Food

Southern spice

Mumbai, Maharashtra, 21/07/2018: Chef Ramachandran K.V. of Masala Bay at Taj Lands End, Bandra, in Mumbai on Saturday.
Photo: Prashant Waydande

Mumbai, Maharashtra, 21/07/2018: Chef Ramachandran K.V. of Masala Bay at Taj Lands End, Bandra, in Mumbai on Saturday. Photo: Prashant Waydande   | Photo Credit: Prashant Waydande

Landmark Bengaluru restaurant, Karavalli pop-ups in the city with a home-style Syrian Christian menu

Chef Ramachandran smiles when we ask him how he became a chef. “I used to spend all my free time learning to cook from my mother, grandmother and neighbours.” The shy, soft-spoken chef, who only speaks when prodded is in the city on a work visit. He’s come to Mumbai on loan from Taj Gateway Bengaluru’s landmark restaurant – Karavalli for a Syrian Christian Kerala pop-up.

When asked about the pop-up’s speciality food, he explains that Malayali Syriac Christians from Kerala trace their origins to the arrival of Saint Thomas in Kerala circa 52 AD. Thomas’s evangelical activity gradually led to significant number of high class Brahmins taking to Christianity. Syrian Christian food is a confluence of the east and west — while their food is robust with Kerala spices including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and kokum, the cuisine also incorporates western techniques like roasting and steaming.

Spice kitchen

Our first palate cleanser is the good old rasam, which is spiked with tamarind, black pepper, and tangy tomatoes, the spices hit the throat, clearing every clog instantly.

For starters, we get Vazhapoo cutlet (₹850) patties made of banana flour and sweet potato mash topped with a spicy tomato chutney; Urulai roast (₹850) has marinated baby potatoes tossed in a sweet and spicy onions and tomato mush and Kozhi Roast (₹1,250), a peppery chicken kebab tossed in onion and brown spices. The roast has a touch of cooling saunf. The cuisine uses dry, shredded coconut as well as coconut milk, and a generous dose of curry leaves that beautifully balances the sweet and sour. There’s also a Portuguese influence that can be seen in the use of toddy to ferment dishes. The main course, is Avial (₹950) creamy yogurt and coconut curry, seasonal vegetables like parwal and aubergines, finished in green chillies and cumin. The Taarav Roast (₹2150), a dry preparation of duck with black pepper and onions, has a touch of jaggery gives every dish a sweet relish, to calm the fire of the red chillies. While our appams are too dry, the flaky Malabar parottas and rice and coconut kallapams (pancakes) pair well with the dishes. The mean moilee, a rich creamy milky gravy is perfect for a rainy day.

Sweet notes

Dessert is homestyle Ila ada (₹600) steamed rice flour cakes stuffed with grated coconut and jaggery. The rice flour coating is too chewy. A kokum sorbet with a topping of coconut cream, turns out to be a lighter and more enjoyable dessert.

As the two flavours melt, the dessert evolves in taste, the sour and sweet forming a dual rhapsody on our palate. We also appreciate the warmth of Ada pradhaman (₹600), which has fat rice flakes slow-cooked in thick and creamy coconut milk and jaggery. This is that dreamy dessert that makes you crave more. Since it’s made with jaggery, it makes us less guilty when we help ourselves to seconds.

The Karavalli Pop-up – Exploring the Epicurean Legacy of Syrian Christian Cuisine is ongoing until July 27 at Masala Bay, Taj Land’s End, Bandra

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 12:45:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/southern-spice/article24505051.ece

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