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No chilli affair this

Fire and spice have been toned down at the Andhra food festival on at Navaratna


YOU PREPARE yourself for the Andhra Food Festival at Navaratna, Le Royal Meridien, expecting fire and spice. Though you try to put on a brave front, you cannot help imagining your plight.

THE IMAGINATION SEQUENCE: Smoke billows out of your ears and your tongue is on fire. Some helpful soul calls the "beer wagon". You down three tall glasses of beer to put the flames out.

This piece of imagination leaves you wincing. "Go about it with detachment and be done with it," you tell yourself.

But surprise is the first thing that you taste at Navaratna. Contrary to expectations, the food does not point to an aggressive use of chillies and peppers. The chilli, especially, has not been given a free run. Wherever necessary, the tamarind has been used profusely to keep a check on the chilli.

The dishes mirror three types of Andhra cuisine - Telengana, Coastal and Andhra. But they have all come from the recipe notes that Sous Chef Shyam's mother has been accumulating over the years.

THE FLASHBACK: For days on end, Shyam, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, has been pleading with his mother to part with her cookery notes. She finally does, and the outcome is the Andhra Food Festival.

After an extensive dinner that seems to take you to almost all the towns and villages of Andhra Pradesh - Guntur mirapakaya kodi (panfried tender pieces of chicken with green chillies), Telangana volipai idli (steamed rice dumplings sautéed with tempered onions), Koonaseema kora chaapa pulusu (fresh river water fish cooked in spicy tamarind and pearl garlic sauce), Andhra S.P. chicken biriyani (tender pieces of chicken cooked with an aromatic gravy served on top of flavourful Nellore sona masuri pulao), MLA pesarattu (green gram pancake served with ginger chutney) and Bundar thokkudu laddu (lentil flour and sugar dumplings with lots of ghee) - you hear yourself say, above the sounds that come from a Kuchipudi show, "Thanks, mom!"

For reservations and more details, call 22414343, extn. 53.

PRINCE FREDERICK

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