Thennagathu Virundhu at the Fortune Pandiyan Hotel showcases the diverse flavours of rich south Indian cuisine.

South Indian recipes are almost synonymous with spicy heat. This was evident at the Thennagathu Virundhu, the south Indian food festival at the Fortune Pandiyan Hotel, where an impressive spread of recipes drawn from the four southern states is laid out.

If the drumstick veg soup and kozhi chaaru (chicken soup) offer a perfect beginning, the Karaikudi mutton biryani and the nandu masala (crab pieces prepared with traditional masala from south Tamil Nadu) take you on a spicy trail.

“Ever since we decided to organise the south Indian food festival,” says T. Jeganathan, the Food and Beverages Manager, “we collected some of the authentic recipes that are popular in the southern states. At the end, we were left with plenty and had to choose those that would suit our guests.”

Cooked in mutton stalk and prepared in Karaikudi style, the mutton biryani stood out with little oil and lots of taste.

For a milder feast there was steamed rice and the popular Malabar chicken curry from Kerala cuisine. The taste of pungent crab curry lingered on.

For vegetarians there were delicious paruppu urundai kozhambu (a gravy made with ground Bengal gram kofta balls in tamarind pulp) and sundakkai kozhambu (popular Tamil recipe made with Turkey berries).

The vengaya pakoda (crispy snack made with onion), an Andhra speciality, and the senai kutchi varuval (made with yam) had many takers. They were the highlights of the festival. “Most of our guests today at the festival are French and Japanese, so we deliberately underplayed the spice quotient,” says Prabhat Chandra, Executive Chef.

The kalan kola urundai, done with mashed mushroom balls, and paal katti pattani khorma (a gravy prepared in Andhra style with green peas) made a statement.

The avarakkai sambar, however, is evidently destined to be far less popular than its cousin, the murungaikkai sambar. Pineapple pulisery introduced the guests to one of the popular recipes of Kerala.

More to follow in the subsequent days are chicken chettinad, fish varuval, kodi vepudu, chaapla pulusu, erisserry, idiyappam, paniyaram, masala seeyam, kozhakattai and kavuni arisi.

Perhaps the tastiest part of the festival is the dessert section. The spread includes lip-smacking cheeni mittai, athirasam, kuzhi paniyaram, adaiprathaman and paal payasam. Just dive in to make your day. The 10-day festival promises to take you on a memorable culinary trip.

The festival is on at the Orchid Restaurant till February 24. On Monday to Friday, the special buffet is only for dinner and on Saturday and Sunday, it is available for lunch and dinner for Rs.525 plus tax per person. For further details and reservations contact: 9944592033 or 8220136666.