Sunday, May 22, 2016

Kundapur Fish Masala

Kundapur Masala Powder is one of the best condiments invented by the expert home makers of Kundapur. It is widely used in veg, nonveg or seafood cooking. I have adapted it in many preparations, and latest one is Kundapur Fish Masala. This simple spicy and tangy fish curry/masala is sure to tickle your taste buds and take you almost on Cloud No.9! 

Since Kundapur Masala has all the essential spices to make fish curry tasty, no need to add any other condiment while making the curry. I have specially mentioned applying salt to fish before adding to curry, because salt makes the fish dehydrate, and when the fish cooks in the gravy, it retains the firmness and also absorbs salt and spice content properly.

I do not wish to waste words by writing a long story, but I must confess that this curry is formulated by me without refering to any online recipe or book. I also didn't adjust any ingredient while making this, and it came out perfect at its first edition! I was reminded of the awesome fish curry I had tasted in Kundapur style restaurants such as Shetty Lunch Home in Kundapur, Hotel Usha in Udupi and Anupama in Mangaluru. Surprisingly, this also resembles the fish curry at Hotel Narayana in Bunder Mangaluru to a great extent!
Any good fish (Such as Mackerel, Sardine, Pomfret, Seer Fish, Lactarius, Croaker, Lady Fish, Ravas) - 500 Gms
Coconut -  1 cup freshly grated 
Tamarind -  Cherry size ball
Garlic Cloves - 8
Kundapur Masala Powder - 4 Tsp
Green Chillies - 4 slit
Onion - 1 medium chopped
Tomato - 1 Medium chopped
Ginger -  1" chopped
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Coconut Oil - 25Ml
Sea Salt - 1 Tsp(or table salt to taste)

Clean and cut fish into medium size pieces if bigger variety, and retain full fish if smaller variety.
Wash, drain and apply salt to fish pieces.
Grind grated cuconut along with tamarind, garlic and Kundapur masala into a smooth paste, adding very little water.
Heat oil in a thick bottom vessel, fry curry leaves, add chopped onion and fry until transparent, add slit green chillies, chopped ginger, tomato and fry for 3 mins.
Add the ground masala and fry for 2 mins, add 300ml water and boil for 5 mins, drop the fish along with applied salt, cover and simmer for 3-5 mins.
Check for salt and serve with boiled red rice and choice of fried fish or vegetable fry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Indra Bhavan Changes Premises, Keeps Promises

There was a time when restaurants in undivided South Kanara District in general, and Mangaluru in particular used to cook and serve food just like home made. I have not only heard stories from my late father about how the snacks tasted in Mangalurian restaurants during his hey days, but I also remember my own times in the Sixties and the Seventies when many restaurants made lovely snacks and maintained quality and quantity at very reasonable prices. The people who founded those restaurants cared more for the satisfaction of those who patronized them, and also earned goodwill by word of mouth and reputation beyond the seven seas! Such restaurants are very few today, and Indra Bhavan is one.

When Late Raghurama Udupa hailing from Kinnigoli took over Indra Bhavan from one Babu Shetty in 1952, he not only cared for good food and good service, but he also was compassionate about poor students who came there for mid day meal. I remember my classmate from high school to PUC, a brilliant student Gopalakrishna Bhat hailing from a very poor Brahmin family who came walking all the way from Kulur to St Aloysius College to study, and he used to carry monthly lunch coupons issued by Indra Bhavan on concessional rates those days. He also used to tell me that plated meals at Indra Bhavan were homely, just like his mother cooked! Unfortunately Gopalakrishna Bhat is no more, but the reputation Indra Bhavan has earned by caring for such poor students, is copious. Today they don’t serve plated meals but they serve snacks with same standards and reasonable pricing.
Late Raghurama Udupa - Founder
Then when I started to frequent restaurants during my college days, some of my friends recommended Goli Baje and Buns at Indra Bhavan, acclaiming them as the best in Mangaluru. I was living in north Mangaluru those days and it was a bit out of the way for me to visit Indra Bhavan. Then couple of my friends said “Vishwa Bhavan in Hampankatta is also managed by the owners of Indra Bhavan. You can get the same stuff there!” So I started to visit Vishwa Bhavan regularly and I still recall those days when I used to relish idli, vada, ambade, dosa, podi, golibaje, buns, chattambade, sajjige, avalakki, sheera and such snacks there at very reasonable prices. When I moved my home to Attavar in 1990, I started visiting Indra Bhavan and also started to get snacks packed for home. Their special dosas were also very crisp and tasty. Few years ago, Vishwa Bhavan moved from its original premises to opposite side in a new complex but they continued to serve the same awesome snacks.

Navanitha B Shetty, a food blogger basically from Mangaluru, now based in Pune fondly remembers Late Raghurama Udupa and says, “When my grandfather Late Subbayya Naik who owned Hotel Woodside and Vishwa Bhavan wanted someone to run the veg restaurants in Woodside and Vishwa Bhavan, he could not find anyone better than Late Raghurama Udupa. Udupa was very hard working, honest and efficient. Woodside veg section was managed by the Udupas for a few decades before someone else took over, and Vishwa Bhavan restaurant, until it was shifted. Now the Udupas own Vishwa Bhavan restaurant in its new premises”.

Today continuing the tradition of Late Raghurama Udupa in hospitality, his son Prakash Udupa, Prakash’s wife Bhagyalakshmi Udupa and his two sons Vishnu Prasad Udupa and Vishwajith Udupa manage Indra Bhavan and Vishwa Bhavan. Prakash’s mother Sarojini Udupa is the guiding force. Indra Bhavan has become an iconic restaurant in Mangaluru, and a black and white picture of this restaurant dating back to the early days of its functioning in Balmatta Circle, is viral on the internet. I can see that picture being shared by hundreds of my friends on social networking sites and also via email. Indra Bhavan to Mangaluru is as important as other traditional south Indian style restaurants. Sadly, some have closed shutters due to labour problem, lethargy of the younger generation to continue family business or forced eviction, leading to increasing operational costs.
Old Pic courtesy:
Ruchir Agarwal trying his hand at making Rava Dosa


Yet, the Udupas managed a smile and continued to serve Mangalurians with delicacies mentioned above, some of which are not found in many places, at least with good quality at affordable prices. I must say, the Udupas have earned the goodwill because of the daily customers from all walks of life. They maybe high class doctors, engineers, businessmen, industrialists, accountants, lawyers, professors or from middle class salaried public and private sector employees, autorickshaw and taxi drivers, garage mechanics or labourers. Indra Bhavan serves them all with equal zeal and regard. They all sit in the common hall and relish the hot snacks and beverages, if not some traditional sweet meat or cool pick me ups. Some of the servers and kitchen staff have been serving here for over Three or Four decades. PG Balakrishna the cashier has 53 years of service here! A senior waiter who posed for a pic by the sign board at the entrance proudly says that he is the senior most among the waiters here. I can very well remember the senior man at the parcel counter, who was there when I first visited Indra Bhavan in the early Nineties for food parcel.

In an expected move, some builder purchased the property housing Indra Bhavan in its old premises and it was inevitable for Udupas to move into some nearby premises. They tried for many months, but things didn’t move in their favour until they found an ideal location behind the petrol pump on Arya Samaj Road which the owner agreed to let out. They took possession of that premises and renovated it with a blend of old and modern look, giving a feeling for the regulars that Indra Bhavan spells not only good food, but also homely ambiance. They vacated the old premises on April 30th this year and relocated to the new premises on May 9th. Throughout the process, one man who is an avid fan of Indra Bhavan, one who has been a daily visitor there for over the last three decades was concerned about them, and he is my friend Ruchir Agarwal, who owns Agarwal Agencies in the same building Dwaraka Complex where Indra Bhavan has relocated. Mr. Agarwal is direct neighbour to Indra Bhavan now, and he seems obviously happy to have his daily snacks and coffee just next door! Mr. Agarwal is also the reason for me to narrate this story and showcase some pictures of last days of Indra Bhavan in its old premises and continued service in their new premises. 
Ruchir Agarwal says “My day is never complete without snacks and coffee at Indra Bhavan. My most favourite snacks here are buns sambar, sheera, rava dosa and golibaje. I also like other snacks here and they are very tasty and hygienic. Buns they make here has the perfect formula, the dough fermentation is consistent giving the right taste and flavour, crisp outer crust and soft spongy inner core are truly amazing! I never had any health issues like Delhi Belly as long as I ate here. When I first got the news about them being asked by the new owners to vacate the old premises, I was worried about losing my favourite hangout. When they closed down for almost 10 days for relocating, I had to depend on other restaurants and invariably developed stomach upset! I am extremely happy to have my most favourite hotel Indra Bhavan next door”.

Blany fernandes of Khazana Boutique says that he frequently comes here for snacks and tea. “Taste is the same as when I used to come here since I was a small boy”, he says. He adds that though Mangaluru has many modern restaurants with a/c ambiance, nothing beats the homeliness and heritage within Indra Bhavan and its employees.

Vasantha Bangera who runs his two wheeler garage Ganesh Auto Works smiles and says, Indra Bhavan is part of my life, and I have grown with it. You can’t find any food stuff here which can have negative remarks. Taste, cost, quality and quantity remain consistent. We don’t have match for Indra Bhavan in our area.

Another regular customer, the famous Yakshagana exponent and scholar Dr. Prabhakar Joshi says “Indra Bhavan means so many things for a Mangalurian with a taste for traditional snacks. It has memories, it has history, it has culture and it has amity. You can indulge in social networking without modern technology or electronic media, at Indra Bhavan! You can suddenly bump into an old friend parted long ago, settled in a distant country, eating goli baje and buns here. You can just sit aloof, sip a cup of coffee and reminisce over the Fifties and the Sixties Mangaluru. You can talk to the waiters and feel nostalgic! Indra Bhavan has that magic, which modern swanky restaurants lack. For contemporaries like me, it is nothing less than a temple!”

I met senior Advocate Kedla Shivarama Rao at the new premises and he looked very happy about Indra Bhavan still continuing to serve in a new premises. “Starting from my college days, I was regular at Vishwa Bhavan, especially from 1975 to 1979. Then when I started my profession in 1980, I changed over to Indra Bhavan and ever since, a regular here. Their tasty and inexpensive traditional treats keep me fit and fine, always cheerful. I am an old fashioned man still traveling by city bus in spite of owning good cars, eating out at old hotels like Indra Bhavan in spite of affording food in Star comfort! Happiness is being associated with common people, simple living and high thinking. Indra Bhavan provides me food for the mind and body, both.”

I agree with all of them, for I have experienced it all during my visits to Indra Bhavan over the last 26 years. People who come here for breakfast or evening tea are mostly friendly, and perhaps the food here makes them all equally amicable!

I have tried to compare new setup with old one in the pictures above, to show that nothing has changed much except premises and interiors for Indra Bhavan. Clean vitrified flooring and strong moulded seats with same white marble top tables and granite benches at the entrance for waiting customers, airy bright interiors with ethnic old style windows, and pleasant colour scheme of exterior and interior walls spell comfort. Two kitchens, one for making dosa and hot beverages on the ground floor level and the other in basement level for making other snacks look slightly smaller compared to the old setup but the cooks render their service without much sweat even in the scorching summer heat, thanks to good planning and ventilation. Same experienced staff with an addition of few young faces continue to serve customers, regular well wishers, more new customers visit here for definitely the best, gentle goli baje, bouncy buns and other fried stuff, if not delectable dosas, awesome avalakki, superb sheera and ultimate uppittu! Except a few snacks, prices for all the snacks continue to be same as before, although operational costs are much higher in new premises. They have invested in energy conservation with alternative fuel like cashew shell husk for cooking. I didn’t forget to consume a cup of hot coffee and take a parcel consisting of 3 plates of goli baje, 4 buns, 3 sajjige(uppittu) and 3 kesari bhaat(sheera) for home, which cost just Rs. 200/- including an environmentally friendly carry bag. The Udupas thus believe in social justice or in Sanskrit ‘Sarve Janaah Sukhino Bhavantu’.

Indra Bhavan has changed premises, but kept promises. 
Making Goli Baje at the old premises
Making Masala Dosa
Expert Coffee Maker


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