A 90-year-old eatery that lures foodies with its dosa

A 90-year-old eatery that lures foodies with its dosa
Kunjan Nair at his New Hotel

This small eatery in Thrissur attracts food lovers, including top film stars, from far and wide who rush to savour the 'dosa' served with red-coloured chutney. Situated on the Thrissur-Shoranur route just before Cheruthuruthy, at a turning on the road called Attoor, the hotel has existed at the spot for 90 years and customers have enjoyed the same dosa taste all these years.

The golden-coloured dosa with crispy edges and the chutney prepared with grated coconut and fried red chillies which are grinded by hand on a stone are a perfect combination.

Parcels of dosa and chutney are often hard to eat as the chutney would drench the crispy dosa. Still, even superstars like Mammootty and Mohanlal ensure that they get a dosa parcel from this restaurant, which got a name board ‘New Hotel’ only recently, while shooting in the Shoranur area. The USP of the dosa at New Hotel, which can be identified by the blue paint on the exterior, is of course the taste.

With most restaurants serving only masala dosa and ghee roast, many patrons bring their children along to New Hotel with the intention of making the youngsters realize what real local dosa is. Filmmakers like Sathyan Anthikkad and the late Lohithadas have penned articles on the hotel, which are preserved on a table covered with glass sheet.

A slice of history

Opened 90 years ago, Kunjan Nair's tea shop was the only such facility between Wadakkanchery and Shoranur for decades. It was indeed a wayside stop for all travelers along the route. Since Kunjan Nair’s time, dosa and ‘uniiyappam’ were the main items served at the shop. Alongside, ‘idli’, ‘puttu’, ‘sukhiyan’, ‘parippu vada’ and ‘uzhunnu vada’ were available.

Forty years ago, lunch was added to the menu. Kunjan Nair’s son Kuttan Nair helped him run the hotel and later managed the eatery on Kunjan Nair’s death. After Kuttan Nair too passed away, his daughter Vilasini and her husband Narayanan Nair took over. Over these years, the shop was known by the owner’s name. Ever since the soft-spoken Narayanan Nair began running the hotel, it has been called ‘Narayanettan’s shop’.

According to Narayanan Nair, it is his wife Vilasini’s skills that drive the kitchen at the hotel. Both of them agree that it is the dosa that makes all the difference and give a brief description of its preparation. The batter is prepared using ‘ponni’ rice and raw rice. These items are being purchased from the same provision store over the last 90 years.

For preparing the perfect batter, equal amounts of ponni and raw rice have to be ground along with black gram and fenugreek. The proportion is 250 g of black gram and 25 g fenugreek for one kg rice. While grinding, water has to be added at regular intervals.

Before grinding, the rice and black gram have to be washed thoroughly. The bitterness of the black gram can be removed only by repeated washing. As several pesticides are used in rice, it too has to be cleaned properly.

While making the dosa, the stone has to be heated to the correct temperature before pouring the batter. If the temperature is lesser than optimum, the dosa will have a raw taste and if higher the dish will be burnt.

At New Hotel, the chutney is prepared in the traditional way – grinding on a stone manually. The only ingredients are coconut and red chillis. The chillis are fried properly before the preparation. This special chutney is available in the morning till 10 and evening. The eatery serves only ‘naadan’ dosa; masala dosa or ghee roast have no place in the kitchen.

Two regular visitors who relished all the items at the shop in a leisurely manner were Lohithadas and actor Cochin Haneefa. Their demise caused much pain to Narayanan Nair. On the day Lohithadas died, Narayanan Nair did not step out of the house. Nor did he go to work in his hotel. Narayanan Nair was so grief-stricken that even going to pay his last respects was impossible. The New Hotel owner could not bear to see the body of the filmmaker – they were so close.

Other dishes

‘Unniyappam’ is another item on the restaurant’s menu that is much in demand. It is made by adding coconut pieces and bananas to rice batter. In the olden days, the unniyappam retained its taste for four days. But with the new varieties of rice, the item does not last so long. Another feature of the unniyappam made at the eatery is that no maida (white flour) is used in its preparation.

Snacks like ‘baji’, ‘uzhunnu vada’, ‘pappada vada’ and ‘paripuu vada’ are also made the hotel. Most guests remember to take home parcels after having food.

The eatery opens by 5 am and serves steaming hot ‘puttu’ and ‘idli’. Within 30 minutes, ‘vadas’ will also be ready. The outlet closes by 8 pm. On Sundays, the outlet remains closed. A small quantity of lunch is also offered.

“It is all God’s grace,” says Narayanan Nair on the secret of the hotel’s successful journey over the last 90 years.