Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Madurai - there's a lot more to it
Today, while the evening is sinking under an outrageous temperature of -4 degree Celsius, and I have nothing but a dead old plate of lettuce to consider for dinner, I am dreaming about one of the most heartwarming feasts I have ever – I’m sure – had.
It was sometime by the wry end of an Indian summer when we were on a road trip by the lustrous looking, newly smartened up NH7. If you had been driving long over the same road during the pre-makeover days, you will know what I am talking about. The new NH7 is a driver’s perfect Indian dream. So, anyways, after what seemed like a glide of a ride from Nagercoil to Madurai, we hunted around – late in the night - utterly famished – but still unwaveringly unanimous (all of us and that was quite rare) - for this little, old place that – stories said – was a rare treasure to a food lover’s soul.
Hmm..so we did arrive at this dreadfully rusty looking, almost invisible (no boards, no flashing lights!) rugged building that stood on not more than 500 sq feet of ground in its entirety which included the family room, of course - the only one, about 5 * 5 (I’m serious), in size, which by a hair's breadth could seat about six hungry people.
We looked around and beamed in pride - We were at the unbelievably popular(for the what it looked like) ‘Konar Mess’.
With the infamous stories we had been religiously collecting about the restaurant, we were not surprised. Not even when we saw a string of dimly lit wagons along the whole street outside Konar Mess, in which, we later heard, the big wigs of the Madurai circle (dons/dhadhas included) dined. Uh –uh! I think we were far too starving for any surprises.
When the table was, at last filled with what we had been craving to see, in sheer glee, we let our tongues drop flat onto our plates. And then followed an evening of a south Indian delight of meat!
My favorite was the Kari dosai – a kind of ghee-roasted dosai with fried, spicy, minced mutton filling – the most popular pick of the menu. To soften the crispness, Kari dosais are traditionally accompanied by a small bowl of mutton gravy – simple and authentic. As we began nibbling those pieces of wonder down, we let a gush of pride roll over in honor of the experience.
So then I dived into what was considered yet another sin-not-to-have by the Konar-mess-lovers-club. So next appeared on the table, a plate of steamed idiyappam with the accompaniment of a bowl of Mutton Chukka (Mutton Chukka varuval to call it, in native fondness) that rather smelt like a tangible mesh of the best assortment of south Indian spices.
It looked dark, rough, kinda jagged but tender to touch. It was not the typical chukka I had believed I was a fan of. There was definitely a secret ingredient, I could just smell it.
I didn’t ask; didn’t feel up to it. But ever since, I almost gave up ordering chukka elsewhere.
Ohh! And - Of all the bites of intoxications we blissfully indulged in, that night, Mutton Kheema (I can’t precisely remember more details of what I ate this with) deserves a pat on the back too. It wasn’t my order and by the time I wanted to, they ran out of it.
That’s one grave misfortune Konar mess can mercilessly inflict upon you. You need to be quick enough to let the orders move in to your table. They vanish from the pantry at the blink of an eye and you do not want to go through the depression of watching the last plate land up on your neighbor’s table.
As a traveler that cannot just hop onto Madurai every other day, trust me, that, can be pretty heartbreaking!