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Pot-pourri of flavours

The Mattancherry food festival at the Brunton Boatyard Hotel, in Fort Kochi, beginning tomorrow, promises to be a unique melange of intercommunity food fare. Try this gastronomic fiesta.

THE `HISTORY Restaurant' at Casino's `Brunton Boatyard', replicates besides colonial architecture, an equally interesting menu. The Mattancherry Food Festival, which begins tomorrow, presents an interesting synchronization of time, place and victuals.

Fort Cochin and Mattancherry are redolent of Cochin's history, and a mix of communities that co-exist within a small area. Kerala's several migrant communities have been around for a long time, and represent a rich culinary heritage. In Mattancherry, they live in small clusters in close proximity to each other. It is not surprising that a hotel like the Casino Group's Brunton Boatyard with its cultivated history consciousness would think in terms of presenting the cuisines of these historically noted groups who still play an important role in modern Kerala.

The History Restaurant at the Brunton has a menu which incorporates the traditions of a few of the groups who brought with them the tastes of their native land and often adapted them to the climatic conditions, the lifestyles and ingredients available in their new home.

The Mattancherry Food Festival offers a further exploration of the cuisines of some more of the communities settled in this area.

Brunton Boatyard's manager, Mr.Erine Louis promises you a veritable treat. The full course, A la Carte meal has a menu featuring eight starters and soups, eleven main dishes, seven vegetable choices, three special bread and rice items and eight varieties of sweets to round up the meal.

They represent the culinary art of the Kutchi Muslims, the Christians, the Jews, the Tamil Brahmins, the Konkanis, the Malabar Muslims, Anglo Indians and Gujaratis among others.

You have the delicious `Rasam' of the Tamil Brahmins, an excellent appetizer, and `Sabudana Vada', a Kutchi sago cutlet. Incidentally sago is a food, which many Hindus in this area consume on special days when a rice and wheat diet is not permissible. There are Konkani delicacies such as the `Patravada' made of colaccasia leaves spread with rice paste and steamed in a roll of which there exist many variations, Memon, Christian, Jewish and Malabari. Muslim fish, chicken and meat specialities, Gujarati's legendary mixed vegetable dish `Undhyo', Mopillah Biriyani, a banana `halwa' which Konkani's often serve with tea but which makes an excellent meal time dessert as well and the sweet chapatti, `Puran Poli' which by itself can constitute an entire meal.

Occasionally the menu offers verbal tantalizations when it says that the `Hittu' is a battercake steamed in Jackfruit leaf but only offers the `Kela Ambat', which goes with this cake. Complementing the menu are cocktails to suit the occasion. Named after the familiar landmarks of the area, you have `Jew Town', which is a rum and orange juice drink blended with green bananas, sugar and other juice served in tall Cobita glasses and garnished with cinnamon. There is `Annavathil', `Spice Route', `Clock Tower', the intriguingly named `Cochin Argus', a tribute to William Brunton and many others.

Mr. Erine Louis and Chef Sunita plan to help their guests choose genuine combinations if requested but the patrons are free to mix and match. Mr. Louis assures you that much research has gone into the recipes. Most of them cannot be culled from recipe books.

"Recipe books on some of our offerings don't exist", says Mr.Louis, for many of the recipes are handed down by word of mouth and tried out by the families belonging to these communities. This kind of interaction is still possible in Mattancherry and Fort Cochin where different communities co-exist.

Chronicling the cuisines of Mattancherry is a Herculean task and the food festival has a wonderfully varied menu. This experiment with the right choice of patronage can be built on as a unique Carte du jour, catering to different palates.


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