Food

All things sugar and spice

Kokkarakko gives a creative twist to classics, from Tirunelveli halwa to chicken tikka

In theory, there isn’t much in a name, as Shakespeare famously once said. However, it is only natural to read the name ‘Kokkarakko’ and wonder “how did that come about?” I was later told that the name was a last-minute find, long after the menu had been finalised, thanks to a hodgepodge of astrology and numerology.

Kerala-style paneer pepper fry, spicy Nellore kodi tikka, Madurai bun barotta, black forest cake made with flattened rice — the menu is a potpourri of South-Indian regulars with a few fusion dishes throw in for good measure. All locally sourced at affordable prices (the highest priced item on the menu is ₹289). This is what Kokkarakko offers you in a city that has no dearth of South Indian restaurants.

Divided into two sections, the Kodambakkam-based restaurant has a pseudo open-air setting, with the spacious tables and high ceiling that is apt for a family get-together or a party, and a mid-range diner section, with two rows of six-seater cubicles stacked against one another, making it a contentor in case you want to step out for the lunch break.

With a list of 63 dishes derived from different parts of the five States, the one thing the menu here promises is varying shades of spice with a twist. Every course is set off with a beverage, served in ‘cutting chai’ glasses. My favourites included the panagam, naval soda and kulki soda. Panagam, made of palm jaggery and ginger, and naval soda, made of blackberry act as palate cleansers while the kulki soda, a Kerala-style lemonade served with a single slice of green chilli cut in half, offers a different experience — as you sip, the spiciness of the chilli courses through the nostrils as the slightly sour taste of lemon sinks in. This balance of spice and flavour is peppered throughout the menu, be it in the baby potatoes with the skin intact or the fried okra that seems more like a crispy pakoda. The paneer pepper fry is a hat-tip to the chicken roasts found in the toddy shops of Kerala — a tight mix of well-sautéed onions and curry leaves.

The surprise in the chicken section was the mirapakai kodi, a dish that looks a tad bit as if it were an ill-seasoned chicken, covered in green chilli paste. What it lacks in aesthetic appeal, it makes up for with its unique flavour. The other favourite was the Karuvepilai kodi tikka, a curry-leaves marinated chicken dish cooked on charcoal. As chef Koushik confirmed, the dishes are specifically tailored to suit the taste of the many non-vegetarians who turn vegetarian once a week — which explains why some vegetarian options taste like first cousins of popular chicken dishes.

In keeping with the theme, the main course is a mix of the same old suspects like biryani, parotta and such. Worth trying is the Madurai bun parotta, a staple street food in the temple town. Be sure to request for a fried egg on the side, as that is a gamechanger. A bite of that parotta dipped in the curry and swept through the running yolk is a spicy version of the chocolate lava cake — crisp, with a hint of delicious gooeyness.

Just as I had decided that nothing here can top that, came the kadaknath chicken fry. Charcoal black in colour, with the flesh tasting mildly rubbery, this high protein, low-fat chicken has been the bone of contention between Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which are both fighting for its GI tag. Though it did take some getting used to, I could imagine its unique taste opening up new options for those who prefer to replace mutton with chicken.

The dessert section was a delightful mix of light versions of the old favourites like rose falooda, coconut saffron pudding and the heavier pomegranate payasam. Blame it on my sweet tooth, but I opted for the heavier Tiruneveli Halwa with ice cream. The layers of biscuits dumbed down the piercing sweetness of the halwa, though I preferred it without the additional layer of ice cream. Another favourite was the chef-special Black forest akkaravadisal, made with a mix of flattened rice and chocolate. This is not the first experiment on the dependable black forest cake, and I dare say it won’t be the last, but the like the rest of the dishes in Kokkarakko, it does not stray too far from the familiar, but caters to the cautious explorer in you.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 10:16:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/all-things-sugar-and-spice/article25788726.ece

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