Silhouette of a vessel appears on the distant horizon. A strong breeze brings with it faint scents that move back and forth like the restless tides. The dawn breaks to teeming spice markets. An old fisherman looks over his fresh catch. In the shades of a cathedral, workers relax, sipping the local beverage. A group of pilgrims wait, in reverence, for the prasad. Elsewhere, in a kitchen, a dish simmers with the rich fragrance of a closely guarded Arabic recipe.
Throughout history, port towns have been the receivers of new cultures - embracing the many beautiful confluences with time. This trail appears in the cosmopolitan centre of Mumbai, where the influence of many styles has found expression in the city’s streets. It then heads along the coastline to Goa, the famous yet unexplored beach town of India. From there it heads to Udupi, which stands in complete contrast, a holy town known for its deeply religious aura. In the red-hued lanes of Mangalore, experience a spicy, flavour-rich confluence of cultures and cuisine. This gastronomic expedition comes to an end at the multicultural city of Calicut, where the remnants of Arab culture linger in the aromas of the kitchen.
From spacious highrises to tiny chawl hamlets, Mumbai is a city for everyone. A haven for many communities that have migrated over the years, the city has developed an eclectic cuisine style, taking from the many cooking traditions including that of the Parsis. Known widely for its cosmopolitan nature and glamorous extravagance, the real taste of the city, be it the spicy hot paav or the quenching sharbat, lies in the many stalls and cafes along its streets.
A harsh salty breeze carrying the smell of freshly cooked fish wipes away the imagery of crowded urbanity. Bask in the warmth of the afternoon sun on the beaches of Goa. A popular holiday destination for Indians, the beach city hides behind its pomp and festivity a richness in its culture which has evolved as a confluence of many, especially that of the Portuguese.
The redolence of seafood slowly fades and the beach winds tickle the nose with a dainty smell. Enter the quaint town of Udupi where the streets are filled with devotees walking towards or coming back from temples. The day begins with a freshly brewed cup of filter coffee. The cuisine is satvic, an entirely vegetarian cuisine that was born in the mutts of Udupi to cater to the travellers and vagabonds who roamed the lands as religious and spiritual pilgrims.
At Mangalore, a city that evokes the countryside of Kerala, this gastronomic quest reaches a threshold point. Nestled between the Konkan coast and the inland Western Ghats, Mangalorean cuisine is a rare blend of the many culinary styles found around, ranging from the spicy Konkan seafood to the tantalising Udupi idlis.
The whiff of spices transports one to an era when traders from faraway lands set shop in the spice markets of Calicut. A port town since ancient days, the cuisine has been greatly influenced by the Arab traders and the later European settlers. Walk the streets as the heavy coastal wind carries the rich sweet smell of bananas, coconuts and spices that emanate from the many corners and taste the delicious golden pazhampori along with some sharp suleimani chai.
The party destination of the country, Goa is the land of golden beaches and old churches. The state resonates history and culture in its buildings, and is an ideal destination for the historian and the architect. Its striking beaches have become the go-to destination for anyone looking to relax and have a good time, surfing, sunbathing, and snacking on seafood in the beachside shacks.
A quiet coastal town on the shores of Arabian Sea, Mangalore retains the balmy aura of countryside despite the rapid urbanisation. Having been under the influence of various empires since antiquity, Mangalore always remained a prosperous trade town and a place of eclectic population. The constant assimilation of various cultures made the region cosmopolitan by nature, with a strong thread of religion and spirituality tying the multiplicities together.
Mumbai, officially named Bombay until 1995, is the financial capital of India and the home of India's Bollywood film industry. Also called India's "maximum city", Mumbai is known for its extreme standards of living, fast paced lifestyle, and the making (or breaking) of dreams. It's a cosmopolitan and increasingly westernized city that's an important base for industry and foreign trade.
Roam the markets picking up fresh vegetables; take down some quirky cooking tips as the food is being cooked and listen to fascinating origin stories of dishes while dining with an ardent food lover.
Visit a coastal village, and spend time with the members of the fishing community. Over a cup of black tea and fish fry, share stories and get a glimpse of their adventurous lives - daring fish expeditions, groovy boat songs and more.
Take a stroll through the quaint narrow streets of Udupi, coming across pious devotees and curious travellers along the way. Observe the traditions and customs as you enter the famous temples, to experience the culture shaped by religion.
Amble in the narrow, cobbled lanes of Goa's old Latin quarters known as the Fountainhas. In its winding streets, observe the changing hues of traditional cottages adorned with ornate balconies and tiled roofs. As the evening falls, discover the Portuguese music of longing in the company of a Fado musician.
Visit the quaint Irani cafes that are nestled in tiny corners of the sprawling Mumbai city. In these tiny cafes, teeming with people, taste exotic snack dishes of Parsis ranging from the egg akuri to dhansak and kheema pav.