Taste of Manipur now in Mumbai

Jan 22, 2014, 07:45 IST | Hassan M Kamal

Two restaurants both called King Chilli, named after the hot chilli from the Northeast, offer an exclusive taste of Manipuri cuisine, right in the heart of Santacruz

If you are in the mood to sample some delicious preparations exclusive to Manipur — one of the seven states of Northeast India, pay a visit to Kalina village in Santacruz. The area packs a sizeable Thangkul and Meitei population from the Northeast. Both these communities have unique food preparations, each using the same ingredients in different ways. But what really makes them stand apart is the use of the King Chilli, rated among the world’s five
hottest chillies.

Harsa Kasathei at new King Chilli

Two restaurants named after the infamous King Chilli from this region, are now offering a taste of the cuisine of the Meitei and Thangkul communities (some dishes are off the menu, and some as part of it) for the first time in Mumbai. The eateries are run by members of the Thangkul tribe of Manipur.

A Meitei style fish preparation served at the old King Chilli

Our first stop was King Chilli, located bang opposite the Monginis outlet in Kalina, behind the Kalina Masjid. The newest entrant in the market, it’s run by the same group of people, who were part of the original King Chilli located just a few hundred metres down the Air India Road. Our server, Worsem Zimik, seemed excited as he took us through the menu. Unimpressed with the Chinese fare, we asked for something Northeastern. After a brief interval, he returned with a grin and the message that we were in luck.

The new King Chilli (above) located opposite the Kalina Masjid bus stop is a few hundred metres before the original King Chilli. Pics/Nimesh Dave

Zimik informed us that most items in Manipuri cuisine are meat-based, and the King Chilli is the common ingredientamong all the dishes (which is combined with ingredients like fermented fish and fermented soya beans), forming the basis of all food items. For example, Ironba (R70) a spicy preparation of boiled potato, spring onions and the King Chilli, was spicy but delicious, and also used fermented fish. Likewise Khaiko Kasathei (R70), a salsa-like preparation of roasted tomatoes and herbs, contained thin strips of smoked chicken.

But the focus was equally on vegetables in dishes like Green Beans (Rs 70), cabbage and potatoes, mostly eaten boiled. “It helps bring a balance to the diet,” said Zimik. Our order for the day also included a fusion item called North East Chicken Pot Rice (Rs 155) and other off-menu items like Susa Salad (Rs 200) and Alangsa, a special preparation of chicken liver (Rs 150).

Guests at the old King Chilly

The soul of Manipuri cuisine, however, is the ideology that believes in making optimal use of all ingredients, said Tim, owner of the older King Chilli (established a few years before), which we visited a day later. “We believe everything in an animal or plant has a use, and if it’s edible we should eat it. In the Northeast, you buy meat according to your choice, but we don’t throw anything,” he stated. After a brief conversation we placed an order for Fish Curry (Rs 220), Ironba (R70), and a special Chicken preparation (Rs 150) with steamed rice (Rs 110).

During both the visits, we had our Northeastern friends to guide us with the taste and originality, and the older King Chilli won us over in terms of originality, but the new King Chilli, boasted of innovation in terms of serving its dishes. So, if you wish for a traditional taste, go for the older King chilli, or visit the new one for a unique twist to traditional Manipuri taste.

At King Chilli (new), near Kalina Masjid, Santacruz (E). CALL 65564111
At King Chilli (old), Air India Road, Santacruz (E). CALL 65606770

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