Did you know about the culture of military hotels in Bengaluru? These non-vegetarian eateries share a rich and meaty history.
The IT hub of the country, Bengaluru can be seen as no less than our very own Silicon Valley in India. Although I’ve never been to this part of South India, yet I have a faint idea about their culture because of a social connection. A friend of mine moved to Bengaluru in the pre-pandemic phase but unfortunately had to come home to Delhi within a year’s time as Covid struck us. It was only once she moved back that I realized how much she had gotten attached to the place. The glint in her eyes whenever I would ask her about her life there would be enough proof to understand how much she missed and cherished that time.
Since I was a foodie, she would tell me about Indiranagar, the social capital of the city, boasting of some of the best restaurants, cafes and clubs in town. However, most of her conversations revolved around idli, dosa, uttapam, sambhar etc. which was the cliché South Indian fare. Though I knew that South India has a lavish non-vegetarian spread too but the closest I could get to that in Delhi was Malabar chicken with parotta which is essentially a specialty of Kerala. Quite recently, I came across the term military mutton curry and in a loop of searches I discovered about something called as military hotels in Bengaluru. This sparked my curiosity and that is when I got know that the culture of military hotels in the city is not a new venture but an age-old tradition.
Mutton Check, Military Hotel Check
Mandi (Arabic biryani), Donne biryani, Military mutton curry, kaima curry and much more; these are the things you can expect on the menu of these military hotels in Bengaluru. There was a time when alcohol was served too but not anymore. The meaty preparations at these hotels have a distinctive taste which takes us back to the time of the Maratha rule of the 17th century (this is the most plausible theory). Legend has it that the Marathas captured Bengaluru in 1638 and Shahaji Bhonsle’s descendants started running these military hotels to feed the soldiers. Since the soldiers needed protein-intensive diets to sustain their energies throughout the day during battles and wars, these eateries came up to fulfill these requirements of the officials.
Then there are other explanations which state that the when the women and children forcefully fled to far off villages during the bubonic plague of 19th century, it was these military hotels that helped the farmers survive the days. Moreover, some claims have been made that the foundation of these hotels was laid during the era of Tipu Sultan in the same period, in order to serve his armies as well as the British.
Tucked away in the bylanes of Old Bengaluru, which is known as Cantonment area today, is the hub of these legendary military hotels that have satiated the cravings of a host of warriors and civilians in the past. In order to maintain the rustic look and historical significance of these hotels, they are nothing more than hole-in-the-wall eateries with limited seating space and quick service. People usually drop by to devour their favourite Maratha-style biryani and some hot curries and leave, making them not-so leisurely eating spots. Like we said, all non-cravings cravings satisfied here.
Here you’ll find idlis being served with keema curry, mandi, the Arabic biryani with special secret ingredients, enticing mutton pulao, chicken dishes and military mutton curry paired with idli, dosas, ragi muddle and even donne biryani. This rustic and delicious curry is made with a nice marination of curd and coriander, and cooked with onions, whole spices and green chillies.
Did you know that in order to highlight the fact that they don’t serve beef or pork, a lot of them have suffixed the word Hindu in their names? Another reason for being tempted to try non-vegetarian fare at these budget-friendly eateries is the fact that each of them have their own special family recipes which are unique to them.
So the next time you’re in the city you know where to head to for savouring all your non-veg delicacies. Some of the iconic places like S Govindrao Military Hotel or Shivaji Military Hotel are a must-try.