Meet Mirsang: The Zesty Marinade That Defines Mangalorean Cooking
Image Credit: Facebook/@KanteenbyMaheshLunchHome; Kane Masala Fry

The one thing that’s unmissable about Mangalorean cuisine is its piquancy. Almost every dish is luscious and mouthwateringly yummy. The seafood delicacies, in particular, have a distinct tang to them. What’s the secret? It could be hidden in the style of cooking, the ingredients used or maybe it’s the magical marinade of chilli, salt and vinegar! Say hello to Meet Mirsang, the popular homemade masala paste that Mangaloreans cannot do without. 

Even if you have been to the port city just once and ventured out to taste the local dishes there, you must have sampled this spicy treat in some dish or the other. An inseparable combination when it comes to the masala fry versions of bangude (mackerel), anjal (seer fish), pomfret and kane (lady fish), the zesty marinade is a favourite among home food lovers and those who love to dine out more often. Apart from fish, this masala paste is used in prawn, chicken and vegetable dishes as well. One can also trace the use of Meet Mirsang in Bimbliyanso Saar, a dal delicacy popular among Mangalorean Catholics, and in the coastal town’s monsoon favourite snack Pathrode. Thus, it wouldn’t be wrong to call Meet Mirsang an all-purpose marinade, which is often stored in jars and kept inside the fridge for regular use. The versatility of this masala paste is what makes it the mainstay of Mangalorean cooking. 

So, what really goes into this zesty marinade? Among the ingredients are chilli powder, roasted cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt and white vinegar. If you visit the traditional homes in this coastal city of Karnataka, you’ll discover that it’s more than the ingredients and spices that lead to the distinct taste of Meet Mirsang. The magic also lies in the unique style of making this masala paste. It starts with soaking the red chillies overnight, following which a grinding stone or a mortar and pestle is used to pound the chillies with the rest of the spices and vinegar. This method goes a long way in retaining the texture and taste of the marinade. 

No points for guessing that chillies play a central role in the preparation of this fiery, luscious masala paste. It is said the state’s famous Byadgi chillies are traditionally used to make Meet Mirsang. A native of Byadgi town, situated in Karnataka’s Haveri district, this variety of chilli is a cornerstone of Udupi cuisine. It is preferred for the rich red colour that it renders to dishes and marinades. It goes into sambar and chutneys, apart from a host of other typical South Indian dishes. Besides Byadgi chillies, Salem Gundu - the small, round chillies popular in Tamil Nadu - are also used in making Meet Mirsang. Many a time, this masala paste is also referred to as Puli Munchi. Bangude Puli Munchi, the Mangalorean Bunt-style hot and sour fish curry, is something to die for. This delicious gravy tastes the best with rice and a vegetable dish on the side. 

Thanks to the widespread use and popularity of Meet Mirsang, the Mangalorean-Konkani kitchen staple is now also available in the market in a ready-to-use form.