The Kolhapuri Food Jollify – Tambda and Pandhara rassa chronicles!

A road trip just for food with no real sightseeing. All we did was to just drive down to all food places I had made a list of and start hogging. That was our agenda on our recent trip to Kolhapur last week. There were two things we knew we couldn’t miss – Kolhapuri mutton and Kolhapuri misal and the places to visit were centered around that. A few colleagues at work suggested places for other foods that are also famous in Kolhapur and my list became this giant that was going to be tough to control!

The food trip turned out to be a mixed bag with a couple of places unexpectedly having mind blowing food, while we were disappointed at some places while eating the dishes that Kolhapur is so famous for!

Our first pitstop was at Pune to pick up a friend and then we drove down the awesome made and maintained Mumbai-Bangalore highway to get to Kolhapur just in time for lunch. We decided to park ourselves at The Opal, a place recommended for typical Kolhapuri food by a few friends who often stop for food here enroute their trip to Goa.

Opal is a hotel and not just a restaurant. Within the hotel premises is their restaurant that serves Kolhapuri food and has a huge seating area for about 200 odd people. The ambience will give you a feeling of it being more like a “mess”.

Soon may be the wrong word because it took them sometime to bring the food. But most of it came at once – mutton masala, mutton kheema, mutton lonche ( mutton pickle) green mutton gravy, mutton fry, mutton liver masala, tambda rassa ( red gravy) , pandhara rassa ( white gravy) and bhakris ( multigrain pancakes).

FYI : From here on, when I refer to mutton in this post , it will be goat meat. 

Even before I started clicking pictures of the food, I was baffled for a few seconds looking at all these dishes lined up on our table. I dint dare to look around because I was embarrassed that others might perceive us famished people who havent had food in weeks! It was a scene straight out of Man Vs Food!

Since we were hungry, we swooped down upon our food, serving ourselves whatever dish that lay in front of us. There was so much food, we were indeed spoilt for choice. Kind of gave us the feeling that women usually have when they walk into a mall!

The food however was disappointing. We had driven 500+ kms to experience true Kolhapuri food, mutton gravies that were so spicy it left your mouth all numb. But apart from the mutton fry and mutton masala none of the food served was exceptional. It was probably average but considering the reputation that this place brought with it, I wouldn’t rate it high at all.

The mutton fry was the dish that stood out and was pretty amazing. Little pieces of mutton battered with pepper and fried in oil, and then sprinkled with salt gave that near perfect peppery and salty taste in the mouth that made you crave for more and easily qualified to be the perfect appetizer. That was probably the only dish that we ordered twice and my friend R even suggested we parcel 5 portions to be had as appetizers in the night.

The mutton masala came as a red colored thick gravy with tender pieces of mutton in it. With the first few bites, I hardly felt the heat of the masala. However by the time I dunked my fifth or sixth bite, my lips had started burning to the heat of the red chillies in the gravy. It was as if the chillies activated with a slight delay and unleashed upon me.

A heavy use of chillies in the gravy is a characteristic of Kolhapuri food and that is what makes it so hot and spicy! I was glad to sample this gravy that at least offered some solace amongst the other food that seemed just about okay.

The night however took a different turn. We had been out for snacks and sampled some awesome dosa , whose story will be told in the next post. Post our evening near the Mahalaxmi temple, we sat down for a few drinks. By the time we finished and left the place to head out to dinner, it was pretty late. After much discussion and getting tips from a couple of locals my friends knew, we decided to go to a small eatery called Daulat ( means Wealth) that was located in Mangalwar peth in Kolhapur. Navigating our way through the small lanes that led us to Daulat, we had reached there at 10.30 pm, about half an hour after they closed. ( A tip : Make sure you have an early dinner as places in Kolhapur shut down by 10-10.30)

They conveyed to us that it was past the usual time and they couldn’t entertain us then. A bit of pleading and negotiating worked and they agreed to serve us some food that they still had.

Now Daulat  Hotel is a place which works on the thali or “taat” system and they prepare meals as per demand. So post their regular hours, once the last orders have been placed, they dont have much food left. It was a very hospitable of them to accomodate us and arrange four thalis between the five of us.

As we sat down in a place that occupied the ground floor of a one storied building, I realized the ambience was minimalistic. It reminded me of the small eateries in Goa called “khanawal” that dish out some amazingly fresh seafood. My hopes were now pinned on Daulat being similar to them. As our thalis were getting plated, a server came with a huge pot and a few small bowls and poured in some pandhara rassa for us.

With the very first sip of the soupy rassa, I was blown away. A certain peppery kick with a comforting soupy taste was what the rassa was all about. It beat the rassa at Opal hands down! I gulped down the entire bowl and requested for some more.

Out of the four plates, two were chicken and two of mutton. Each came with two huge chapatis, a bowl of mutton/chicken masala and tambda rassa . Both gravies were unlimited and a server would walk down the aisle every few minutes to pour some into our bowls if required.

As we finished our meal at Daulat, the sullen mood that everyone had been after lunch was gone and there were big smiles all around! We had finally struck gold in the city where the people have a certain swagger especially when it comes to using their tongue. I guess its the red hot tambda rassa that makes them do so!

The thali also came with rice that garnished with some fried onions. The rice was light with the grains separated from each other and the fried onions added a sweetish taste to it. It was perfect to be had with the spicy hot tambda rassa.

As we finished our meal at Daulat, the sullen mood that everyone had been after lunch was gone and there were big smiles all around! We had finally struck gold in the city where the people have a certain swagger especially when it comes to using their tongue. I guess its the red hot tambda rassa that makes them do so!

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