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Traditional fare

Savour the Mudaliar spread laid out at Dakshin, ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers till December 1.



COMMUNITY CUISINE: Some of the delicacies of the `Mudaliars.'

IN A city where biryani, salans, kebabs and perhaps veppudus, pappu or paneer butter masala is the mainstay of the population, food of any particular community is not easy to find. And for the gourmet who is eager to taste different cuisines it is a bonus when there is a food festival focussing on regional, ethnic or community cuisine. Under the community kitchen series, the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers has been exposing Hyderabadis to different cuisines of the Southern States - from Chettiyar, Moplah to Saraswat. It is now having the Mudaliar Virindhu - a spread of Mudaliar food at its Dakshin restaurant. Unlike food from Chettinad which is now making waves in the country, the popularity of Mudaliar food is not so high.

The Mudaliars of Tamil Nadu are known for their hospitality. Their cuisine is distinct for its style of preparation in traditional vessels like kal chatti (food especially keerai kozhumbu or meen kozhambu has a special taste if cooked in this) and copper vessels. The Mudaliar palate is less spicy compared to the Chettiyars.

In this food festival one has to choose from the a la carte menu. "The menu has been prepared bearing in mind some of the popular dishes of the community," says Chalapathi Rao, Chef of Dakshin. Some of the ingredients like mocha kottai and kalpasi (a flavouring agent) were flown in from Chennai to impart the authenticity," he adds. And lo! You have the traditional spread before you.

The Mudaliars use vadakam, a mixture of onions, garlic and some spices which is specially made and stored for a year. Traditionally it is used for meen kozhambu and keerai kozhambu. It imparts a distinct taste and flavour and is used in some of the dishes like the vendiyakeerai kozhambu (tender fenugreek leaves in a gravy - a tamarind based one akin to the puli-kozhambu) and mocha kottai kozhambu (shelled beans in a traditional gravy - with tomatoes and tamarind) by Chef Chalapathi.

One can begin with vazhaipoo vadai (a vada of banana flower, Bengal gram and coconut), karnakazhangu varuval (escalopes of yam marinated in spices and shallow fried - which is suitable for the spicy palate though it is made differently in some Mudaliar households. A paste of onions and curry leaves is added to the squares of yam boiled with turmeric and salt and then fried well till the masala coats it), seppakazhangu varuval (deep-fried colocasia) and move on to other items like avarakkai poriyal (broad beans - chikkudukaya tempered with mustard seeds, onions, red chillies and coconut - the regular kind), podalangai kootu (which is of the usual kind), vendakkai moru kozhambu, kathrikai kosamalli and the two kozhambus mentioned above for the vegetarians.

The non-vegetarians can feast on appams with attu kaal kozhambu (lamb trotters simmered with traditional spices) and a host of other dishes like meen varuval, chuppal kari kozhambu, koli vartha kozhambu (chicken), kozhi varuval, kari peratal (meat and greens).



GOURMET'S HAUNT: The Dakshin Restaurant.

Besides appam, there are a few rice items - kozhi pulao (chicken), kaikari pulao (vegetable), lime rice, coconut rice and curd rice. For dessert there is a novel item - the khus khus halwa besides poli (bobbatlu of Andhra Pradesh).

The food is sumptuous (even if one orders a la carte) and few items are spicy enough to cater to the Hyderabadis. Since the Mudaliars are vegetarians (a section of them) and non-vegetarians there is a balance of both types of food. What one found missing was the pakoda korma - a speciality dish of the Mudaliars made with coconut milk and other spices and adirasam (arisallu), another popular item.

This attempt of introducing food of different communities is a good endeavour on the part of the hotel especially for the epicureans. Remember the festival is on till December 1.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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