Paplet Thali
Paplet Thali

A Malvan experience in Madras

Despite some challenges in sourcing specific ingredients, the collaboration process with The Raintree Hotel was smooth.

CHENNAI : For Surekha Walke, Malvani cuisine is not just food. It’s a cultural heritage, a connection to her roots. Growing up immersed in the flavours and traditions of the Malvan region, Surekha’s lifelong passion for this distinctive culinary art led her to open Chaitanya Authentic Malvani Cuisine in Mumbai in 1992. Her mission was to bring the rich, diverse tastes of Malvani food beyond the confines of its regional origins and share them with the world.

This vision aligns with The Raintree Hotel’s goals of showcasing micro-cuisines from across India, leading to an exciting collaboration. From today until June 30, The Colony Restaurant will transform into a haven for Malvani delights, with a curated set menu for lunch and an elaborate buffet for dinner.

Surekha enthusiastically recommends the fish curry and chicken sagoti, both infused with her special Malvani masala, as the must-try dishes at the pop-up. “The ingredients for these dishes are sourced directly from Malvan, ensuring authenticity,” she explains. Another highlight is the Patoli, or stuffed turmeric leaf wraps, a seasonal dish typically enjoyed during the monsoon, and the delightful modaks.

Surekha emphasises the importance of variety and colour in the menu. “We wanted the thali to look colourful, with a range of flavours. And, of course, there’s no doubt about the authenticity.” The event will feature three distinct thalis: a fish thali, a chicken thali, and a mixed thali for those who wish to savour a bit of everything. Vegetarian dishes will also be available, offering something for everyone.

Tender Cashewnut Usal
Tender Cashewnut Usal

Malvani cuisine is known for its simplicity and comfort. “It is basic food cooked with fresh ingredients,” Surekha shares. “The fish is shallow-fried instead of deep-fried, and some dishes use roasted ingredients. It’s very homely food.” One such comforting dish is their horse gram curry, served with rice — perfect for Chennai’s weather.

Despite some challenges in sourcing specific ingredients, the collaboration process with The Raintree Hotel was smooth. Essential ingredients like roasted coconut, kokum, and turmeric leaves are brought from Malvan. Surekha’s dedicated team of women, many of whom have been with her for years, prepared these ingredients to maintain the traditional flavours.

Traditionally, Malvani food is cooked on a chulha (a traditional furnace), but adapting to modern kitchens without compromising authenticity is key. “We now use a tandoor for some preparations but continue to use coconuts from our villages to preserve authenticity,” Surekha says, hoping that Chennaiites will appreciate this authentic Malvani experience.

Modak
Modak

Malvani food does not compromise on nutrition and is sustainable in every sense. This event is more than just a food festival; it’s a cultural exchange. “Collaborations like this allow us to extend our cuisine to other parts of the country and the world. It gives us a chance to learn from different cultures and communities. Ultimately, food is about sharing,” Surekha reflects.

The people of the Konkan Coast have a profound connection to their land and their cuisine, regardless of where they are in the world. This event at The Raintree Hotel is a celebration of that connection, bringing the essence of Malvani culture and flavours to Chennai. Whether you’re a connoisseur of traditional Indian cuisine or eager to explore new flavours, this festival promises an unforgettable dining experience.

The Malvani cuisine food pop-up will be held at The Colony Restaurant, The Raintree, from today until June 30 for lunch and dinner.

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The New Indian Express
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