One thing which was lingering long after the travel was the smell and taste of the various food items I had chance to sample this time to Belgaum.
Belgaum to Bangalore – On the way to Belgaum by 4 wheeler, the major pitstops were unfortunately at only Reliance A1 places. Over the last 2 years I have found there are good and bad variations to this chain. One near the Chitradurga is good and provides better menu for both non veg/veg choices. They can make bhurji, bhajji, puri-bhaji(with what ever choice) , usual indo-chinease affair(best to be avoided) and north indian spread(roti – order the tandooris), tadka daal, korma etc. The one before Hubli is unfortunately way below par even the normal roadside ones. It has awful upma and does not really work the full time, in early morning at 8 am – they just had one dish – upma.
When you are near Hubli/Dharwad – it is better to take a trip to the city and enjoy better food. Dharwad has amazing pedhas(Mishra), wadai/idli and usual tindi stores(maitri paradise,bombay , brindavana ), if you get chance visit the university and gorge on awesome chilli bhajji in the evening with local chutney and cuppa half-cut tea with friends for company. The view/location/food is good. Hubli is good for full meal kind of stop. Chitradurga is blessed with better culinary items but unfortunately you need local home access to taste it. Every other restaurant has become “pan-indianized/secularized” serving everything from other country dishes(read the up north chinease ) to north/south offerings thus diluting the local offerings. Davangere has better name in terms of the food – benne/kali dosai, kara-mandakki ,menasinakaayi etc. In Bangalore/Belgaum one even finds shops with the name Davangere benne dosa. Well sad part was I missed the kamath after Tumkur which has decent tindi items.
Belgaum is blessed with good food joints like new grand, pranam(opposite globe), kamath, “ajanta” , “milan” . The food from these udupi restaurants is delighful and varied in offerings. Every place has different idli, vadai, dosai. I have never tasted non-veg in Belgaum so Jyoti(my wife) has exposed us to recently “khyber” food which according to connossieurs of the good nonveg is delightful. I am not including Tilakwadi etc since I have never had food on other side except the road side stuff. BTW the cold coffee stall near the GIT college on khanapur road is history replaced with hip liquor and grocery shops :). The toast is peculiar offering of Belgaum where 2 slices of bread are toasted and applied with butter and toasted again. On top of it a little bit of “chutney podi” and dash of regular coconut chutney. It is served with surprisingly onion rings(raw), but it tastes heavenly with cup of tea/coffee. Vada pav of Balu in front of Ramdev is also very famous, with right fried color and ginger based Potato curry and fried green chilli. The pavs being fresh are just gobbled up smoothly. Highway hotel(irani)/Kakati/CBT bus stop(irani) has good tea and lip smacking snacks. The irani tea taste is a secret I have been trying to replicate and understoo one of the process step being – just boiling the conoction over and over again. The idlis/dosai from Ajanta/New grand are wonderful preparation with just right lingering taste of udad pulse and local groundnut chutney(thicker version compared to watery bangalore version). Belgaum also has the sweetmeat shops – nagauri etc who provide kunda/kardant(although gokak is famous for it – you get similar stuff in belgaum) etc. Belgaum also has the freshest of the vegetables of all kind and delight for veggies. The usual fare is jowar roti with brinjal curry and dollop of butter. The methi/palak/red palak etc too is abundant. Jyoti was the one who also got the Kaaps ( fried cut veggies) introduced in our household available in some puneri restaurants. I was unaware of the dish till I ate it first time.
New grand is pretty old establishment on the college road with clean/small place for years. The chairs are old style laid with sunmica and pantry covered half with treakwood almirah with glass for sweet storage. It also has efficient cleaning service. Another item which has gained popularity with masses is Puri-bhaji – fluffy light puris with “usal” based bhaji is good tiffin item to splurge on. The taste of bhaji will be tad sweeter than usual ones and stand out because of “usal” base rather than potatoes.
Ajanta was renovated in nineties and converted into cosy place with trolleys for cleaning and nice seating places. It sees massive traffic and serves great dosai, upma. Restaurant has done nice thing – it has kept one big chunk in the front open and empty to allow for light and “take home” folks to sit around. The idlies here are delight simply becuase of the lightness they bring to the senses. Niether chutney nor sambhar overpower the senses so as to kill the taste of idli. Idli retains the original taste down to the last bite.
Pranam opposite the globe has tastiest chakalies(murruku) on the planet. Try the chunkier, lighter version with small hole in the middle. The taste will be amalgamation of ajwain, chana flour. It also has good idli and dosai in early morning. I am not big fan of upma – but Belgaum upma are usually sweeter and have less of peas etc and full of “chana”/”udad” pulse garnished with “sev” and “coconut grating”. It just melts in the first bite and taste stays with you forever.
A place where my sister stays has fabulous store – mahalakshmi for bhadang which is served after 5 pm till 7 pm strictly. It has the neatly laid out row of benches with narrow table in between. Vada pav too has stall owner who likes to serve it hot on the goa road. It has the folks from rajasthan for chaat/paani-puri etc. My sister makes heavenly misal pav which I miss terribly.
4. Kolhapur is famous for rassa, sugarcane products, milk and misal. I like sugarcane and walking across to “jaggery makers- gurhal” and having bite into fresh jaggery. The misal-pav is again local “usal” based and description can be had from earlier Gaurav Sabnis’s excellent entry. This misal pav is more closer to Puneri style with bigger portions. Everything in Kolhapur is more of bigger portion – vehicles/houses/people and their food. The mutton/chicken preparations are beyond me. Good hotels to try out are Hotel Victor Palace, Panchshil(veg), Pearl, Vrushali,Rayson and Yatri Nivas etc. This time though the chances of meateaters did not have chance as we were on piligrimage 🙂 to jotiba/mahalakshmi.
Special – Somebody has collected local specialities for each station/place.
Tindi – eatables/light snacks
Vikram Karve’s unofficial food guide to pune/Mumbai.
Nupur’s Hotstove – awesome content/recipe/photos. (you need to bow down to the creator for this much of perfection)