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Everything is `fishy' here

A variety of fish to savour at the on going food festival, Amaram, at Woods Manor



CATCH OF THE DAY A variety of traditional fish recipes

Remember the deep brown gravy, laced with a ring of oil in the `meen chatti' (earthen vessel to cook fish) with the fish pieces all wrapped and soaked in it? Along with the aroma of crushed ginger and curry leaves, the `tamarind' (kudampuli) pieces found their place alongside the fish. Ah... this is vintage stuff. Now, refresh those memories and taste this very traditional fish curry at Woods Manor, where Amaram, the food festival is on. The name `Amaram' gives away the fact that it is a fishy affair altogether. As you enter the hotel, fishing nets adorn the stairway barricades with `fish' stuck on the nets. Don't worry, they don't stink, as they are artificial.

Chef Sabo P. Plapparambil has cooked up virtually most of the traditional fare, some of them very Central Travancorean. They bring tears to your eyes on two counts, one, the memory of grandma's cooking, and two, the hot, spicy taste.

Traditional

"Amaram is all about fish, mostly traditional, though it is a mixed cuisine that we offer," says Suvarnan Sivaram, Food and Beverages manager at Woods Manor. It's not a seafood festival, because fish from the backwaters, crab and prawns (naaran) find top slot in the menu, he says. A bold step is the absence of the ubiquitous chicken. Often fish plays second fiddle at buffets, but here fish is king.

Priced at a moderate Rs 155 per person, there are different dishes for lunch and dinner. "For lunch, it is mostly traditional but for dinner, we have north Indian, Chinese, Bengali and Goan fish curries," says Chef Sabo. The Bengali fish curry has lots of khus khus as its base while the Goan fish curry uses dry mango powder instead of kudampuli (tamarind) To go with the `naadan fish curry' and seafood thoran, there is tapioca and rice. Fish pollichathu in the Syrian Christian style is Chef Sabo's speciality. The sautéed masala is applied on the fish and lightly shallow fried. Then, it is cooked in coconut milk, on a low fire. The fish, masala and the coconut milk jell to melt in your mouth.

Braced crab in ginger sauce is how the Chinese like their crab. Baked fish with green pepper is continental while macaroni is cooked in Italian style, Sabo explains.

Prawns come in several forms, in salads, pickles and curries. Appam is eaten with meat stew usually, but try it with fish pappas, you'll down a few more. The huge fish `pollichathu,' done up with cauliflower and onions, find many takers.

There's barracuda and sea `varaal' dishes too. The pickles counter at the festival is colourful: Lemon and mango in different avatars, bitter gourd and prawns. Salads, sweet, sour and salty with vegetables galore. The kondattam corner in different hues of brown, has chilly, bitter gourd among them.

The vegetarians have a separate menu, all their own, sambar, fried chilly gobi, thoran, curd and of course the pickles, pappadams and salads, apart from white rice, fried rice and naadan rice.

PREMA MANMADHAN

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