Well, what would you like to eat while you are in Manipur? Daal maakhani? Butter naan? Hmmm... looks like you need to look very narrow, at one of the larger 'Hotels'. The larger hotels have these kind of dishes on their menus, in their restaurants and room service, food that you are likely to find almost anywhere in India.
What you are going to find instead are the ultra simple local restaurants. The centre of Imphal around the Polo Stadium has a clutch of local restaurants.
Local people eat there extensively, and the occasional tourist that may happen to drop by. Humble restaurants with local food. Old wooden tables with chipped laminated tops. Rickety benches to sit on.
But then, the focus is not on the furniture. The menu is the Manipuri Meitei 'thali', predominantly vegetable and fish based. About half the dishes have fish in them. Fish with greens. Fish with vegetables. Fermented fish salad. Fish curry.
No time to waste, time to dig in. The owner was suitable impressed at my interest in learning more about local food.
Several 'rice hotels' are found along the streets.
The furniture is, predictably, very basic.
We decided on simple yellow daal and rice, with pickles on the side. All served with a smile.
The OK Hotel on M G Avenue right opposite Hotel Nirmala was my choice for dinner on a couple of occasions. The menu is limited to rice, daal and chicken. Good enough for me.
Many locals eat at OK Hotel, which is a reasonably good indicator of the quality of food served. It was closing time, about 7 PM. Several local folks were leaving, while one family remained.
Evening snacks and tea are very welcome after a day on the road. Snack 'hotels' are even lower on the simplicity scale. Freshly cooked snacks. Yummy black tea, excellent flavour.
Yet another evening snack house, the Meme Hotel. Maybe the words 'Hotel' and 'Restaurant' are used interchangeably?
As always, just like at any Rice hotel or Meat hotel, hard working ladies do the cooking, cleaning and serving. Once again, simple furniture. Some combination of worn wooden tables, rickety benches, gaudily coloured plastic tables and equally gaily coloured plastic stools. Smiles all around. Simplicity personified, indeed.
A typical evening snack with black tea looks simple, yet is wonderfully tasty.
One afternoon my guide Bashan took me over to the Kalakshetra where members of the travel and tourism fraternity had gathered for lunch. Bashan had been invited, and he had called and asked them whether he could bring a guest along. Very kind of him!
Ah, the food was a yummy Meitei fish based thali. Thank you, folks, for your excellent hospitality.
Back at Hotel Nirmala, I tried room service on a couple of occasions. My choice was Fish cooked in a Mustard curry. Yum, it surely was!
Due to Manipur's geographical location, I ordered a Chinese dish one night. I was not disappointed, and was very impressed with the preparation.
Travellers willing to try the Rice hotels, Meat hotels and local Snack hotels will not be disappointed. Travellers seeking Daal maakhani and Butter naan would find far fewer places to go to.
The posts in this series are listed below.