shetty, Assistant Service Manager kept asking us if we are happy with the preparations. Damodar Shetty joined us in dining and he kept us good company while discussing about the various specialties Tuluvas make. When asked about future food festivals in lines of the one just getting over, he said, they toiled day and night to bring the best to demanding Mangaloreans and the tourists who responded overwhelmingly for the excellent arrangement, and it is not so easy to prepare so many traditional items freshly prepared twice a day, at one go for 20 days in line all the way! Not many hoteliers venture into such long food festivals he said, but the brains behind the concept namely himself, Nithin Shetty and Praveen Shetty put in their best efforts to make it a thumping success. The main problem he said, is collecting the right ingredients and getting the right formula to make it, for which some of the relatives and household ladies have helped. "We will continue serving the Mangaloreans, the forgotten delicacies of Namma Tulunadu", he said confidently. He also gave full credit to the chef who is expert in making South Indian dishes Simbly perfect, and we have reasons to agree with him. We had a taste of authentic Tulunadu Monsoon Food, which was a superhit at its first edition!

While leaving the restaurant, I didn't forget to click pics at the Tulunadu artifacts counter, along with those who attended to us with the best hospitality I ever experienced in recent times. I heartily thanked each one of them for taking me on a journey into the past and making my day!

Simbly South is arranging a one day 'Onam Sadhya' food festival to be held at the Shanthi Nilaya Hall opposite to The Prestige on August 28, 2015. A golden opportunity for Mangaloreans to relish many traditional Kerala dishes for reasonable price. Timings are between 12:30pm and 3:00pm. 
Onam Sadhya Food festival highlights

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