Can I start travel/food writing with my hometown? I’m penning down some of the reasons, why I thought it was appropriate to do so. If they convince you good otherwise I’m writing anyway…
– I wasn’t born here (lame one, I know)
– I rarely visit the city now (hmm…)
– Get jitters on previous night of the travel like to unknown places (at the thought of a house welcoming us with cobwebs and having to face other unpredictable challenges)
– The unknown faces in the city now exceed than known ones
– Every time I go it is a new city with new showrooms, new constructions, added lights and though the soaring rickshaw fares shock me I don’t argue like I should be in a hometown (now that I doubt I could even if I lived there 😦 ).
Two and a half decade back when we landed in this city district it looked a little more than a town -quaint, charming with lazy afternoons and event less nights. Spread over few hills, Ratnagiri had a bad TV reception and so very few homes had television sets. Luckily, in first few months of our life there a television tower was erected and we bought a T.V. Once in a while we headed downtown to check the restaurants.
Despite of its quiet character, Ratnagiri was bound to have eateries. The major need was for people from nearby villages who traveled here for government/legal errands or other business matters. The city was famous for travel spots, historic points and Alphonso but in those days only summers were allotted for a vacation. I’m talking about a period much before Konkan Railways. Lot of things changed after that.
Though in good number, eateries meant typical south Indian menu, chaat items, thali’s or some Mughlai non-vegetarian food. Not many dining options were available that provided good ambiance or decent arrangement for family sittings. Eating out wasn’t a good virtue, I discovered this once when one of our neighbors probed and commented on one of our previous evening out -‘doesn’t your mother like cooking at home?’ I sensibly gulped down these explosive words then that had potential to ignite a war, all in best interest of the world peace.
Now even if my mother wishes to it is not possible for her or for me to cook at home in rush to complete many pending tasks. We keep looking for lunch and dinner destinations in the city. Good news is that our options are increasing.
Konkan recipes today are widely acknowledged yet it is mostly about seafood-crabs, fish or meat cooked in Malwani spices and coconut gravy. Being a vegetarian I want to assure you that I don’t go hungry when in Ratnagiri.
Forget the jitters I mentioned early. Once I board the train I’m a happy person. This food journey is a good start with Konkan Railways except for maybe the main lunch/dinner which doesn’t have options in plenty. The railway pantry is busy the entire time and out comes mostly aromatic South Indian snacks and all I can say is you won’t snub and disregard it as train food. The hails from pantry guys for chaaya and kaapi is music to my ears.
Masala/Ragada Cones at Thiba Point
They are memories. Available only at Thiba sunset point in Ratnagiri, I don’t find them in any chaat lanes in any other city. Prove me wrong and I promise to smile even after being confuted. The inside ingredients are similar to a Ragada Chaat but the crispy cone matters to me very much. They are not regular ice-cream cones; these ones are made of wheat flour and need some mastery on frying technique to get crisp results.
The Taste, Near State Bank of India Khareghat Road
Konkani vegetarian food is yet to make its strong impression. It tastes subtle on spices with mild oil but high on aroma. Not overpowering on taste buds but actually I find it very addictive. ‘The Taste’ is a small charming little luncheon setup that will give you a peek into Konkani vegetarian food. Nearly four years back we accidentally discovered this place conveniently located near State Bank of India at khareghat road (Jayastambha) and now we are regulars there.
We noticed and admired the simplicity factor of the place both in terms of food appearance and the sitting arrangement. The food portion of the thali is exactly what a dietician would recommend me to stay afloat even after the lunch. I will try describe the feeling -how right after the lunch you feel so SORTED. The other snacks are lip-smacking too; my favorites are Loni(butter) Dosa and Thalipeeth both dishes are melt-in mouth. To describe in two words ‘The Taste’ is homely and heavenly.
Mithila at Maruti Mandir
This is what dieticians tell you to stay away from but when was the last time you listened seriously? Mithila is a good dining and lunching experience meeting all the requirements of ambiance and a menu card with varied choices. The dining hall has a functioning AC and they keep renovating the place which is a sign they strive hard to stay in competition. I noticed the change in menus too which is more important.
Bhelpuris of Ratnagiri
What I remember of Bhelpuri that it was the standard snack between friends for any small or grand occasion before Mumbai pavbhaji, Italian pizza and Chinese noodles arrived in full desi style. I believe even today, the number of bhelpuri stalls will equal to the total number of other fast food corners in the city. I understand they are the primary requirement to make a picture perfect Indian beach but you can see the chaat stalls at every tourist points in the city. Even the newest Khaugalli has it! Am I complaining??? nooo…just that you have to discover favorites for yourself after trying them all. They become special in mango season when you see the thin green slices of raw mango in every spoonful of it. Delectable!!!
Khaugalli, Sawarkar Natyagriha
Wow, this is something so delightful to see. We have our very own Khaugalli near Sawarkar Natyagriha and it goes live every evening. Now these are the developments that make me proud about my city. You have to be street food smart to enjoy them i.e. somewhat less caring about your stomach. Hey and this looks clean than Khaugallies in most urban cities. Very economical too- they are half the price of any diners. I found stalls for bhelpuri, Dabeli, Pavbhaaji, Indo-chine noodles, frankies, faludas and ice-creams. Enough for a start I say.
I also happened to try a new restaurant, The Carnival at Aarogya Mandir. Looks good but can’t write much on the basis of one dining experience. The list is sure to grow and there must be many more old food joints that I have never checked. But that’s what will make a successful sequel of ‘When in Ratnagiri’, no? All I wish to see someday is more Konkani specialties like tender cashew-nut curry, raw jackfruit dishes, kulith pithala(horse gram flour curry) and some unheard dishes and secrets to come out of home kitchens on the menu cards.