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Meals ready

The small vegetarian hotels that dot the city serve authentic home fare, which is heart warming to find while away from home. V. RAMANATHAN says that they have merged beautifully into the city's food scene


STAR HOTELS in the city celebrating exotic food festivals, in their fancy ambience and well-manicured lawns, undertake high-powered advertising. But these low profile hotels existing in the bye lanes of Broadway and Market Road, rarely advertise their fare. Perhaps, they need not do so, for their reputation is well established for decades in this city.

Co-existing with these posh hotels, the family restaurants like the Udupi hotels and the various Bhavans, the strictly vegetarian Rajasthan and Punjabi hotels have found in this Metro, a niche market for their speciality dishes. These `dhabhas' or eateries have established themselves as outlets of food from other States. Though few, these restaurants have survived the ups and downs of business in our city of hartals, bandhs, strikes et al.


Strictly run as family businesses, here the women work from within the confines of their homes, providing the necessary `masalas,' while the male folk work as organisers, entrepreneurs, managers, sometimes even toiling in the kitchen and dining halls too.

The Rajasthani hotels have been here for decades and though they do not have much of an ambience, they cater to the travelling salesman. Says the proprietor, "I have local people visiting me for lunch and dinner only on week ends, but daily it is the travelling salesmen from North India who is my regular client. My cooks are from my village and I use the ingredients from my State to give the food the original flavour. There is no pseudo taste here. There are many bars and other hotels around where similar dishes are served. But many people do not like to eat there, since dishes are prepared alongside with non-vegetarian food. Here, we strictly adhere to vegetarian dishes. Even eggs are not served. The prices are comparable to other hotels of this type though it is half of what is charged in some middle class hotels. The popularity of the hotel stems from the authenticity of the preparations and usage of pure ghee."

Another small eatery in Broadway that has been there for almost 25 years is now a part and parcel of Kochi. The proprietor-brothers are friendly and familiar figures in society. They have a wider clientele being in a prominent location. Says one of them, "We run this as a family concern. Working within the parameters of law, holding licences from authorities, unlike the footpath `pettikadas,' our clients are largely from the middle-class. We never allow the few who turn up after downing a drink to create a nuisance here. Those who come here appreciate our dishes and we also have home delivery facility. We take care to avoid the smell of cooking oil from lingering in our dining area and many women are keen to know our recipes, which we willingly share. Many housewives cook for us."This city is indeed cosmopolitan and absorbs one and all. It assimilates into its own, the culture and the food habits of the various States of India. Hence the many who visit the city can readily find the food of their home kitchen, something that each one of us yearns for!

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