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Lamb biriyani, if you please

Mopila cuisine is taking flight to French shores. MINU ITTYIPE meets the homemaker-chef who makes bold to serve Malabar delicacies to the French.


DURING THE French occupation of Mahe, French words seeped into the dialect of Northern Malabar "like tea from a tea bag" and these words slowly mutated and took on a local flavour: Salon became sala, cuiller became kuyial, chambre became chaipe, savon became saboon etc.

But interestingly the French cuisine had no influence at all on the Mopila cooking and even the world's most famous wines excited not the taste buds of these people. So when a house wife from Tellicherry Faiza Moosa goes this month end to France to conduct a Mopila Food Festival at Sofitel Hotel, Lyon, the French will have to put on hold their wine habits in order to enjoy the food from this part of Kerala, and exclaim "Ooh! La! La!"

C.P.Moosa, who along with his wife runs the heritage hotel, Aisha Manzil at Tellicherry, points out that "wines and Mopila food are not complementary. One cannot enjoy either if taken together. So we are serving beer, masala tea and ginger tea at the festival." And this is not the first taste of fame for the couple, they have already been featured by BBC in three programmes "Malabar Coast", "Mopilas" and "The Sweet" which will be telecast in India in July.

Says C.P.Moosa "The world got to know of my wife's expertise in Mopila cooking by word of mouth and this invitation to France is the ultimate any housewife can ask for." "The speciality of Mopila cooking," says Moosa "is its symphony of flavours. In the cooking of the other parts of Kerala one or the other ingredient stands out, but here the spices are well blended together." The Arab influence is inevitable considering that the Mopilas are descendents of Arab settlers and the piece de resistance at the festival of course will be Lamb Biriyani. Moosa explains, "The lamb for the biriyani will be cooked in its own fat to enhance its flavour.

Alisa, another typical Arabic dish, (Arabs call it Aleem) will be served as a starter. It is made of mashed meat and whole wheat cooked together and eaten with a sprinkling of sugar."

Besides this Faisa Moosa will be serving stuffed mussels, different kinds of pathiri, hoppers, chicken and prawns. And for dessert, stuffed bananas, scrambled bananas, kasa pathiri, mango pudding and banana curry. Banana curry, by the way, is no curry. It is a payasam.

And every ingredient not available on the continent will be taken from India, right from kariveppala, bananas to mangoes to ensure that the flavours do not become too French and remain truly Mopila.

Faisa Moosa, along with her sister-in law, is at present holding a Mopila festival at The Casino Hotel, Cochin. The hotel is extending their support to this homemaker to enable her to get used to larger kitchens before she tackles the big kitchens of The Sofitel Hotel at Lyon.

This first Ambassador of Flavour from Tellicherry, will also be telling the French the culture of her land through her dishes.

If the saying "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" is true, then she can easily capture the heart of a nation with her culinary delights.

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