Food

Flavours of Chettinad

Chettinad cuisine has a special place in the palate of gourmands. Spicy and aromatic, the liberally thrown chillies in the dishes don’t come in the way of enjoyment of the food.

Bringing the flavours of Chettinad cuisine to the denizens of the city is Chef Sathish Kumar from Aloft, Chennai. The chef is in the city, courtesy Aachi’s Kitchen, an ongoing Chettinad food festival at Cafe Jade, Hotel Hycinth.

Born in Kudalur, near Pondicherry, Sathish has always enjoyed entering the kitchen. A foodie, he recalls visiting various roadside eateries and restaurants, to watch the chefs at work and also to try out new dishes. “I would watch and observe the ingredients they would add to the dish. I must have been nine years old when I first entered the kitchen to experiment. I invited a bunch of my friends and made them egg noodles. It was a hit and they predicted I would be a well known chef one day,” says Sathish.

Although he might have started off trying out Chinese dishes, his taste buds longed for his native Chettinad cuisine.

“There’s something about Chettinad cuisine that reminds me of the food mom makes. It’s ‘homely’. Although it may be a tad oily and spicy, before you even dig into the food, the aroma assails your senses; it is appetising and you can’t wait to try the dish,” he says.

And he may be right as the fragrance of the various dishes at the fete begins to whet our appetite.

Although the soups, Murugakka Jeeraka Rasam and Meed Vadicha Puli Thanni look appetising, we decide to give it a go. We help ourselves to the salads instead. The Honey Chilli Potato looks inviting so I help myself to it. I also pile spoonfuls of Grilled Sausage with Peanut Sauce onto my plate.

Crispy potato wedges glazed with a honey-chilli sauce, the Honey Chilli Potato is a perfect start to the meal. The Grilled Sausage with Peanut Sauce, however, is just passé.

Although I am not a big fan of cabbage, I quite liked the use of this vegetable in the Muttakhose Kholai Urundai. The dish reminds me of a vada and goes well with the coconut chutney.

Chef Sathish insists I try his specialty – Koli Kheema Sadam – minced chicken cooked in basmati rice. I take a spoonful and it’s an explosion of flavours. “The unique taste of Chettinad cuisine taste comes from the roasted spices that are later ground. There are 18 spices, which include Kalpasi (black stone flower), Marathi mokku (a type of caper), Anise seed and dry red chillies in our spice mix. We don’t overwhelm our dishes with spices. That is why you can get the distinct flavour of each spice.”

Although Karakudui Uralai Perattal and the Paneer Chettinadu look as if it will have my taste bud on fire, it doesn’t, surprisingly. “People believe Chettinad cuisine is just very spicy food; it’s actually a complex blend of many well-balanced flavours and chilli is just one of those ingredients.”

And a mouthful of the Koli Varthutha Curry proves that too. The pieces of chicken melt in my mouth; the flavours have seeped into the meat that has been cooked soft enough to fall off the bone.

Although there are more dishes to try out, I decide to head to the dessert counter. I pick up a serving of Jamun Ladykal and Mango pudding. The pudding is a tad too sweet but the jamun is a perfect way to end the meal. The Chettinad food festival is open in the evenings from 7 p.m. and is priced at Rs. 699 per adult and Rs. 399 per child (ages 5 to 12). It is on until May 25.

Contact: 2552999.


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Printable version | May 18, 2022 12:23:03 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/flavours-of-chettinad/article6033621.ece