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Cuisine, lost and found

The flavours of Kongunad cuisine come alive at Raintree



It is a revival of regional flavours at the Kongunad festival — Pic. by R. Ragu

TILL TWO years ago, Kongumandalam, like its contemporaries Chera, Chola, Pandya and Tondai mandalams and Naduvilnadu, was confined to dusty tomes and sleepy history classes. Then came redemption in the most exciting form on the dinner plate! A lost tradition came alive to be touched and smelt, seen and savoured! Raintree at Taj Connemara is the latest venue to showcase the speciality cuisine of Kongunad.

It is said that "the greatest dishes are very simple dishes". The vazhaipoo avarai poriyal and pumpkin avial brought these words to mind. Vengaya kari and Pollachi yeral thandu poriyal merely reinforced the thought. This has to be alchemy. Otherwise how can turmeric, green chillies and shallots added to mutton make it taste so magical, or the banana stem meld so beautifully with coconut and prawns?

There are times when one searches for the highpoint of a meal but here the reverse is true. The ellu roti is at best a curiosity or can be touted as a health food. Surul paniyaram among the desserts too belongs to this list. The rest, from kaima biriyani to thoothu valai (a herb) rasam to kariveppilai chutney with ellu kara dosai strike a wonderful note.

How to end the idyll? Should it be with the romance of white airy layers of benian or the dark, intriguing karupati halwa from Aathur? Try both as also the panchamirtham, a Palani speciality. Jacob Sahaya Khumar, the man behind the revival of Kongunad cuisine, and his team from the Catering Department of Cherraan's Arts Science College, Kangayamhave put together an impressive 1,500 recipes after considerable research. So dial 55000000 if you don't want to wait for a table. The Kongunad fest is on till February 10 and costs Rs. 585 (inclusive of taxes) per person.

MARIEN MATHEW

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