Tag Archives: Kerala

Coconut Cravings

Coconut and its versatility never ceases to amaze me.  Savoury and sweet dishes, it lends itself beautifully to both. Kerala and of course Goa abundantly use it in their cooking, as it is grows locally, but even West Bengal makes use of coconut in several dishes.  Cholar(chana) dal with coconut pieces or in Patishapta (the pancake sweet) or even narkel naru (coconut and jaggery balls)

Of course, we Goans must have coconuts in our fridge all the time as it comes handy in most of our dishes. In Goa, coconut is used to give the local flavour to our cuisine.  And I love the flavour, it imparts.

Alle Belle 1

Goan sweets cannot be made without coconut. Coconut milk and grated coconut, in fact coconut, in some form or the other, is used in sweets like Bebinca, Bolinhas, Pinac, Dodol, Baath, Alle Belle, etc.

Dodol

 

I love the neutral, slightly sweet taste of coconut. Perhaps that is why it integrates so well in desserts.

Recently had a delicious Alle Belle at The Leela Mumbai. The coconut and jaggery filling was perfect. Neither ingredient was overpowering the other. I also love coconut in sweets like ladoos and barfi too.

Of course in Goan sweets coconut milk is made use of often, but somehow, I prefer the desiccated version. The texture of the coconut milk or cream does not appeal to my palate, except in savoury dishes like the Goa orange curry or even a Thai red or green curry.

Interestingly, the use of coconut for desserts is not limited to Indian cuisine only. Thai cuisine uses a lot of coconut milk in their desserts too. One of my favourites is ruam mitr. I first tasted it in Bangkok. It contains jackfruit, green noodles, palm kernels, corn, and water chestnuts in a red covering, in a very light coconut milk with crushed ice. It is refreshing and perfect for summer. And it is not very sweet.

Another popular one is Khao niew bing. This too is not overpoweringly sweet, but the undertones of coconut and fruit along with smoky hints from the grilled banana leaf make it irresistible.

Coconut in any dessert is fine  as it is fairly common in global desserts too, but I cannot handle coconut ice cream at all. Not the tender coconut one at Natural’s too, although people rave about it. But I can never resist coconut macroons. Some Goa bakeries make great ones. Even Pune for that matter. Crème brulee with coconut is quite innovative as well.

And now I am off to grate coconut for my Goan dessert! Maybe some godshem?

 

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The Aromatic Flavours of Kerala @Lotus Cafe, JW Marriott Mumbai

All day dining places hosting a food promotion- a particular cuisine, no matter which one, Indian or global, are somehow never my idea of savouring a cuisine. As part of a regular buffet, these dishes get lost. Their flavours get subdued, the appearance low key, as these dishes are often resting on the buffet table for hours. But Chef Saji Alex proved me wrong. Hosting a Kerala food promotion at Lotus Cafe, JW Marriott Mumbai, he managed to retain the flavours and keep the textures and presentation intact. The hallmark of a good chef.

He had carefully and painstakingly created a menu wherein gourmets could relish traditional delicacies from North, South and Central Kerala- something every foodie year for. I was truly going to have the best of Kerala cuisine. Sadly, Biryani was not a part of tonight’s menu as some of the dishes are changed everyday.

Chef Saji Alex, Master Chef, Kochi Marriott

Mutton Pepper Fry, Malabar Fish Curry, Prawns masala, a delectable dry Pork preparation et al. The array of dishes was mouth-watering.  Vegetarians too could not grumble as he had taken care of that too. Vazhappu Cutlet, Manga Curry, Avial, Vegetable Korma, Ghee Rice  and Nadan Choru  were a part of the spread.A traditional meal  from Kerala is incomplete without a generous helping of Payasam.  Pal Payasam, Pal ada Payasam and Godambu payasam. One could taste all three.

Attukonchu Piralan

Fennel, curry leaves, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, were spices which were omnipresent in most of the dishes, being the mainstay of Kerala cuisine. Coconut either in milk or paste form too found a way into most of the dishes. Not that we were complaining, as all the dishes were cooked to perfection and had subtle flavours, which one could enjoy course by course, pairing the right curries and dry dishes with the Malabar parotha, idiappams or red rice.

Nowhere did the use of spices overpower the key ingredients- meat, fish or vegetables. An absolute delight for the taste buds. Each dish had an aroma of its own. All the masalas had been prepared in house by the chef. The authenticity of the dishes was evident. There was a home-style feel to his cooking. That’s what set is apart. The soft and succulent pieces in the mutton preparation, wrapped in dry spices, surpassed my expectations as did the mildly flavoured, tapioca dish. It was a sublime experience.

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Chef Saji’s passion is hard to miss. Personally supervising the food and ensuring each guest was satisfied with the food, he is a master of his craft.

Interestingly, even though Kerala cuisine and Goan food have so many similarities, yet, each is so distinct.

It was easily the best meal I have ever had at the Lotus Cafe. Chef Saji took this place to new culinary heights.

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Being a Friday evening, the chaos and lapses in the service were understandable. Yet, Sumit, taking care of our table did a commendable job and was alert and helpful.

I left Lotus Cafe in a better mood than I had entered. Chef Saji had floored me with his culinary expertise. On till June 18, if you are a fan of Kerala cuisine do not miss this opportunity.

Rating: Food- 4/5

‘Jack’ of all fruits

I was never a fan of jackfruit as a child. It’s only after getting married and travelling to Goa often, that I discovered the goodness and versatility of jackfruit. Phanas they call it. Rich in minerals, dietary fibre, vitamins, it contains no saturated fats and cholesterol. so eat it guilt-free.

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One can consume it as chips, as seed flour used in kebabs and puddings, in shredded form for gravies and stir-fry preparations. Not surprising therefore, that Chef Crystal Mendonca of The Peninsular Grand Saki Naka, Mumbai has created a special summer menu with several jackfruit delicacies in it. Thai stir fry jackfruit, jackfruit biryani and even jackfruit halwa. Must try some out. Chef Deepa Suhas Awchat too has created delectable recipes with jackfruit.

This spined oval fruit, is actually quite remarkable. The unripe one is edible, as is the ripe fleshy one and the seeds can be put to use as well. The fleshy part is so starchy that it needs to be cut with a knife that has been oiled.

I enjoy jackfruit chips which people in Kerala make in abundance. The fleshy jackfruit is pretty similar to chicken in texture.  Pannsachi shak is a seasonal delicacy for villagers in several pockets of Goa. I too have developed a taste for it. Once tasted a channa and jackfruit sukke on our way to Goa near Sawantwadi at a wayside eatery. The flavour still lingers in my mouth. Interestingly, the Mangaloreans prepare patholeos using jackfruit. People in Andhra prepare it with mustard and red chillies. It is fiery but lip-smacking.

A friend of mine once taught me to make jackfruit koftas and believe me they turned out really well. In fact one could safely pass them off as mutton koftas( meatballs) because of the colour and texture. Jackfruit pakoras with chutney are a perfect evening snack for summer.

Did you know that jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh? I did not. Well we all learn new things everyday. Don’t we?

Spicy Trail : Kerala Cafe

I relish Coastal food. Goan cuisine occupies a pride of place in my favourite cuisines, but I enjoy food from Kerala as well. Not surprising therefore, when I heard of Kerala Café a new eatery in Malad on Link Road, I decided to check it out.

And what a delight the food was. The Chicken Pepper we settled for had a nice, tangy gravy, replete with tamarind and pepper. The pieces of chicken, albeit small, were well-fried and delicious. The chicken however should have been boneless ideally. There were far too many bones to deal with and was pretty irksome by the end of it. Freshly made hot, fluffy appams were a perfect match to the chicken preparation. Mutton ginger, with succulent, fleshy pieces of mutton had a robust, spicy flavour. The aromatic fish biryani with Surmai was a treat. The fish was fried to perfection and the masala in the flavoured rice added the right tinge of spice to the biryani. The other Biryani options were chicken, mutton and egg.

 

On weekdays, for lunch, Kerala Café offers a fish thali, which is immensely popular. On weekends it is only a vegetarian thali though. The Vegetarian section  in the menu, is exhaustive too with Avial there of course. There are a few dishes in egg, several in Fish, prawns, chicken and mutton. There are a host of breads- aapams, dosas, kerala partaha, puttu et al. Payasam is the only dessert served.

It is a simple restaurant, clean and hygienic, with no frills.  The guy at the counter doubles up as a waiter and serves you your food. No fuss, he is polite but business-like. Visit Kerala Café if you’re looking at good, affordably priced food with authentic flavours.