BENGALURU: The last time Australian food critic Matt Preston was in India, he also came down to Bengaluru and was in Karavalli to taste some authentic coastal food. A satisfying meal later, he was in chef Naren Thimmaiah's kitchen trying to unearth some secrets. Other celeb diners included Sting who enjoyed a big spread here. As did Jaya Bachchan and daughter Shweta in 1996 when Amitabh Bachchan's ABCL was organising the Miss World contest in Bengaluru. They would enjoy neer dosas and take food parcels for Bachchan as he was too busy to come for a leisurely meal.
Memories like these shine from the almost 25-year-old food narrative that Karavalli is. The restaurant's famous seafood festival—Aquafest—is almost as old as the restaurant and this year plays out till November 30 and is showcasing treats from the coastline of Kerala, the sun drenched beaches of Goa, secrets culled from home kitchens of Mangalore, the Kodavas, the Malayalees, and the Portuguese. All enlivened with an explosion of local spices, zesty red chilies and cooked with painstakingly sourced fresh fish, meats and vegetables. Wood and charcoal fires, authentic ingredients and cooks that have been trained by experience not books, make Karavalli an experience unlike any other.
Chef Thimmaiah narrates the story of Vasudevan Pillai, a driver, cinema tent handyman, construction supervisor and tea stall owner who cooked the best red fish curry in town and now has been working for the Karavalli kitchen for almost 15 years. "Without consistency and a good team, Karavalli would not have been what it is today. Almost all members of my team have been with me for over 15 to 20 years. Processes are important but they cannot replace human beings who are committed to an idea. And we are committed...all of us," says the iconic chef.
The sea food festival this time he says is a melange of old favourites and new dishes that play around with fish, prawns, squid, mussels, oysters and crabs, all cooked traditionally. The highlight of the menu is the grill section. And once you are done with marinated, generously seasoned, seared, fried and pan cooked main dishes like Kane Bezule and Kannu Vecha Meen Pathiri, you can go on to the redolent curries and then round the meal with favourites like Bebinca and Dodol.
Kurliche Dabdabe (Crab meat tossed with Konkan dry masala)
Mud crab 500 gm
Turmeric powder ½ tsp
Ginger 1 inch pieces
Garlic chopped: 1 tsp
Black pepper powder ½ tsp
Onion chopped 1 no
Green chilli chopped 2 nos
Pimentos 25 gms Xacutti powder 1 tsp
Coconut vinegar 1 tsp Fennel Seeds ½ tsp
Grated coconut 1tbsp
Curry leaves A few
Butter 30 gms
Salt to taste
■ Boil the mud crab with turmeric powder and lemon juice.
■ Heat oil in a pan add fennel seeds, onion, green chilly, ginger, curry leaves and garlic sauté for 5-10 minutes.
■ Add the powder masala sauté for a minute.
■ Add the chopped pimentos, coconut and cook well.
■ Now add the salt and Goan vinegar check the seasoning.
■ Add the cooked crab into it and toss it well.