A brain‑to‑tail breakfast in Bengaluru
Thale Maamsa in Bengaluru
I’ve never been squeamish at the sight of blood—or guts. So, visiting my local butcher on Sundays is an exciting trip for me. I get to see all the different parts of the animal neatly laid out on display, and watch the butchers deftly slice, trim, and chop various cuts of meat with an almost musical rhythm as their cleavers hit the wooden chopping blocks.
Growing up, my favorite thing to see at the butcher shop were the animal heads. It was strange yet fascinating to see them stripped of fur and skin, the visible teeth locked into an almost sinister grin. Later, I made it a point to notice animal heads whenever I visited or passed butchers around the world, or in different parts of India—the skull of a small, snake-like fish hanging on a hook at my local fishmonger; the goat heads at my local butcher in Bangalore; buffalo heads in the beef-eating Muslim area of Mattancherry, in Kochi, India; the pig heads in the meat markets of Saigon.
Then, on one occasion back at my local butcher’s, I watched someone buy a goat’s head for their Sunday lunch. The butcher proceeded to remove the ears, then the lean meat along the skull and cheeks, then the teeth, which he threw into a bucket. Then, he cracked open the skull cavity and asked the customer if he wanted the brain too (if not, it would join other brains in a neat row and be sold separately, at a premium, for their paté-like appeal). Finally, he chopped up the rest of the head—cartilage, skin and bone, and all—in small cuts.
I asked the man how he was going to cook it. He said he would braise it slowly in a hot gravy. He added that he considered the head meat to be the most flavorful part of the goat.
It turned out that I could try this delicacy right here in my home city of Bangalore, at Ranganna Military Hotel, a local restaurant that serves rather carnivorous breakfast fare by South Indian standards.
Ranganna Military Hotel is a local institution, one of Bangalore’s historic military hotels (which locals also call “milltry” hotels). They were established during the Maratha Kingdom—which spanned from the 17th century to the 19th century in South India—to serve up meaty meals for Maratha Army soldiers. These were no-frills places serving up hot, spicy, meat dishes with rice-based staples such as dosa, idli, and biryani. These days, they’re frequented by meat-lovers because they serve up every part of the goat, including, of course, the head.
When I tasted the delicacy known locally as thale maamsa (“head meat”), I discovered that the man at my butcher was right—it was delicious.
Ranganna Military Hotel
61, 1st Floor, KR Road,
7th Block, Jayanagar,