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Festive flavours

Tamilnattu Sapaadu Pandigai at the Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel, to celebrate Tamil New Year, is an ordinary spread but the traditional taste is intact.


THE TRUCKERS have ruined our `pandigai' time, haven't they? The New Year dawns with scarcity. Paying three times the price for beans and tomatoes and chicken and queuing up for petrol isn't my idea of an auspicious start. If the beginning is this bad, the future appears scary. So what better way to forget the hard realities than drown one's sorrows in a five star meal! The Tamilnattu Sapaadu Pandigai at the Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel is an excellent opportunity to do this.

The menu is from all notable places in the State from Thanjavur and Karaikal, culinary hot spots, to even Kothagiri of cool climes. The most notable feature of the selection is its predictability. This is not a bad thing at all. It is comfortable and nice to have the familiar around. Still haven't kadai varuval, uppu kari and poondu kozhambu been flogged enough?

Of course the Paniyaram was excellent and the `chutneyed' heart made a lot of difference, but not enough to forget that it is still a Paniyaram. The same argument goes for the Urga podi idlis too. The taste and the ingenuity of the chef set these dishes apart. Yet, one cannot overlook the fact that these are just dandified routine stuff. At five star level one would expect more originality and enterprise. After all the rest does not have means or time to go in for detailed sourcing of recipes and preserving tradition.

The Kozhi badam soup was a treat. The flavours of the meat and the almond was so perfectly balanced that it felt like creamy silk on tongue. Now coming back to the Poondu kozhambu, this was simply exquisite. The curry leaf-garlic-onion-tamarind union was unsurpassed by any other dish that night. Another winner that evening was the Kozhi malligai, chicken tossed in fresh coriander masala.

The desserts, Alphonso mango payasam and Aachi halwa were good. I have never been a fan of mango desserts. But this payasam calls for a rethink. There was no jarring or overwhelming here. One got to taste the mango as it was and the milk and sugar merely acted as a backdrop to frame its magnificence. Aachi halwa had a lot in common with Kesari, but minus its denseness.

The festival is on till April 28.

MARIEN MATHEW

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