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Chef by choice

Chicken 65

Chicken 65   | Photo Credit: 04dmc Chicken 65

Arun Kumar T.R. specialises in coastal home style cooking and offers great fare made from fresh ingredients at Zeaside

My musician friend, Rahul Ram, is fond of an S.D. Burman-Hemant Kumar song called “Yeh Raat, Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan”. And I know he loves these lines in particular –– “zindagi ke geet ki dhun badal key dekh ley” (change the tune of your life’s song).

I can understand that, because he has certainly changed the tenor of his life. An environmental toxicologist, he left academics to pursue his passion for music. And today he is a great musician and part of a brilliant band.

I am all for people who follow their passion. One friend who is doing this in the field of food is Arun Kumar T.R. He used to be a journalist, and then he made a feature film. His main occupation for many years was directing short films and ads. And always fond of cooking, he used to cook for his crew whenever they were out. The food was always excellent, and Arun was often urged to start his own restaurant.

Some years ago, he did his first pop up –– where he made such a delicious crab dish that people talked about it for days. Soon, despite not having studied hotel management, he was the executive chef of Zambar. Recently, he has started his own catering business. Called Zeaside, it specialises in “coastal home style cooking” –– and has on its menu food from the four states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Zeaside’s Chettinad menu includes such dishes as potato korma, spinach dal, egg masala, chicken korma and mutton masala korma. His appetizers for a pan-South Indian meal include lobster curry leaf tawa fry, king fish grilled and chicken 65. The seafood special includes mussel fry from Kerala, prawn fritters from Karnataka, crab fry from Tamil Nadu and traditional fried fish from coastal Andhra Pradesh.

A few weeks ago, I asked Arun if he could cater for a largish party in our house. He did and it was the most resounding success.

Let me tell you the menu. For starters, we had vazhapoo vada, or mini banana flower-lentil fritters, Konkan potato wedges, the spicy chicken 65 of Andhra Pradesh, kola urunda –– Chettinad mutton mince balls served with tangy tomato chutney –– and Kerala fish fry.

For the mains, the two vegetarian dishes were Nilgiri korma (vegetables cooked with coriander, mint and spinach) and kosta salan (flash-fried banana chillies with a tangy peanut-coconut-sesame sauce). The non-vegetarian fare consisted of mutton sukka and chicken stew. He fed us Malabari parotas and appam, lime rice, chutneys, pickles and papads. For dessert, there was coconut jaggery pudding.

It was one of the nicest meals served in our house. I ate so many of the snacks (the mince balls and the chicken 65 were a particular hit) that I could only try out a few of the main dishes that day. I had the superb chicken stew –– small pieces of chicken with vegetables in a sauce flavoured with pepper and coconut milk –– with an appam. The next day, I ate mutton sukka with a parota and that again was delicious.

Arun’s food, I find, is always rightly spiced. His ingredients are fresh, and nothing is overcooked or underdone. And you see his signature flourish every now and then.

I am going to try out Arun’s Telengana food sometime later this month. More of that on another day!

Rahul Verma is a seasoned street food connoisseur



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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 7:05:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Chef-by-choice/article14382565.ece

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