For most mortals, the beautiful land of Spain may start with the numerous soccer-crazy clubs and end with the La Tomatina fest. But, there is something more mouth-watering about Espana, its varied cuisine. Everything from its variety of seafood (squid, scallops and octopus) to cheese and wine, can be real appetizing, vouches Manoj Nair, the executive chef at Malabar House, Fort Kochi.
The globe-trotter that he is, Manoj’s month-long stint at the creative kitchens of San Sebastian, the gourmet capital of Spain, has helped him sharpen his culinary claws. And, the Fifth Annual Festival of Tapas at the Malabar Junction, the restaurant, is the result of his ‘food sciences’ and the outcome indeed is very fruitful.
“Tapas is wide variety of appetizers or snacks served cold or hot. In pubs and bars in Spain, tapas has evolved into an sophisticated cuisine with spreads lined out as an accompaniment to down the drinks,” says Manoj.
Think before you cringe thinking that Spanish may not be your thing, because here in Malabar House, the tapas gets a slight Indian makeover, not compromising on its taste.
The highlight of the tapas fest is that one can choose from the four special tapa sequence, which includes a desert.
Before you dig into their tapas variety, take a swig of wine offered here and that includes Cabernet-Franc Shiraz, Sangiovese or Chardonnay.
For seafood lovers, there is tuna escalivada (marinated chunks of tuna) and ensalada de pulpo (tossed baby octopus salad with capers, gherkins and olives.
“Europeans generally believe in focusing on the basic raw material of the dish, which may either be chicken, fish or beef. This is a far cry from our preparation where we give prominence to the ingredients (masala). One bite of their dish can give the real taste of the ingredient,” says Manoj.
And, for those willing to explore the food taboos, it is time to try on risotto de tinta de calamar which is risotto (spanish rice variety) and squid is cooked on its ink. “Squid ink is something we consider inedible. But, it is extremely favourable and rich. However, one needs an acquired taste to appreciate it,” warns the chef.
Then, there is crab and lentil vada with sweet-sour pineapple rasam. A makeover of our own ‘paripp vada’, the dish appeals our taste buds. Pinxto de pollo (chicken skewer in shahjahani sauce) and croquetas (bacon croquettes served on a bed of mushroom thoran), the local presence is very much there.
For veggies, there is the green quartet section. Vegetarian mezze which is grilled peppers, aubergine and zucchini and paneer parcel in chatpata haryali, tangy spincach and coriander among a few other varieties.
Pinxto de sollomillo de ternera is your mini beef fillet grilled and served with salad basket and bread, a real filling treat. Another must-try is trio de gambas which is crispy coconut, spring roll and pasta wrap.
Equally appetising is the desert counter. Torrijas con platano is rich and mouth-watering good. This Spanish bread pudding is served with toffee banana. Besides, there is the Spanish street snack churros served with warm chocolate besides homemade icecreams.
The festival which began on July first week will run till August last.