Down to earth. But out of this world.
A down to earth location, offering an ‘out of this world’ meal.
Some of the best experiences in life, happen in the most ordinary of places.
I have always believed in this adage, and it was reinforced on a recent visit to Kerala.
From the time we reached there, we were very clear that we had a week to experience everything ‘Kerala’. Every instruction we gave to our driver, waiter or server, was qualified with the term ‘typical Kerala’.
So much so, that my son went on record to say that if we said the words ‘typical Kerala’ once more, he’d tear his hair out.
We, of course, on cue, said ‘typical Kerala’ again, with the hope that this way, our son would actually get the haircut that he’s promised us for so many days.
For the record, he still sports very, very long hair. But that’s a different story altogether.
What I wanted to share with you, is the amazing experience we had, sampling ‘typical Kerala’ food at a place in the middle of nowhere, on the way from Cochin (or as the locals point out Kochi) to Kumarakom.
After having seen four restaurants from the outside and decided they weren’t worth our attention or patronage, our driver decided to take us to a place, which even he had only heard about.
Mullapanthal. A small down to earth toddy joint, in the middle of a village in Kerala.
A Toddy joint? That was our first reaction too.
Once we reached there, I was a little hesitant walking in with my family. After all drunks are drunks, anywhere in the world. My knowledge about Toddy is limited to the drunks we saw as kids, lying wasted on busy streets in Mumbai.
But our driver assured us, that there was nothing to worry about, as they had ‘family rooms’.
Once we got past the initial overpowering odour of sweat and grime, it actually turned out to one of the best meals we had in Kerala.
While the surroundings were something you needed to turn a blind eye to, the food was to die for!
We were seated in a ‘family room’, where we served as the main course in entertainment for a sweet local couple, who were simultaneously fascinated and amused by everything we did.
Now we know what it feels like, to be an animal at a zoo.
We were so excited at the prospect of sampling real traditional Kerala food, that we ordered pretty much everything on the menu.
I decided to get adventurous and taste the local brew. So I asked for ‘one toddy’ expecting a glass. Imagine my shock, when the server returned with a bottle full of Toddy and placed it before me, strainer et al, to drink.
I’m glad I tried it, because I know I never will, again! It took me great effort to finish even one glass. It is vile! It smells horrible and tastes even worse!
The food though, was out of this world. The Karimeen Polichattu, local fish cooked in dynamite paste, sautéed in chilly, sprinkled with chilly powder, steamed in a coconut leaf and served wrapped in it, is mind blowing. (pun unintended)
The first bite, literally explodes in your mouth. Subtlety is not something that Keralite cuisine is known for. And we learned that the hard way.
It was a frontal attack on our taste buds, with our reaction going something like this… “Chillies! Spice! Chillies! Spice! Chillies! More Chillies! Yum!”
The sweet couple looked on with big smiles plastered on their faces, sniggering away at novices trying their hands on pro stuff, while my wife and I ploughed on through the dish, eyes watering, faces red, tongues hanging out as we tried to cool down before the next bite, but enjoying every morsel we ate.
The squid & prawns were delicious too, but paled in comparison with our first taste of Karimeen, something that became standard fare in our menu, from that moment onwards.
At the end of the meal, when we were so stuffed that it was difficult to even think of moving. The icing on the cake was when we asked for the bill. The feast we had, cost only Rs. 900/-
A tasteless meal, at a fast food joint works out to more!
All in all, Mullapanthal turned out to be a surprise package for us, I guess, because we went there expecting nothing.
Many meals we had at bigger and better rated restaurants turned out to be damp squibs compared with this.
If you’re an adventurous risk taker, when it comes to your holidays, heading out to Kerala, make sure to make a visit to this place.
A word of caution, though!
This restaurant is not for everyone… especially not for those who are used to eating in sanitized environs.
It isn’t the cleanest place on earth. And certainly not the best maintained.
Eat at your own risk!