So there we were, nine hungry folks in the middle of the working week. What to do? Someone came up with the idea of gorging on a good authentic Mallu meal. After all, what is life without a good lenj? (Lenj is also known as Lunch in some circles.)
Eureka! Plans were made, instanter. Only one member of this posse happened to be not from Mallu-land. But who cared? The place in question that served up the delicacies in question turned out to be located in one of those sub-lanes in a by-lane that would defy my navigational skills on any given day. It was someone’s house that was converted into a “mess” for hungry folks like us.
The aroma hit us as soon as we set foot in the dark and crowded interiors, milling with cooks and eaters. The yummy, almost tangible lure of freshly fried fish and hot sambar drew us in like magic. Seating was to be grabbed whenever sighted, on plastic stools under long formica tables.
The service was quick and a tad impatient, if indulgent. The Malayalam was sing-song and rapid. We had no time to dither as in other eating joints. Here, if you don’t order in time, you’re jolly well going to go back hungry.
But the food! The first mouthful of brown rice and fresh fried aila hot from the pan! (This aila is known in English by the somewhat unexciting moniker of “mackerel,” which somehow makes it seem like the nerd in the class.) I normally eat the usual refined white rice eaten in North India, but here I enjoyed the taste of the brown, fat rice with the husk on. Which just goes to show what nostalgia for Mallu-land will do to you, even if you cannot claim to have ever lived there.
For the fish non-lovers among us (such people do indeed exist), I realize this piece must have left them cold. But for other aila-eaters and naimeen maniacs, yes. Don’t we all know just such a place that serves up just the most heavenly version of fish on earth? Or, actually, whatever your favorite food, sometimes all you need is the right place. To hell with ambience, menu cards, bedside manners for the wait-staff! Just eat and get out, and go back with that slightly silly grin on your face that can come only from a truly satisfying meal.