Calamari Manko Appetizer at the Curry Kebab House in Ottawa
One evening, during a visit to Ottawa, I went on an ‘appetizer tour’ and stopped for drinks, and one or two appetizers, at a series of restaurants down in the Byward Market. One such stop was at the ‘Indian Curry and Kebab House’ which sits in the space once occupied by another Indian restaurant called ‘Haveli’. I missed Haveli after it closed as it was one of my favorite Indian Restaurants in the area, but its successor turned out to be just as good, and their little appetizer, you see above, was absolutely terrific.
The dish was given the rather curious name ‘Calamari Manko’, which sparked my interest right from the start. ‘Calamari’ is widely known as the Italian word for Squid, but the ‘Manko’ portion of the name was mystifying, and I am still not sure exactly what it means. It turns out, after doing a little research, however, that the word, aside from other possible meanings, is a rather rude Japanese slang term (whose translation I shall leave you to Google for yourselves).
Anyway, the menu described the dish as being Squid ‘tossed with Curry Leaves and toasted Coconut [and] served with a Tomato Chutney’. In fact, the ingredients were actually served ‘in’, rather than ‘with’ the chutney, which, in addition to the tomato, included Mustard Seed and Coriander leaf. Toasted dried chillies were almost added to the mix, lending an almost ‘Sichuanese’ effect to the overall taste, which was unusual, but really nicely done.
The squid was cooked just perfectly, being tender, but still a bit chewy, and there was a sweetness that came in part from the toasted coconut, but, probably, also from the addition of a bit of sugar. It was the Curry Leaves that really made a difference here, though. I have cooked with these at home, but this was the first time I have had them served to me in a restaurant dish. The woody, slightly herby taste, really added a nice note and elevated this interesting and tasty Calamari Manko Appetizer to something special.