Eating Manipal

The university town and its incredible food scene

Udupi Market

Here are the happier moments from living in Manipal. Especially the days we would go down to the hostel mess for dinner and without even stepping inside, decide that dinner was despicable and that we should definitely eat out!

10 things my belly is grateful for (in no particular order; what can I say, I miss it all):

  1. The Manipal Mess: Northy Mess, Andhra Mess, Rajasthani Mess, Himalayan Mess. Food from all around the country seems to converge here. You can even find Nasi Lemak, Nasi Goreng and a menu full of Malaysian classics slightly tweeked to meet Indian ingredients.
Finding Manipal

I know of friends who have a strict “big boss” butter chicken ritual. Right from Malaka to the North of Indian, little bits of the east and west India thrown in, together with the south makes it the smallest food diverse area I have ever come across. A concentration of food and culture in only 6 km² is indeed a food miracle.

2. Potato Lovers: Whoever has lived in Manipal has to know of this lovable deep-fried sauce smothered dish. Some like it hot, some strangely prefer it cold. However you like it, it’s only available at Snack Shack and will promptly arrive on your table in less than two minutes. I’ve found that the longer your order or larger the table, food seems to arrive even faster — talk about quick service!

3. TC: In Manipal, the abbreviation TC could mean any one of these three things—

i. Tandoori Chicken
ii. Tender Coconut (water)
iii. Tiger Circle

All of the three have a bunch of memories. Some sweet, others a little sour (the tender coconut water wasn’t so fresh on some days). Five very hungry girls sitting around a makeshift floor-table of newspapers, bowls of Maggi with Dalle (chilli pickle) and numerous forks and spoons scattered, eager fingers, ready to devour a whole tandoori chicken within seconds, while laughing or fighting over a ridiculous day. The tender coconut water was a Sunday ritual, or whenever we needed to “detox” after a pani puri feast at Tiwari’s. Tiger Circle was the heart of Manipal. Some people call it home, others refer home with another name — Dollops

4. Ghee Roast: Chicken Ghee Roast was a Wednesday special at the hostel mess. The only South Indian dish that I never heard the non-south Indians complaining about. Chicken fried in ghee with a thick paste of fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, tamarind, garlic and curry leaves left a set of very happy lunchers, all reluctant to get back to afternoon class.

5. Pandi Curry: Coorg (a distinguished culinary location in Karnataka) is fortunately only around 145 km from Manipal. A short enough distance to run off to savour the spice-full Pandi Curry (Pork Curry). Cumin, Mustard, Peppercorn (lots of peppercorn), coriander, fenugreek, red chilli powder and turmeric give the pork its spicy base. The kachampuli (concentrated juice of Garcinia gummi-gutta) gives it the kick it needs. The fat is the cooking medium. The meal is one of a kind.

6. Tortilla de Patatas: In Manipal you meet folks from all across the world. Spanish class seemed like a fun way to get to know the cuisine more through its culture and finally learn the correct way to pronounce “paella”. The best thing about the class was that our teacher was as much of a food enthusiast as we were. When asked about wine or cheese he would reminisce about the beautiful region of Castilla–La Mancha— wine from Valdepeñas, manchego cheese, his mother’s paella— it was as if we were there! He made us Tortilla de Patatas for our last class. As we tasted a bit of España, we hungered for more.

Gracias Gonçal

7. Thukri’s (neer dosa-chicken curry): There comes a time… and that time could be any time of the month when you realize that the budgets are tight and you’re probably singing Macklemore’s “thrift shop”. Too much money spent on eating at the nicer places or splurged on booze — that’s when you remember Thukri’s. A tiny little space, plastic seating, drool-worthy dinner. Three cottony neer dosa’s (rice pancakes) and a bowl of steaming hot chicken gravy, your stomach and wallet could never be more grateful. After your first visited, Thukri’s becomes a weekly ritual. The fresh fish, ghee roast, fried chicken. Bank balance or no, it’s not about the money anymore.

8. Fish Land: Manipal is located near the coast. The Udupi fish market at the harbour bustles with fishmongers. We’ve made early morning trips there and seen seafood at its freshest. The variety available is well made use of by small restaurateurs. From Fishmaxx, to Fishland or Shetty’s lunch home; these tiny much loved eating places are always full with fish-loving folk. They serve the freshest fish and the wisest variety and will cook it any way you like! — from sting ray to Kappe Bondas (cuttlefish) Kane (LadyFish), Bangada (Mackeral), Mala (Mullet), Mugudu (Catfish), Paiya (Silver Fish).

The list is endless.

Dad on his visit to Manipal got pretty scandalized when the waiter brought him fresh fish on a plate to choose for his meal

9. Tiwari Chaats: Everyone knows Tiwari. A roadside setup that opens up on a deserted road after 4PM magnetizing a large student population, all ravenous after a mentally exhausting day. Perhaps you’ve done a couple of laps at the MIT pool and decide to splurge on some calories on your walk back home. He’ll make your Panipuri as spicy as you like and the Gulab Jamun’s are probably the closest thing that would make a North Indian feel at home. Memories bring out the best in food, don’t they?

From litti chokha to lavang latika, you know that your not alone.

10. Belgium: the sun never sets until you’ve had a scoop of the belgium dark chocolate ice cream at Thanco’s.

The chocolate ice cream would have probably been made closer to Belgaum than Belgium. But while you are slowly savouring your frozen churned lump of goodness, designation of origin doesn’t matter anymore; it’s all about the people you are with.

And for those of you who don’t like your dessert cold, Café Coffee Day is just across. I know friends who spend days there. For a good filter coffee, Pangala was the place to be at.

Manipal has it all