“There are only a few places in this world where cultural pluralism exists the way it does in Mattancherry. In this maze of multiple streets, every right angle turn greets you with surprise, transporting you to a small town in some other part of the world.” Ananya Rajoo, Route Cochin
For us, who studied at Manipal University, name of the small town Udupi has two meanings – Sri Krishna Temples & Masala Dosa! Both ‘worshiped’ in different way… so when my friends told me: “Let’s go to Sri Krishna Cafe at Mattancherry. It is one of the oldest restaurants, run by Udupi Brahmins.” I simply stopped riksha and said to driver: “Sri Krishna Cafe at Mattancherry!”
Sri Krishna Cafe is situated in the middle of the Palace road, next to the fruit market, in front of Krishna Temple. Old white functionalist building houses one of the oldest restaurants in Mattancherry, which serves authentic pure vegetarian South Indian food since 1946. Restaurant is run by the third generation of Udupi Brahmins.
The time has its own pace here. On the left side sits cashier with tilak on his forehead. Behind him is a big calendar Sri Krisna poster in thick wodden frame, illuminated by small lights and decorated by flower garland. Soft sandal wood sticks fragrance is there to pleased gods.
We sit next to the opened window. Sri Krishna Cafe is typical South Indian ‘hotel’ (as restaurants are usually called),one big bright room with ten wooden tables and heavy chairs. On each table is big pot of cumin water (really helpful in digestion) with steel glasses and paper with short menu. We order vada, masala dosa, vegetable biriani and vegetable cutlets.
While we are waiting for a food I take my camera and go around. In front of the kitchen stands older man with grey hair and big smile. He wears only orange dhoty and sacred thread, sign of Brahmin. I ask for permission to take a photograph. He agrees but explains me, that I can not enter a kitchen, it is sacred space. I can take photo only through open door.
The origin of famous Udupi cuisine is the stuff of legend. There are some who say that the tradition of feeding the thousands of devotees at the famous Sri Krishna temple in Udupi led to the creation of the typical hotel menu: fast, hot, clean food. Others claim that these were the delicacies invented by devotees to tempt the mischievous Sri Krishna, the town’s most beloved hero, to stay in Udupi. The origins may be subject to debate, but there is no doubt about this one fact: Udupi Brahmins are obsessive foodies.
The term Udupi is synonymous with vegetarian food now found all over world. This cuisine was developed by Shivalli Madhwa Brahmins who cooked food for Lord Krishna at Krishna Matha Temple in Udupi. Lord Krishna is offered food of different varieties every day, and there are certain restrictions on ingredients during Chaturmasa (a four-month period during the monsoon season). These restrictions coupled with the requirement of variety led to innovation, especially in dishes incorporating seasonal and locally available materials.
Udupi cuisine adheres strictly to the ‘Satvik’ tradition of Indian vegetarian cuisine, using no onions or garlic, as well as no meat, fish, or shellfish. However, the cuisine may also be adapted for those who consume these restricted items. Following the tradition of chaaturmasa vrata, which is a restriction of certain food ingredients in a certain period or season, may have led to the innovation of a variety of dishes in Udupi cuisine. Pumpkins and gourds are the main ingredients in sambar, a stew prepared with ground coconut and coconut oil as its base.
Waiter is bringing the food on stainless steel divided plates. Vada with pumpkin sambar and coconut chutney.
Vegetable biriyani with spicy pickles, raita and papadam.
Vegetables cutlets (you can order them only after 5pm).
Oh, did I mentioned, that the ubiquitous Indian dish masala dosa has its origins in Udupi!
Udupi restaurants and hotels can be found all over India and many parts of the world. In the past, these restaurants were run by cooks and priests trained at Krishna Matha Temple at Udupi. Most Udupi restaurants and hotels are family run, with ownership passing among kith and kin of the original owner. Also, Udupi restaurants have undergone many changes in their menu in recent times, adapting to changing economical structure and social statuses in India. They have included vegetarian delicacies from other Indian cuisines.
“This place looks like straight out of 1960s communist Kerala and offers dirt cheap, authentic, clean Kerala meals.” Addy from Ahmedabad, TripAdvisor
Text: Zuzana Zwiebel based on information Wikipedia and various ‘Udupi’ portals
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