The stories about the Konkan which I heard from my grandfather while he sat on his chair with me on his lap was the first time I heard about the Konkan. Later as a young adult I researched and read about the Konkan coast. Being from the landlocked capital, Delhi, the closest I had gone to a waterbody was the Yamuna. My first sight of the sea was my first trip to Bombay at the age of 10. The first time my toes tingled as the waves touched my feet. Since then the western part of the country’s coast has been my favorite. Udupi, my recent find had been on my travel bucket list for a while. Even though I had eaten at many Udupi restaurants around the country it was a lot later in life I realized that it is a part of the country with its own culinary history. While I wrote in my logs of my Udupi travels I also realized how the cuisine is not just the vegetarian fare which we get in Udupi restaurants but the food and the culture is also dominated by a huge fishing community who take advantage of the amazing coast which Udupi offers. This also resonates with the various eating habits of different caste groups of the region. The region thus offers a lot to a traveler like me in terms of the diversity it envisages within its culture of migrants, historical kings and various communities.
While having gone through a few places on various social media platforms to search for places to explore, the first place I wanted to visit was to get a sense of the coastal local food without any adulteration of gentrification which many at times tourism introduces, the coastal food which would be made for the locals and the working population of the area. Dolphin Lunch home, seemed to be the perfect choice, a small hole near the bus stop which serves local fish and chicken. It serves you set meals on a banana leaf. A variety of fish dishes are available with the set rice plate (which comes with local rice, dried prawn pickle, some vegetables and a little bit of kurma), I ordered some prawn sukkah and Pomfret curry along with the rice place, all of which was worth the order and costed around Rs 350-400. The lunch home is worth the visit and is as honest as a place can get.
Afternoons, in Udupi called for the Udupi thali, a vegetarian fare, Woodlands, is the best place to go. A friendly staff, who do not make you feel the line of wait to be dreary. It is a popular place around town, where locals as well as tourist pay their visits making it an ever popular joint where, the thali and the fruit salad make a great combination on a hot day!
Post lunch, were the best times to visit a beach (in January) and take a stroll, once the sun went down and my lunch had vanished in the small strolls I took along the beach at Malpe, the local fish shacks opened up, which served variety of fried fish while many like me sat down on the plastic stolls, brushing off the sand from their feet. The small shack might not be too welcoming as they are over whelmed by the amount of crowd and their orders but they cook a mean fish fry to be washed down with some coconut water.
For dinner I walked down the beach and reached the Paradise Isle beach resort. The resort even though offered the typical starters, dinner and alcohol, the main reason to visit the place was to sit at the restaurant, with the ocean breeze caressing my hair and I saw the day near to an end with average food and below average service.
After the food coma of the first day withered away I visited the Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR), their Ragi dosa, Basundi, and the very obvious Bisi Bele Bhaat, is something which all should try once visiting the place. Even though the MTR opened up its first restaurant in Bangalore (while I paid many visits during my time living in Bangalore) years ago, it seemed fair to be in Udupi and pay a visit to MTR.
After breakfast I took a small stroll through the town looking at coconut trees and hoarding a few locally spun sarees for my cupboard, my auto driver suggested that I go to Hotel Kidiyoor (taking the name from the nearby village of Kidiyoor in Udupi District) for lunch which is located near the Udupi bus stop. It offers an air conditioned room on a very hot day while it serves a fine variety of local cuisine. Their fish thali is something which one should try which should be preceded by rawa coated prawns and some cold lime juice. They also serve a really well made Kundapura Chicken, a local chicken dish from Kundapura, a small town under the Udupi district, about 40 kms away from Udupi is best with some kori roti. The restaurant also comes with a friendly staff, who will make you feel welcome and suggest you dishes so that you end up having a good experience.
Finally, before I took the train back to Mumbai I paid a visit to Mitra Samaj, inside the boundaries of the Sri Krishna temple where I tried out the Goli Bhajji and filter coffee to take in the last taste of Udupi. It is like an efficient machine which works the moment you enter, your order is taken, it is served, you eat and you leave. I would definitely pay a visit to Mirta Samaj again on my next trip to taste the lovely snacks and the coffee which it is famous for.