HYDERABAD: As the world moves on a fast pace with ready-to-cook food items and almost in sheer ignorance of the old cuisines that every region in the country has to offer, rarely-talked-about tribal food finds favour with Chef Vellu Murugan who has re-discovered the simple-and-healthy delights savoured and prepared by the Muthuvan tribe in Kerala near Munnar.
As part of the MasterChef Chronicles at ITC Kakatiya, Begumpet, he showcased the menu sharing the vegetarian, non-vegetarian and fish delicacies. A look closer at the menu and it’s not difficult to ascertain that most of the ingredients used are procured from the very source – Nature given the tribe doesn’t believe in artificiality and modern culinary approaches.
The tribe uses the local produce like lentils, ragi and other millets. Shares chef Vellu, “The settlers entered through Tamil Nadu and settled in Marayoor, Kerala 42 km north of Munnar. They dress up nicely in white attire and pagdi and have deep religious belief. The root vegetables are offered as the prasad.” With the permission of government he reached to people there and brought back the recipes.
As the region is known for production of pepper, lemongrass, tea, cardamom, jaggery and a few other spices we found a generous hint of many of these in the dishes. The welcome drink sambaram was buttermilk spiced with lemongrass. The herb gave it a unique freshness.
In the starters we liked Meen Varthad, fish smeared with ground peppers, rolled in betel leaves and then shallow fried. We loved Kootu Curry, a combination of yam and Bengal gram, tempered with mustard and coconut. Nei Choru, the ghee rice sprinkled with fried sliced onions was the star among staples. Erachi Melagu Curry was a mix of boneless mutton in spicy black pepper gravy.
The taste can be overwhelming for some as the dishes are quite spicy and a bit above tangy. What we loved the best was the steamed salted rice cake named Aatu Kari Charu which had tiny chunks of mutton. Shares the chef, “To prepare this, rice batter and coconut water are fermented separately, then they both are mixed together and again allowed to ferment for some more time. That’s why it rises like a cake and is relished for breakfast with a cup of black tea.” We rounded up the lunch with Neyyi Payasam, red rice kheer of coconut milk and jaggery.
The food fest is on till November 24 at Dakshin, ITC Kakatiya.
Veg: Rs 2,000++
Non veg: Rs 2,200++
Seafood: Rs 2,400++
For lunch and dinner