I am very fond of good food and would never miss a chance of gorging on a delicious meal. But my definition of “good food” has changed since I have come to Manipal. Originally from Allahabad, the food I am used to eating is very different from what is served out here. But what is even more unbelievable is the number of times I’ve made a complete fool of myself because of this difference…
The first delicacy, which I encountered here, was the infamous paratha! Well, parathas are a staple diet back home. So it was only natural for me to expect when I ordered paratha in one of the hotels here, I thought that I would not starve, as the thing on which I almost lived on is available here. But when this paratha came, my god in what shape it was? Our parathas are triangle in shape not round and are made of wheat flour not maida or refined flour. Somehow I managed to eat it.
Only now after so many months I have come to know that this is a special type of paratha, which is only made in Kerala and is known as Kerala paratha. But this was not the only paratha I had, there was tandoori paratha which looked more like tandoori roti as it had no trace of oil over it. Paratha without oil? I’d never heard of such a thing. Similar is the curry or korma, which is served with paratha, you can find all types and colours of korma, from super white to pale yellow and dark brown to deep red. Even the ingredients could be as varied as brinjals and drumsticks to pumpkins and beans. All the restaurants here have their own version of parathas and kormas and by now I know where to expect what.
Similar was the case with other dishes. Once in one of the most popular restaurant of Manipal I had ordered ‘Crispy Veg’ along with tandoori paratha. Now, what I expected was a mixture of crisply fried vegetables but what I got was totally unexpected it was something known as pakoras in our place. I had to pay twenty-five bucks for something you can get for three rupees and mind you it is a snack and not part of the main course of dinner.
My next experiment was with steamed rice. In one of the restaurant you get a mixture of rice and vegetables, which is known as steamed rice, well I committed the crime of asking for the same in another. The waiter was taken aback with my order, he stood confused for a long time then he said, “You need something else with rice sir?” I replied no, just make it spicy. Steam rice, spicy… he murmured. Yes, and make it fast. I insisted and asked him not to add too much of pepper. This time he went back only to return after some time to ask, “Are you sure of your order, Sir?” I said. “Yes! So would you like some curry with it?” “Well how much will you charge for that?” I asked. He replied “it’s free.” “Get it fast.”
After all this interrogation what I got was a plate of pure white boiled rice with a bowl of curry. What is this? I blasted out. He replied “What you had ordered sir?” “But where are the vegetables in it?” “Vegetables? We don’t mix vegetables in steamed rice.” “But this is not steamed rice this is plain simple boiled rice.” I said. “When did I say it is not so.” He replied. “Why do you called it steam rice?” “Because it is cooked in a pressure cooker, sir.” By now I had understood what mistake I had made. The mistake of not checking out what do they mean by steamed rice and for that I had made a fool of myself.
Since then I have made it a point never to experiment with restaurants in Manipal. And if I have to eat something new my policy is ‘When in doubt find it out’.
About the Author: Anurag S is an alumnus of Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC), Manipal. He still misses his foodie experiences in this melting-pot of food cultures called Manipal.