Treat your palate to the Chettinadu Food Festival at Malgudi this week
Photo: K. Gajendran
WHAT WAS once restricted to the domain of the aachis of Chettinad is the winning formula of many a city restaurant. But in its leap from home fires to multiple gas burners, the Chettinad cuisine has lost much of its distinct flavour. Except at Malgudi (Ph:55632277), with its unmistakeable cachets of the past. The restaurant at My Home Tycoon has been bestowed with a few more symbols of tradition. There is a killi josiar (astrologer) with his parrot and cards of portent. The heavily worked Burma teak doorway leads into the wooden beamed hall with gas lamps and ceramic tiles and the old Tamil songs and the poikal kudirai (dummy horse) lend a taste of the good old south.
The restaurant that plays host to the cuisines of the peninsula is hosting a Chettinadu Food Festival till the 23rd of May. Open from 7.p.m. until the witching hour, Malgudi offers a spread of nearly 60 dishes from the renowned merchant community's repertoire. And to make it all the more authentic there is Saathappan, the dhoti-clad chef from Chennai making magic (and a spicy one at that) with his ladle.
This a la carte edition according to Saathappan is a spicier version of the original. Perfect hand pounded masalas orchestrate and coax the most subtle flavours out of the meats and vegetables. Cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves, garlic and onions make for a layering of flavours and every now and then the fruity bite of chilli and the bright spark of lemon juice enliven the palate.
There is a choice of four soups for the vegetarian and the non-kind. Simply to die for are the Devakottai Thakazhi (tomato) Soup and the Alagapuri Attukal (lamb's trotters) Soup.
If crab is your thing, check out the Kondanur Nandu Masala, cooked with drumstick leaves. The Chettinad crab is a sharper dish with a fragrant sauce of roasted and ground fresh peppercorns and tomatoes. And its pure dynamite.
Since varuvals (fries) of different kinds keep popping up ever so often on the menu, try your hand at the Alagapuri Kozhi (chicken) Varuval or better still the exotic Karaikudi Kaadai (quail) Varuval. Both are fiery enough to make one grab the water goblet to douse the inferno. Soothe your inflamed palates with Alagapuri Aattukal Payaa (a broth made from lamb's trotters) and Idiappam (string hoppers).
The vegetarian spread includes the well-defined, fennel flavoured, authentic Pallathur Vellai Poondu (garlic) Kuzhambu. The Kottaiyur Vathal Kuzhambu is however an over the top chilli concoction.
Other delicacies include the Pudur Valaipoo (banana) Vadai, Chettinadu Vegetable Kuruma, Pallathur Brain Masala, the famous `military' Malabar Paratha, Vegetable Kothu Paratha and Kall Dosai. Chef recommends the Devakottai Mutton Chops, which is sound advice from someone dabbling in the Chettinad kitchens since the last 35 years.
B.R. Moorthy, General Manager, says, "Malgudi hosts a food festival every summer. Chettinad was chosen as it represents the core of Tamil cuisine." Reason enough to end the dinner on an exquisite note with Palathur Paal (milk) Paayasam.
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