Feastin' on Kerala
Despite a spate of recent festivals featuring Kerala cuisine, Salkkaram managed to draw in the crowd.
GOD'S OWN country is the flavour of the season. Drop into any happening food festival and the cuisine screams Kerala. The trappings are the same - demure girls clad in the traditional mundu, boys in their off-white veshti, palm frond-topped food counters and earthenware vessels.
The Department of Catering Science and Hotel Management of Karpagam Arts and Science College organised "Salkkaram", a food fest featuring, what else but, Kerala cuisine over the weekend for a different reason altogether.
"Though we have been conducting multi-cuisine food festivals for some years now, we wanted to individually focus on the cuisine of each State. And, we started off with Kerala, the southernmost State," said S. Deena, the HOD of the Department.
Held at the Ramakrishna Kalyana Mandapam, the fest packed in quite a crowd, with college students making up most of the gathering.
The highlight of the fest was the vegetable and butter sculptures carved by a team of 10 students led by G. L. Laju. The six real-looking butter sculptures took a whopping 300 hours to make and had been stored in an air-conditioned hall before the public got to feast its eyes on them.
Two of the most impressive were the 25-kg model of a temple and the 20-kg replica of a boat.
Watermelons were transformed into giant flowers while students carved the famous slogan of "God's own country" and the accompanying coconut tree logo on a yellow pumpkin. The menu stuck to the basics of Kerala cuisine and the focus seemed to be on authenticity.
So, most of the dishes tasted like what the next-door Malayali aunty made.
One got to feast on a variety of salads, including some rarely featured in festivals, like ladies finger pachadi and raw jack fruit salad, pathiri, the paper-thin rice pancakes, ishtu, steamed banana, spicy tomato rasam, Malabar kozhikkari, oyster fry and Muslim biriyani.
In the dessert section, one got to choose from regular dishes like palada pradhaman, paruppu pradhaman and unni appam. A rare presence was the arrowroot halwa.
Not that the dishes were without faults. The puttu needed a bit more steaming, the paruppu for the payasam had been slightly over-toasted and the arrowroot halwa could have been cooked a little more to rid it of its raw taste.
But, considering the variety of dishes prepared, these lapses can be excused. The guests of honour and catering teachers of other colleges seemed highly impressed with the students' efforts.
Srinivas Akella, the Training Manager of The Leela Palace, Bangalore, gave it a good rating saying it tasted original, while Sardari Kaul, General Manager, Hotel Ambics Empire Best Western, Chennai, was thrilled at having eaten oysters after years.
As for the guests, many said they were eating Kerala food for the fist time and quite liked it.
The guests were entertained by "Foot Loose", Edwin's Dance School and "Flexi-Flies", a group comprising students of the organising institution.
SUBHA J RAO
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