Last Updated on May 5, 2021 by Soumya
Mangalorean food is a phrase that evokes a million emotions in me. Happy, delicious, spicy, variety, fish, eclectic, and super tasty are just a few of them. It was quite natural that when I recently did my coastal Karnataka tour, Mangalorean cuisine was on top of my mind. And I was not disappointed.
Mangalore food is an eclectic mix of cuisines from different communities who have long inhabited the coasts of Karnataka. Mangalorean cuisine has also been influenced by the food of South India which is why you will find an abundance of curry leaves and coconut.
But it is foolhardy to dismiss Mangalorean food as simply South Indian because of its unique dishes. Because nowhere else in the world, will you find the delicious ghee roast, a tasty bowl of gassi, or leaf-wrapped kottige idlis.
In this quick and easy guide to Mangalorean food, you will learn all about:
- The famous food of Mangalore and 17 essential Mangalorean dishes that you cannot miss.
- Various Mangalorean breads and coastal Karnataka’s interpretation of idli.
- What to eat in Mangalore if you are a vegetarian and the ultimate Mangalore sweet dishes.
- Where to eat authentic Mangalorean food when traveling in coastal Karnataka?
If you would like to read more about Coastal Karnataka and its culture, here are some related posts.
But if you are already drooling like I am, then let’s get started with our ultimate guide to Mangalorean cuisine.
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Famous Mangalorean food
Here are the most famous dishes of Mangalorean food that nobody should miss on their trip to coastal Karnataka. Most of them are offered in non-veg variants but veggie variants are available too. For example, most restaurants will have paneer/mushroom ghee roast in place of chicken/prawns. Or soya sukka in place of chicken sukka.
Chicken ghee roast
The ghee roast is, by far, the most iconic dish of Mangalorean cuisine. If you have lived anywhere on the western coast of India, you will have heard of chicken ghee roast. This dish is almost synonymous with Mangalore food.
Chicken ghee roast originated in the 1950s in a small restaurant called Shetty Lunch Home in Kundapura. Today, the recipe is a closely guarded secret (reminds of the Portuguese egg tart in Belem) among the Shettys. But you can taste the authentic dish at Shetty Lunch Home in Mangalore even today.
The recipe includes slow cooking of chicken in oodles of ghee and a secret masala which is made out of red Bydagi chillies and various other spices. What results is a delicious preparation where the spicy and slightly tangy chicken almost melts in your mouth. Even though it is hard to recreate what the Shettys make at their restaurant, you can try this almost-there chicken ghee roast recipe at home.
Chicken gassi or Kori gassi
Chicken gassi or Kori gassi is a Mangalorean chicken curry that has a coconut and red chili base. Again, fiery hot Bydagi chilies are used to prepare this one. The fishy version of this curry is called Meen gassi. And both of them are equally good.
The best part is you will get several vegetarian versions of gassi in Mangalore, Udupi, and other places of coastal Karnataka. These taste equally good and go well with neer dosa or rice. Try the daal gassi at Thamboolam restaurant in Udupi. You will be a fan for life.
Chicken sukka essentially means dry chicken curry but it can be made semi-wet too. Also called kori sukka or kori ajadina, Chicken sukka includes a host of spices and freshly grated coconut, all cooked to perfection. It can be easily paired with rice or simply eaten as an appetizer. Make your own chicken sukka at home.
King fish fry
King fish fry or Anjal/Surmai fish fry is another loved dish of Mangalorean cuisine. The fish is coated with masalas and deep fried either with a rava (semolina) coating or without it. Either way, it tastes amazing and is a great addition to any lunch/dinner plate.
Pulimunchi literally translates to puli – sour and munchi – chillies. Fish pulimunchi is traditionally a hot and sour fish curry that originated from the Bunt community of Tulu Nadu. Today, it is one of the signature dishes of Mangalorean food.
Fish pulimunchi is traditionally made with mackerels in a rich and spicy tamarind based gravy. It is essentially achieving that fine balance between hot and sour that makes this dish so iconic.
One of the yummiest vegetarian dishes of Mangalorean food, kadale manoli or ivy gourd with chickpeas is best eaten with neer dosa or chapatis. This dish has a coconut and spice base and is typically served at weddings in the Bunt community. However, nowadays it has become a common household name.
Kadale which is the local word for chickpeas are abundantly available and eaten in the Mangalore-Udupi belt. If you are a vegetarian traveling in coastal Karnataka, then ask for kadale. They will surely whip up something delicious for you.
I would like to call these the Mangalorean breads because they are quite different from the usual idli and dosa of South India. Even though some of these dishes span state borders, others are quite specific to coastal Karnataka. Read along to find out.
Although you will find neer dosas across the country today, the original neer dosa took birth in the Mangalorean region of western Karnataka. It is believed to have originated in a family of Kamats from the GSB community of Tulu Nadu.
Neer dosa literally translates to water dosa. It is a crepe prepared from rice batter and usually has more water in it than any other form of dosa. That is why neer dosa is light and goes very well with Mangalorean curries, dry sabzi, and even sambar and chutney. It is an all-time favorite dish that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try making your own neer dosa using this quick and easy recipe.
Kottige idli is a kind of idli that is steamed in jackfruit leaf cones. The preparation of kottige idli is not very different from our usual ones. It is the jackfruit leaf that gives the idli a unique shape and exclusive flavor that makes it stand out. You can enjoy these soft and fluffy idlis with sambar, daal, or Mangalorean chicken curry.
Moode or Mangalore Idli
Moode is another variant of idli in Mangalorean cuisine where rice batter is steamed in pandan leaves in cylindrical molds. The molds give moode its characteristic cylindrical shape and the pandan leaves infuse them with an amazing aroma.
When I first saw the moode, I mistook them for puttu from the cuisines of Sri Lanka and Kerala. But when I tasted them, they were more idli than puttu. Feel free to have moode with coconut chutney, chicken curry, or any Mangalorean vegetable/seafood curry listed above. It goes well with everything.
Now, this is something I had not seen anywhere on my travels in India or abroad. Kori roti is the combination of chicken curry and dry wafers made from boiled rice. Think of really crispy dosa broken into small pieces soaked in a chicken curry and then relished.
Honestly, when I first saw the crispy wafers, I thought the wafers were called kori roti. But kori refers to chicken in local Tulu language and roti is the wafer. So, what you need to do is break the roti into small pieces, soak them in a spicy hot chicken curry and then eat.
The best part is that these rotis stay fresh for a long time and can be carried back as souvenirs. They are packed well and easily available at any of Mangalore or Udupi grocery stores.
Mangalore buns are a popular breakfast or snack item in coastal Karnataka. They are made by kneading banana pulp into all purpose flour and then deep fried. This is quintessential Mangalore food that you will barely hear about when you leave the Mangalore-Udupi region.
One of the best places I tried Mangalore buns was at Halfway Home in Gokarna. Also a great place to try other homecooked Mangalorean food and stay with friends. If you wish to make Mangalore buns at home, try this recipe.
Akki shavige or ottu shavige is the Mangalorean version of rice noodles generally eaten for breakfast. But you can eat them with curries too. They go equally well.
Shavige is pretty similar to the string hoppers of Sri Lanka and the idiyappams of Kerala. They are made from uncooked rice that is made into a batter, then converted into a dough which is cooked and put through a shavige press to produce the perfect white rice noodles. Making shavige is a tedious task but the end result is super delicious. If you are feeling adventurous, try making shavige with this traditional Udupi recipe.
Apart from the quintessential Mangalore buns, here are some other popular Mangalore snacks that you can munch on while traveling in the car or walking from one place to another.
Also referred to as Mangalore bajji or Mangalore bonda, Goli baje is a fried snack item made by combining flour. curd, coconut, curry leaves, and chilies. These cute little fried balls look utterly appetizing and are best relished with coconut chutney. Locals swear by the goli baje at Mitra Samaj in Udupi. So, if you are around, do not miss them.
Pathrode or patra is quite a household name along the western coast of India. So, I was not surprised to find these fried colocasia rolls in Udupi. They are made by smearing colocasia leaves with a spiced lentil coating which are then steamed and fried.
Mangalorean sweet dishes
I never thought I would write about ice cream in the context of traditional Indian food except for the very heavenly kulfi. But here it is! The ice creams of Mangalore and their celebrity status.
Some of the ice creams are so loved that it is just not right to come back from Mangalore without eating them. Gadbad, Tiramisu, and Dilkhush from Pabba’s Ice Cream located in Lalbagh are absolutely unmissable.
Haldikolyache patholi is a typical Mangalorean sweet dish that is made by steaming rice and coconut-jaggery mixture wrapped in turmeric leaves.
Honestly, this is the Mangalorean version of Odia enduri pitha that I absolutely adore. I literally grew up with my mom’s enduris or patholis made every year during the prathamashtami festival. Finding an almost similar version in coastal Karnataka made me so nostalgic.
But let me not digress. To cut the long story short, you should absolutely try haldikolyache patholi when in Mangalore or around. Or make them using this recipe.
A traditional wedding dessert, chiroti is common to both coastal Karnataka and the Konkan coastline. It is also called as Padhir Peni or Penori. Chiroti is a deep fried, layered snack that is made from all purpose flour/semolina and then dusted with sugar. If you are already thinking of north Indian pheni, then you are quite right.
Best places to try Mangalorean food
- Shetty Lunch Home, Mangalore: for their famous Chicken ghee roast and signature seafood thali which includes 4 different preparations of seafood.
- Pabba’s Ice Cream, Mangalore: For their ice creams especially the famous Gadbad ice cream of Mangalore.
- Fisherman’s Bay Beach Cafe, Malpe beach: Another seafood lover’s paradise, visit them for their prawns sukka, fish fry, and chicken pulimunchi. They are located right on Malpe beach in Udupi.
- Thamboolam, Udupi: For their matka biriyani, chicken ghee roast, lentil gassi, and flavored toddy. Do not forget to check out the local art that adorns the walls of Thamboolam.
- Mitra Samaj, Udupi: For their vegetarian Udupi cuisine specialties such as goli baje, masala dosa, pineapple sheera, and soft idlis.
Mangalorean food FAQ
What food is Mangalore famous for?
Mangalore is famous for its authentic chicken ghee roast that was born at Shetty Lunch Home and Gadbad ice cream that was created at Pabba’s. Two other iconic and unmissable Mangalorean dishes are chicken sukka and fish pulimunchi.
What is the specialty of Mangalore?
Chicken ghee roast and Pabba’s Gadbad ice cream are the specialties of Mangalore.
Which sweet is famous in Mangalore?
Pabba’s Gadbad ice cream is famous in Mangalore. So also is chiroti which is traditionally made during Kannadiga weddings.
Which is a popular dish from the Udupi cuisine?
Masala dosa and goli baje are the most popular dishes of the Udupi cuisine.
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