Pop-Up Food

Karavalli comes to Varq

Allapuzha Meen Curry

Allapuzha Meen Curry   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

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On the 11th anniversary Taj’s Delhi restaurant, a Bengaluru favourite comes to celebrate

Last year, chef Naren Thimmaiah, along with a few fellow chefs went to Kasargod, in north Kerala, to learn what a women’s self-help group was doing with jackfruit. Inspired, they came back to introduce several new items on the menu at Karavalli, ranging from an evening snack of a steamed batter of rice-rava, jackfruit pulp, jaggery, coconut bits, cardamom; to a jackfruit-seed stir-fry.

“That’s what we do — homestyle cooking, with minimal garnish and plating,” says Naren, who was on the founding team of Karavalli, the 29-year-old Bengaluru restaurant that came into being with a push by Camellia Panjabi, who has set up and run some of the most iconic places that serve Indian food.

“In those days Indian food meant a ‘restaurant-safe’ menu: dal makhni, chicken tikka, and maybe a chicken Chettinad, and then you’d find a vegetarian option with baby corn or mushroom, whether it suited the dish or not,” says Naren. So bringing coastal cuisine from the South-West coast was considered both an experiment and a risk. It proved to be a success, and over the years, the repertoire has expanded to include cuisines from about 100km inland, so those from Coorg and Central Kerala as well as community-based food.

Naren Thimmaiah

What has encouraged them along the way, says Naren, is when people would come, eat the food at Karavalli and say, ‘This is great, but my aunt makes it better,’ after which the team would get on the phone with the aunt to learn how she did it.

This is what Delhi eaters can expect from the pop-up: There’s no modernisation, tweaking, toning down, or ostentatious plating (though the restaurant that will host it, Varq, does just this). What helped the restaurant at the time of its birth will probably help it today: people who have started travelling and eating different kinds of foods. Last year they did pop-ups in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad.

The reason it hasn’t been easy to replicate it anywhere else before is that every ingredient for the 80+ dishes on the original menu is picked carefully. “I was just on the phone with my chefs from Mumbai and Delhi, discussing how to source Kundapur coconut (known for its thick, fleshy coconuts that give great body to gravies),” he says, explaining that even when a fast-food chain that mass-produces its food enters a new market they take a few years to understand how to source to get just the right flavour and consistency.

Some of the star dishes of 46 to expect are: Crab Milagu Fry (with pepper masala), Tiger Prawns Roast (in a Kerala spice mix), Koli Barthad (chicken with Coorg masalas and vinegar, the chef’s mother’s recipe), Oggaraneda Aritha Pundi (steamed rice dumplings flavoured with coconut and cumin), and more.

At Varq, The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mansingh Road; September 21st-28th, 2019; lunch 12:30 p.m.- 2:45 p.m.; dinner 7 p.m.- 11:45 p.m.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 1:04:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/karavalli-comes-to-varq/article29500764.ece

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