Flavours from the coast

Chef Tejal Suvarna brings a Mangalorean feast to the gardens of Ashvita Bistro

March 30, 2017 04:12 pm | Updated 08:09 pm IST

Mumbai is home for Tejal Suvarna. Her tastebuds, though, tell a vastly different story. “We would visit Mangalore every year during our holidays, and of all the memories we made, most of mine are of the food we would eat. It’s what I’ve grown up on,” she reminisces.

It is the ingredients that add a splash of surprise to this cuisine. “Coconut is heavily used in our cuisine, but we also add a variety of fruits,” she explains.

While the jackfruit is incorporated into signature desserts, pineapple and ripe mangoes offer “a tartness” to complement a rich fish curry, one of the many ways in which seafood is used in the coastal cuisine. The menu for the pop up, Suvarna says, is a combination of Mangalore’s finest. Some are festival delights. Others find their place on dining tables every night.

The highlight is the kori rotti — a crisp rotti drenched in chicken curry. It was the first dish Suvarna ever made in her grandmother’s kitchen. The recipes have travelled with her, bringing her food to Chennai. “Us Mangaloreans, we celebrate through food, and every festival has a special menu.” Presented as a conventional meal on a banana leaf, the pop up menu can’t get more festive than this. Two thaalis are available, and while one presents meat done the Mangalorean way, the other draws its roots from the temple fare of Mangalore. “We have a strong temple presence as well; so, the vegetarian menu didn’t need too many adjustments.”

The food, she says, is comforting yet glamorous. “We cook good food at the drop of a hat, sometimes, even without reason,” Suvarna laughs. And though Chennai is familiar ground for Suvarna, what’s served on the banana leaf at the pop up is going to be very different. “I love the pongal here. I don’t think anyone can make pongal like Tamilians do,” she smiles. “Yet, home is where the heart is. Especially if there’s a hearty kori rotti involved.”

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