From Kancheepuram idli to millet pongal, wedding menus in Coimbatore see a resurgence of almost-forgotten delicacies

On a warm Sunday morning, guests gathered at a ceremony in Kalapatti are taken in by the healthy breakfast. The menu is traditional, but far removed from the regular idli, dosa, pongal and poori. Instead, there are counters offering chola paniyaram, flat yet spongy thattai idli, kuthiraivali (barnyard millet) uthappam, methi poori and wheat halwa, with accompaniments such as peanut and curry leaf chutneys, among other items. As an antidote to the heat, there’s fresh sugarcane juice with a dash of lime or ginger. “It is exciting for us when people are keen to try out something different. In this case, the client requested us to come up with a breakfast menu that’s high on health,” says T. Rangaraj, CEO of Madhampatty Thangavelu Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

The menu for both weddings and smaller gatherings is witnessing a gradual change, observe caterers in the city.

A small yet growing segment wants something new within the traditional framework for breakfast and lunch, and caterers are bringing back dishes that are nearly forgotten. “We’ve had varied requests, from the regular menu to a French Onion Soup,” says J. Dayalan of Kovai Caterers. The food differs according to the weddings and receptions hosted by different communities that have settled in Coimbatore, making it necessary for caterers to hire specialty chefs. So, Thai, Italian, Chinese and Mexican cuisine are also making their presence felt.

“Some want a mix of South Indian and Continental cuisines. To make this possible, we need to engage two master chefs. The price obviously becomes higher,” says Dayalan. From theplas and Rajasthani-style khichdis to Erode malligai idli, Kancheepuram idli and ragi puttu, choices are plenty.

The dessert section has also gone in for a churn. Think baked rasgullas, shahi tukda, elaneer payasam, Kerala-style ada pradaman with jaggery, pineapple rava payasam and idiappam topped with unrefined sugar on one hand, and trifle puddings and mini pastries on the other. “The regular kheer is considered boring. So we use seasonal fruits like jackfruit to make halwa and payasam,” says Rangaraj, observing that the clientele that wants a new menu is small, but growing. “Some people ask us for alternatives to pongal, which they feel makes a meal heavy. We suggest alternatives using millets such as samai arisi pongal or thinai arisi pongal,” he adds.

The scope is better to offer something unusual is better with smaller gatherings. For large gatherings, caterers and clients play safe and stick to popular choices. “In such cases, they make small changes, like replacing a regular sambar with kozhambu — vathal, ennai kathirikai, mushroom and vada curry kozhumbu varieties,” according to Friends Caterers managed by K.V. Subramaniam. Pidi sevai, idiyappam and kambu thayir sadam have also made their way into menus.

Want something that will appeal to children? Caterers are willing to set up counters for popcorn, cotton candy and sugarcane juice.

Says Mustafa, proprietor of Aasai Foods: “In Muslim weddings, biryani is preferred. We suggest Hyderabadi dum biryani among other varieties.” The salad spread is tweaked according to the profile of the guests expected. “Children may not like salads, so we suggest spring rolls stuffed with vegetables,” says Dhayalan.

The next time you attend a wedding, look out and you might be lucky to find something that reminds you of your grandmother’s recipe.

Go local!

Old favourites: Pidi sevai, paniyaram, Kancheepuram idli, ada pradaman, ennai kathirikai kozhumbu and jackfruit kheer are among the popular choices.

Bring in the new: Dinner menus offer scope to experiment, with counters serving up Italian, Mexican, Thai and Chinese.