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Chilling out with chillies

It's not just the weather that was hot when Marriott WelcomHotel in South Delhi hosted a Red Hot Chilly food festival with specialities from Andhra Pradesh this past week. SUMITRA SENAPATY relates the cool experience of eating fire... .



Beat the heat: Uragai Mamsam.

SOME LIKE it hot, so Dakshin at Marriott WelcomHotel in New Delhi brings to the city the spicy Red Hot Chilly food from the land of Chandrababu Naidu. Known for its excellent repertoire in South Indian cuisine, Dakshin now offers a fortnight festival of Andhra specialties, presented by renowned chef Challapati Rao from Kakatiya Sheraton, ITC's hotel in Hyderabad. A La Carte selection is available for both lunch and dinner, with cuisine specific to the regional styles of Kosta, Telengana and Rayalseema.

Ever wondered why Andhra food is synonymous with red-hot food? Probably the further South, the hotter the curry. Also, the hotter the climate, the hotter the food. One way of looking at this is that if the temperature is 47 plus outside, you need to match this heat in your body for better digestion. Of course, the more you sweat the cooler you feel, or maybe it's just an illusion!

Starting with Kodi Roast - boneless pieces of chicken seasoned with native spices and generous amounts of green chilly - you realise that one of the most interesting discoveries about hot spicy food is that if seasoned to your tolerance or just above it you begin to taste not only the heat but also an entire range of enhanced flavours. The initial bite or two may be challenging, but if the food is well balanced with other flavours you can begin to taste and really enjoy them.

Equally mouth-watering are the table accompaniments consisting of papads, Andhra chutneys, dried stuffed chillies, pickles and thokkus - a semi-dry raw tamarind paste. Do remember to ask the staff for a refreshing glass of tender coconut water.

The menu offers a selection of hot numbers to choose from, but judging from the nearby tables one of the popular items is the Nellore Fish Curry - cubes of fish in fiery and tangy gravy infused with raw mangoes - along with the soft, white appams. Another delectable dish is Uragai Mamsam, tender morsels of lamb cooked to perfection in pickled masala.

For a vegetarian option try Ullipaya Kara Pulusu, button onions stewed in gravy of tamarind, tomatoes, chillies and tempered with seasoning. Appams are a natural choice. Even plain steamed rice goes rather well with spicy food.

But in case you want to check out something new, try the Kothmiri Annam, tempered rice flavoured with fresh coriander and ghee. Ask for a helping of the traditional curd rice or plain yogurt or raita. This allows you to taste the hot dishes, cool down just a bit and then return to the hot. Drinking cold beer or water does not help! Any curd preparation actually helps in neutralising some of the acids in spicy masalas. Coat the tongue until the next bite. This way you actually build up `chilly' tolerance. Enjoy the spicy dishes without tears of appreciation running down your cheeks!

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