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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2002

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Flavour of the hills

The ongoing Coorg Food Festival at The Park with its wide range of items takes you directly to the cool hills and its culture.

NISHA GANAPATHY'S food doesn't go down the usual way. It overreaches and touches the heart too. The setting may be The Park but as you savour kooya puttu, the fragrance of the leaf wrap, the sweetness of jaggery and banana which bursts on your palate, taking you to the cool hills, its soil and people.

The ongoing Coorg Food Festival has a wide range of items. The hobby chef Nisha herself is full of charming paradoxes. She is a Delhi-ite of Punjabi origin married a Coorgi. She has had no catering or even cooking background in a big way till recently. Even more, her Kodagu roots sprouted only after the couple settled in their ancestral home not too long ago.

There is still more, she is a vegetarian who cooks predominantly non-vegetarian cuisine. She travels with an aunt who tastes meat and fish dishes to ensure the flavour is right. Not a typical chef, is she?

Nisha learnt cooking from her mother-in-law. Rice seems to have offered a creative challenge to the women of Coorg. And how magnificently have they risen to it! On Sunday night, one could choose from at least six or seven dishes with one or other form of rice in it. Among the staples there were kadambuttu, papputtu, akki rotti and coconut rice.

The round kadambuttu made an explosive combo with the fiery pandi (pork) curry. The texture of Papputtu was very interesting. Coarsely ground, it had broken rice in different sizes, but still remained spongy. Devoid of mustard, kadala parippu or urad dal seasoning, the coconut rice was different, yet similar to the Tamil version.

Pajjis or chutneys are temptation personified. Of the lot, mudirakanni, made of horsegram broth and imli (tamarind) chutney stood out. There is an unmistakable tie between Coorgi and Malayali cuisines. It is the coconut. The akki rotti or rice phulka's resemblance to the pathiri is uncanny. Among the desserts were kooyaputtu and balamurukku, which are very similar to kumbilappam and neyyappam or the local athirasam. Akki payasa, (rice kheer) was outstanding.

The Coorg food festival is on till December 15 at The Park, near Gemini flyover, Anna Salai. The experience will cost you just Rs.480 inclusive of taxes.


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