The food festival at Taj Coromandel brings together the best of Kerala cuisine
Sometimes, being a Malayali can be rather tiresome. First of all, there are those ghastly `mallu' jokes to deal with. (Why did the Mallu cross the road? Zimbly) Then, we have to bear the burden of having come from `God's own country,' and hence having to spend our lifetimes listening to that cliché being cooed every single time Kerala comes up in a conversation ("Ooooh. You're from God's own country! Do you live in a houseboat on the backwaters?") Add to that the fact that the rest of the country seems to think we spend our days lolling in coconut oil when we're not frying everything that doesn't bite back, in it.
Thank goodness, at the end of the day, we can drown our sorrows in steaming Kappa. And wicked red fish curry. And thick coconutty stews. Spicy roasts. Rich payasams. Decadent halwas.
And once all of you are done with all your mallu jokes, maybe you can head to the Taj Coromandel for a sample of the cuisine of... well, I have to say it at least once... God's Own Country. (Henceforth referred to as GOC)
Bringing together the best of GOC's cuisine: the eclectic vegetarian food of Travancore, the meaty treasures of Syrian Christian Kerala and the rich, fragrant dishes of the Calicut Muslims, the festival takes you on a whirlwind tour of the state, using one of its richest resources its recipes.
The meal at Southern Spice begins with a simple starter, crisp jumbo prawns fried with just some fresh black pepper. They are accompanied by strips of succulent roast chicken, flavoured with a profusion of crackling curry leaves.
The main course opens with a traditional Calicut lamb curry, grainy, luxuriant and one of the highlights of the meal, served with pretty lace appams. The shrimps, however, are less eloquent, and the Kerala fish curry, inspired by the Syrian Christian fiery red curry, lacks the punch of the original dish. However, to compensate, there's an inspired chena erussery, made with chunks of yam and a distinctive mushroom ulli theeyal, which is likely to be a hit with everyone, with its tangy flavour, created with generously adding tamarind and small onions. "Chillies, tamarind and salt. You just have to balance these three, and the food's always delicious," smiles executive chef V.K. Chandrasekaran.
Calicut halwa, warm, chewy, and blackened with caramelised jaggery, heads the dessert brigade.
There's also a sticky concoction of cooked jackfruit, which could be a little too strong for the uninitiated. Jackfruit, after all has a way of making it presence felt.
But, on the whole, zimbly fascinating food. And you have GOC to thank for the inspiration. The festival is on for dinner tonight. Call 55002827 for reservations.
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