CHENNAI : On a balmy Sunday afternoon, we headed to Novotel, Chamiers Road to experience the goodness of the Kodava cuisine. A delightful combination of mouthwatering curries made with seasonal vegetables, meat-based dishes and preparations whipped from fresh harvest awaited us, as part of their 10-day long Flavours of Coorg food festival.
As we entered the restaurant, the aroma of fried mustard seeds and curry leaves took over our olfactory senses. Our stomach growled in hunger, in anticipation of what we were about to be served from their special Coorgi menu.
Sous chef Gopi, who worked for four years in Coorg has used his expertise to collaborate with a traditional home chef, Smitha Kuttayya, and present the menu.For the appetiser, a plate of cauliflower bartadu — battered cauliflower, fried till golden-brown and coated with spices was served.
"It’s a simple dish, but can be found in most Coorgi homes," said city-based chef Smitha Kuttayya, founder of Global Theeni, co-curator of the menu. The bartadu, textured like tiny morsels of vegan popcorn had a battered crust crumbled into a soft and juicy cauliflower florette. The spices tickled the tongue with bursts of heat while the cauliflower melted into a layer of cream that tasted mildly sweet.
Next, three sardines were neatly plated on a circle cut from a banana leaf — we were about to taste the finger-licking good mathi meen. The fish was coated with salt and pepper, shallow fried and drizzled with lemon juice, allowing the sourness of the lemon to complement the meat. For the main course, a generous portion of otti (flatbreads) with a traditional kumm curry was served. The rice flour rotis were white and soaked up a good amount of kumm (mushroom) curry when dipped.
The kumm curry — a delicious concoction of coconut milk, chilli powder, mustard seeds and curry leaves burst with flavours. “Coorgis are all farmers and we use what we find on the land. The mushrooms we use are small and can be found right after the first bout of rain. In the city, I’ve only found the button mushroom. So I use that to prepare the dish,” said Smitha.
Before we knew it, it was time for dessert and a plate of kuvalé puttu was served with two portions wrapped in banana leaves. "We are rice growers. This preparation is the simple combination of ripe bananas and rice with a dash of cardamom to add flavour," she said.
The subtly sweet dish is served with a garnish of sliced almonds. The bananas add sweetness while the rice adds a soft texture you wouldn’t mind biting into. The akki payasam was the perfect end to the three-course meal. Prepared with rice, jaggery, raisins, cashews and cardamom the payasam has no milk. “This dish passes all health tests and is suitable for gluten-free eaters and vegans,” said Smitha.
"As a community, we love to experiment in the kitchen. Both my paternal and maternal grandmother were voracious cooks. Everything you were served today has come from books they have personally written. They have been directly replicated on your plate without any change," Smitha said.
For details, call: 7824808009