As a child I spent many school holidays in Bangalore and Mangalore visiting family. While I hated the compulsory naps I was forced to take, I couldn’t wait for the ice-cream, trips to the beach and seeing family. Sixteen years later, I still feel the same way about Mangalore (or Manguluru if you want to be pedantic), except I’m quite happy to take afternoon naps now. Mangalore has changed tremendously over the last two decades and is almost unrecognizable to ex-pats who return after 20 years.
A sleepy coastal city, the construction of huge shopping malls has changed the skyline and the way that families and young people spend their money and time, as has technology. Where sixteen years ago I was still ‘dialing’ numbers on an old-fashioned landline, now even the fisherwoman at the local market has a smartphone and will whatsapp her regular customers with pictures of the fish on sale.
The Beaches in Mangalore are not as popular with locals as you might imagine, which means it isn’t full of annoying tourists! An early morning walk on the beach is lovely, with fisherman bringing in their spoils – you might even be able to buy it straight from them at a lower price. Like any tropical beach, there are plenty of coconut trees, mangroves, stalls selling ice cream, mangoes, coconut water. Watch your belongings, unlike beaches in a Western country I would not leave my things unattended on the beach and go for a swim. Popular beaches include Panambur Beach, Ullal Beach and Sasihitulu Beach. If you want to go for a walk in the evening and see the sunset, Sultan Battery is a nice evening walk with a great view of the sun setting over the river.
With plenty of beaches naturally comes fresh seafood! Mangalorean food includes south Indian specialities like fried fish, kubes (cockles) cooked in desiccated coconut, prawn and spinach curry, pumpkin with coconut, cabbage with coconut…basically everything is cooked with coconut.
You can try Mangalorean food at some of these places:
I haven’t been to Ocean Pearl myself but it is rated #16 out of 299 on Trip Advisor and is raved about for its crabs and prawns so you couldn’t go wrong there. Not sure about the pricing but it looks like it’s got great ambience so factor this into the menu.
Froth on Top
Froth on top is on the corner of Arya Samaj Road and Balmatta Road as well and used to be the Post Office when my father was young. It’s now an awesome restaurant with a private room at the back for groups which cutely enough, is called The Family room. We were ushered in and it was a welcomed respite from the heat outside with air-conditioning, cold beer and cruisers (Yes I still drink Cruisers *eyeroll*). We had chicken lollipops and I think some fish and mushrooms. There’s plenty to choose from and if you want authentic Mangalorean Food I would go for the Goa Sausages and Prawn Curry.
I’ve been to Village a couple of times and I reckon its overpriced by Indian standards, but if you want a nice dinner and are prepared to spend more than you normally would on a dinner in India but less than you would in a Western country you could try it. Its good food, great ambience and service. I personally like the Indo-Chinese food here and it has another one of those Indian quirks where you can order soup and say 4 by 8 or 5 by 7 and the waiters know exactly that you mean divide five soups up for seven people lol.
I haven’t been in a few years though but recently went to Gaja Lee which was pretty good, the meat melted in our mouths.
Vas Bakery is an institution in itself. Situated in a prime location at the top of Balmatta Road, its just near the intersection with Arya Samaj Road, where my paternal grandmother currently lives. I have heard my father raving about it for years. The descendants of the original family still run the bakery and over Christmas thousands of families will buy their Christmas sweets from the bakery to eat with family and distribute to friends and neighbours instead of making their own.
While in Mangalore you should try the sugar cane juice but get it in the malls where you can be sure it’s clean. If its outside, there’s a risk that flies have sat on the cut cane and you might get food poisoning (been there done that). It’s extremely refreshing and you can get flavours added to it like ginger, lemon and pepper.
Also love other snacks you can buy in the malls like paani puri and other chaats of course, and cups of corn with different flavourings like chaat masala, pepper, lemon, etc.
Yes I know Ice Cream is food (questionable – is it food or could it really be the ambrosia of the Gods?) but Ice Cream deserves its own section. I love the ice cream in Mangalore. Some might say it’s the main reason I go there. When you’re in Mangalore, you have to go to Pabba’s and try a Chocolate Dad, Gadbad, Tiramisu ice cream, American Choconut – you might as well try it all. My brother is well known at Pabbas because he goes there almost 3 times a day when he’s in Mangalore.
Another good Ice Cream place is Ideal where you can try a refreshing and delicious Tender Coconut Ice Cream.
Mangalore has as many churches as Chiang Mai has temples – no I lie Chiang Mai has more temples but Mangalore comes pretty close. While in Mangalore check out the crowds at Milagres Church and Rosario Cathedral, and St Sebastian’s in Bendur. St Aloysius Chapel is also very beautiful with its stained glass windows. Speaking of crowds, weddings in Mangalore are extremely extravagant with each family trying to out-do the other, inviting thousands of people they barely know. It’s a bit of a farce with people rushing between three weddings on one night because they need to make an appearance so as not to offend anyone. I’m quite happy to go to weddings usually but the increase in speeches, traditional ceremonies and decrease in dancing in weddings in Mangalore have made me quite put off weddings to be honest. And that’s saying something, when your resident Wedding enthusiast cannot bear the thought of sitting through a 40-minute speech at a reception.
Ruled by the Portuguese in the 1500’s, there is a strong Catholic presence in Goa and Mangalore with European influences that can be seen in the churches, songs in the Konkani language, the western attire of Catholic women, and consumption of beef and pork. While Goa is a lot more liberal, Mangalore still holds onto a traditional conservatism. Culturally, Mangalore is steeped in rigid family values with a strong religious focus. Even in the last decade, there have been public riots against modernisation. I guess as with any new place you go to, it’s important to respect local customs and behave as locals do. For example, public demonstrations of affection, women drinking in a bar and wearing revealing clothes may be acceptable in other cities in India but are frowned upon in many areas of Mangalore and may result in harsher consequences.
In the end, a trip to Mangalore is for me always a chance to see hear stories from my parents about their childhood and see the places where my dad grew up. I have many fond memories of climbing coconut trees on the beaches as a child and walking on the river bed in rural Mangalore. I hope you form your own memories and that they are pleasant ones.