Flavours from Kerala
DO YOU have a favourite chair that contours perfectly to fit you? An age-smoothened sheet soothing to touch? May be shorts or trousers that will draw horrified screams in fashion circles but is so comfortable to be in? Comfort and contempt are two sides of familiarity. One is at home with familiarity. That is what home is.
And it was that homely feeling that was missing at the ongoing Kerala Food Festival at the Dakshin, Park Sheraton.
The menu featured Hindu, Syrian Christian and Moplah (Muslim) styles of cuisines. At Dakshin, I did see my part of Kerala, Central Travancore, yet I was not at home.
There was the squid dish, Kanava peera that evoked the taste of the Syrian Christian Meen or chemeen (fish or prawn) peera that has the very same combination of coconut, shallots and chillies.
Again the Kadala curry with black channa had the right masala, but the chef Biji touched it up with coconut milk. . The Kanava peera and Kadala curry may be different, but they were by no means washouts. The Nadan kozhi curry lessened some of my lost feeling. Then came Moplah kozhi biriyani, which went straight to the heart. It is doubtful whether there is any other dish with so many variations.
From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari, biriyani has adapted itself to the ethos of almost every state, and the Malayali's mark it with coconut.
Though Meen pollichathu or fish grilled in banana leaf didn't strike any chord, Meen mulakittathu, a Muslim speciality was a different story. The chef has tried to avoid the oft-repeated appam-stew-meen moili-Malabar parotta theme.
Boldness to strike a different path is much appreciated. But variations like Manga mappas, raw mango in coconut milk curry, from the original themes didn't go down well. Having grown up on fish mappas, the mango one was a bit hard to swallow. Super soft Pathiri helped us mop up all the gravies.
The dessert, Thari choru, (Kesari-like) was a sheer delight.
The exquisitely delicate rose water flavour is the hallmark of this Moplah sweet. Palada prathaman or rice flakes payasam was also nice. But it paled before Thari choru. The prices match the five-star billing, of course.
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