Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paneer Butter Masala and Masala Dosa

The two together summarize the food that is India. Add a bit of bhelpuri or puri or idli - thts it. Make no mistake - the food that India is known for. Even within India. Which is a little sad considering the range of food. 

Gaurav comes up a migration theory to why Maharashtrian food is not found easily anywhere. He also links to a Vikram Doctor piece that started off his chain of thought. Too much for me to not add my 25 paise. 

I have been frustrated by my inability to find Maharashtrian food anywhere on the planet -including Mumbai. It was a great discovery for me to find a restaurant that served such food, Ladoo Samrat at Parel very near to my place of work. But somehow Thali Peeth, Sabudana Vada are difficult to find outside this Parel-Girgaum-Dadar area even within Mumbai. People actually end up thinking Vada Pav is staple Maharashtrian food. Of all places, even in Pune. But here is where you realize why. Migration to a certain extent is the answer. In any new area in Pune, you will easily find Paneer butter masala and Masala Dosa - why? The South Indians and North Indians are the ones who both make and buy the food - hence their palate is satisfied. The Maharashtrian on the other hand is very happy where he is - and how many Maharashtrians would like to have Maharashtrian food outside their door? 

Now cut to Karnataka. Walk around Bangalore and you will find a slew of Andhra eateries - not one sign will guide you to Karnataka food. You would think Bangalore is in AP. Also, please dont mistake Masala Dosa and Udupi cuisine for Karnataka food - they have other stuff also. And stuff like North Karnataka food which is so good can be found in barely a few places in Bangalore. The Kamath near the railway station and Halli Mane near Malleshwaram are two good examples. Considering the number of North Indians and Keralites around there are quite a few eateries that cater to this crowd too. Why no Maharashtrian food here? Not enough customers or cooks, perhaps? Perhaps it is a latent market.

Now lets see it from another angle. How about ready to cook or ready to eat food? Even in these cases, it is tough to get some packaged Maharashtrian food here - unlike Mallu stuff which is there on the shelves. So, a putt podi is easy to get, but not thali peeth mix. And here in Bangalore there are enough Maharashtrians around - the Chitale bhakarwadi has now started making inroads - it is popular with all in any case. So, it is a simple case of market or a perceived lack of it.

And tourists, most of them, do not want to try local stuff.  If you go to any tourist destination in India, local food is very had to get. This is a generalization, but overall, to get local food, you would have to go to some length.

Like I had observed before, the average Ramu who goes to any tourist spot likes to have Chaat and Bhelpuri at any hotel, so the moment they land up and the waiter says, "No Bhelpuri, but we have Kadubu", Ramu instantly takes a dislike to the said hotel. So, every hotel goes to great lengths to ensure that Paneer butter masala, Masala Dosa are available. So, if you are a local food enthusiast and you want to taste it, they are almost lost. Even in a homestay in Coorg, we had to ask for local food - they had all the usual stuff, but local, they had not anticipated. 

But now that there are enough "other" people in Maharashtra and Karnataka, why is that not contributing to the popularity of local food? By when will good khakra be available in Bangalore at Mumbai rates?


Anonymous said...

And oh well those Masala Dosa's suck big time. Food stall next door to Madurai Meenakshi temple sell Bread Butter Jam of all things as their specialty.

Had written a while back regarding no 'Maharashtra tiffin' places in Pune. But thankfully there are lots of good Maharashtrian thali places in Pune.

Gaurav is so wrong about the migration. There are so many Maharashtrians in the bay area and still no Maharasthra cuisine place.

Hari ohm

Gaurav said...

Interesting post, N.

HariOhm... it is not just about migration. It is about migration of scrappy entrepreneur types.

The Maharashtrians in the Bay Area are all "knowledge workers". How many people will be willing to quit their cushy IT jobs or suchlike and start a restaurant?

On the other hand, people running punju and south indian type restaurants have migrated on non-knowledge jobs. They either moved here to set up restaurants, or then moved here doing low end jobs like pumping gas or running small stores, and moved up the value chain to start restaurants or even run motels (like my Gujju in-laws, who started off pumping gas and cleaning houses, and now own their own mid-level motel).

Find me a Marathi migrant in the US, not just the bay, who moved here without the intent of higher education or "knowledge worker" jobs.

Gaurav said...

N, my dad is often frustrated at how difficult it is to find a non-thali restaurant even in Pune where you can get "poli" (not even puran-poli, just regular poli). He hates nans and tandoor rotis.

BTW, there is this place with multiple restaurants (shabree-sharvari-and-something) on FC road in Pune where you get amazing marathi "fast food" like thalipeeth, usal-puri etc. Good ambience too, not the tea-stall chhaap. Try it the next time you are in the city. It is right next to the more popular (obviously) UP chaat joint Manmeet.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Suddenly felt nostalgic when you wrote about FC road, Manmeet ...
Pune is heaven when compared to a Bangalore.


Anonymous said...

i guess gaurav hasnt looked around well in pune for maharashtrian food ..i guess he hasnt heard abt atithi which is on J.M road or neither has he heard abt the khanvli , there are lots of khanvli in pune which serve you good maharashtrian food.

Manoj said...

the main reason is
1) maharashtrains do not migrate outside their state and hence not much demand for maratti food

2)within maharashtra , the marathi people are not known for rendering service,hence no good marathi food

Gaurav said...

@Nikhil, Pune certainly is the best. :)

@Anon, of course there is atithi, shreyas, etc which are upmarket khanavals. There is Durga, Tiranga, etc which serve non veg. There are also a lot of places which serve cuisine from marathwada, vidarbha, khandesh.

But compare their numbers with the number of paneer butter masala and masala dosa places.

Neelakantan said...

Gaurav, hariohm - thanks for the response :)

The way I see it there is big opportunity for Maharashtrian food - either in the restaurant form or in the ready to eat form. Who will take up this opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Gaurav - if I read your article correctly you had mentioned this "lies in the non-immigratory nature of the Marathi manoos.". And here you are talking about "migration of scrappy entrepreneur types".

Anyways I am not the best person to talk about immigration. There is some reason some where.

And I totally agree with Neelakatan regarding the business opportunity for Marathi cuisine. I envision a Saravana Bhavan for Marathi Cuisine.

Hari Ohm

Me Maharashtrain said...

So finally any suggestiong for Marathi food in bay area. I have been here for 7-8 months but no luck..

vinesh said...

nice posting

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