The eatery, adjoining the Mapranam shaapu (toddy shop), is always filled with the sweet aroma of the spices, wafting from the mouthwatering dishes that are lined on the tables. Mapranam, a quaint hamlet, just 20 kilometres away from Thrissur in the Irinjalakkuda route is known for its extremely delicious shaapu curries. The eatery near the junction was opened by Arackal Oppen around 30 years ago. It is now run by his son Joy, who deserves the credit for turning this village into a haven of delicious shaapu curries.
On Sundays, up to 26 varieties of curries would be served at this eatery which is known for its non-vegetarian dishes. Delicious dishes cooked with locally grown chicken, fresh water fishes, crab, pork, anchovies, pearl spots, duck, rabbits, goat head and beef are some of the specialities here. Tapioca and roasted brown peas are the vegetarian options. Appam and pathiri too are served along with the curries. Chapathis would be bought from outside for those who order it.
It is the delicious gravy prepared with the freshly ground spices which make the curries stand out for its aroma and flavour. Artificial colourants or Chinese salt aren't added to enhance the taste of the dishes. Locally sourced fresh coconut oil is used for cooking food here. Freshly caught fishes would be purchased every day. Crab dishes are prepared few times, in a day, to keep it fresh and flavourful. Live crab would be stocked and then cooked as per the demand. Joy and his family who run the kitchen still follow the unique recipes that were handed over by his father. A day at the kitchen starts at 3 am and the dishes would be ready by 8 am. The eatery closes down at 8 in the night. The masala mix is prepared at Joy’s house and this is what makes the Mapranam shaapu curries unique. Joy insists on using only the freshest ingredients. Be it chicken or mutton, Joy would cook it only if they are fresh. Seafood like squid, which aren’t frequently available, would be cooked only if Joy is sure that they are freshly caught.
The shaapu curries are generally very spicy and it is not possible to make it less spicy for a single order as the dishes are prepared in huge quantities. Joy says that the curries would be delicious and flavoursome only if they are cooked in large quantities. Even if the curries are finished, he wouldn’t rush to prepare the next batch. It would be cooked slowly, allowing the meat or fish to cook perfectly, soaking up all the goodness of the spice mixture. The customers usually like to taste almost all the dishes. So, small quantities of curries are served on plantain leaves, along with pathiri or appam. Besides the curries which have gravy loaded with flavours, fried dishes too are served here. Fried chicken, fish and beef are some of the specialities at the Mapranam shaapu.
Foodies from all over throng at Joy’s eatery to taste the unique shaapu curries. This is also the favourite spot of families who love enjoying good food in the company of their loved ones. The place is very clean as the owners give prime importance to the hygiene and quality of the food served at the eatery.
The dishes are placed on a table, in the buffet style, and the customers can take a look at it before ordering them. Joy is extremely particular about certain things which play a major role in ensuring the quality of the dishes that are served here. Freshly caught sea prawns are only used to prepare the dishes. Else, he would purchase prawns from local farms, that too by ensuring that they are grown in perfect conditions. It was the customers' sensitive pallets which taught him the valuable lesson that sea prawns are tastier than locally grown prawns. Joy says that most of them would easily recognize even if there is a slight change in the tenderness of the meat. So, he is very careful while choosing the right cuts of meat that are delicious and have a unique texture. Mapranam shaapu is the right place for the lovers of non-vegetarian food to head to, if they want to try out some mouthwatering dishes.