Barracks for foodies

Treats on a leaf  

For architect Suresh Kumar, a diet that does not include tasty portions from Shivaji Military Mess in Jayanagar is unthinkable. If you think local food in Bengaluru means just fluffy idlis, crispy dosas, spicy uppitu with smattering vegetables, you should head to Hindu military hotels that serve a host of non vegetarian delights from paya soup to biryanis, mutton chaap, keema and ragi mudde to a clientele ranging from film stars to regular office goers and blue collared workers. Suresh points out, “It is a place where film stars and politicians stand in line for the food to be served. There is no discrimination as far as class is concerned in these outlets.” From small hole-in the wall outlets in the older parts of cantonment and pete areas, serving up hot piping non vegetarian delicacies on plates fashioned from leaves with only standing room for customers, to many newer outlets which have plastic chairs and serve food on regular plates, the military messes have come a long way in Bengaluru.

Thirty-five- year-old Eshwar Govind Rao is the fifth generation of his family that manages the S. G. Rao Military Mess in Cottonpet. He says, “We run one of the oldest stores in the city. The hotel was started by one of my grand uncles in 1908 in Akkipet. We have a royal clientele and our biryani and mutton keema are popular across Bengaluru. The cooking style is a family secret and we ensure that no preservatives from outside are used. All our flavours and spices are created in-house. For us, Saturday evenings are busy and we stay up all night to serve the crowd that turns up for our biryani on Sunday morning. We cook everything on a day-to-day basis to ensure that the food remains fresh.”

He points out, “There has been an invasion of biryani and non vegetarian outlets in the past few years. People keep coming back for our biryani, because of the special spices we add. Our ragi mudde and bitter groud curry, which is supposed to be good for diabetes patients is also popular.”

From ragi mudde to paya soup, military hotels’ are a non-vegetarian’s delight -- Photos: Sudhakara Jain

Mansoor Ali, who conducts walking trails in the city and a history buff, gives a historical perspective to the military messes, “The mughals invented the biryani, as it was simple to carry and provided the soldiers with enough protein to fight long drawn out military campaigns. Most military hotels appeared around the 17th Century and were believed to have come up to cater to the appetite of the Maratha armies, which is seen in the Maratha influence in many dishes served at these hotels. Legend says that these hotels were started by Shahji Bhonsle and the Marathas during their reign in the region, when they emerged as the predominant power in the subcontinent. Most of the original military hotels were based in the old city market and cantonment area.”

Food aficionado and Anupam Behera is a huge fan of the fare dished out at these military hotels. He says, “There are many legends behind the origins of these messes. I was a regular at the Shivaji Military Hotel and now enjoy the food at the Raganna Military Hotel in Jayanagar Third Block. It is a small unit and is started by a former pehelwan. I am a fan of the paya (goat trotters soup) and the mutton curry served with dosas. I loved the biryani at Shivaji Military Hotel. These hotels are also popular for the curries they serve with all meats. I feel that this part of Karnataka had a rich tradition of vegetarian fare and military hotels provided non vegetarian options. Most of the older outlets have a distinct Maratha character and are run by people who are not necessarily from the State. Over time, I think a military hotel is a term that has been taken up by hotels dishing out non vegetarian delicacies. Many of the new age hotels are called military hotels just because it makes good business sense.”


Most popular dishes

* Thalai mamsa

* Paya soup

* Mutton biryani

* Ragi mudde

Popular outlets

* Ranganna Military Hotel, Jayanagar

* N.V. Naidu Military Hotel, K.R. Market

* New Govind Rao Military Hotel, Cottonpet

* Shivaji Military Hotel

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Printable version | Oct 12, 2021 12:41:15 PM |

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