Sometimes a single meal deserves its own dedicated post because it’s just that amazing. It possesses that certain combination of delicious food, ideal ambiance, and possible violent, drunken brawl that makes a dinner unforgettable.
After a day on our tour of Munnar gone-wrong-gone-right, we set out that evening to hunt down something tasty for dinner in the city. The main draw to the town is its surrounding tea plantations and mountains. Munnar itself is actually a bit dark and dingy, but, after sampling food from a few shops, we discovered the city was also pretty tasty.
Along one of the streets, a food stall was set up under a barely-lit tarp. There were rows and rows of benches filled with rows and rows of Indian men chowing down on chicken, curry, chickpeas, and some sort of amazing looking bread.
We walked over and started to chat with him. He introduced himself as Raju and explained that he was making paratha – a sort of flaky pita. They were passed out to customers as quickly as he could make them.
Then someone ordered a dish called kothu paratha.
There was a sudden chorus of “That! We want that!,” from our group and Raju happily showed us to a few open seats.
We ordered four regular parathas, two curries, and two plates of kothu paratha. Then we noticed the shouting.
A man just outside the tarp yelled angrily at one of the waiters. He finally walked away, only to reappear a few minutes later with six more men and some enthusiastic shouting, returned equally enthusiastically by the food stand employees. At this point, one of the waiters elbowed his way through the crowd and brought our plates of food.
I ceased to notice the sounds of the growing fight as I tasted my first paratha. [hyperbolic food description to commence] It was like the best croissant and the best tortilla ever had given birth to a flaky, buttery baby. The kothu paratha was somehow even better with its chewy, crunchy texture in a spicy, smoky sauce. No one could stop eating.
Our culinary reverie was finally broken when the argument exploded into an actual shouting match. We were now practically surrounded by a huge group of growling men and I was nursing a growing concern for the pot of boiling water between us and the mob.
We were all thinking something along the lines of: this food is amazing. those men are terrifying. we should probably get up. can’t move. food is too delicious.
There was a bit of shoving, a bit of fist-waiving, a bit of squealing (me, not them), but before it came to blows, the men finally retreated.
We quickly turned to two Indian men sitting next to us and asked what the almost fight was about. He replied in broken English, that one of the men had insulted the paratha.
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?” I replied, stuffing another bite in my mouth. “Thish-paratha-ish-delicioush!!
How had the buttery crust disappointed them? How had the chewy inside left them wanting? I can’t begin to understand why the men were so upset and why it seemed like the whole town needed to get involved. All I know is that the food was so delicious grown men fought over it and terrified backpackers sat in the middle of an angry mob to eat it.