The taste and colour of a speciality cuisine from Kerala comes alive at the ongoing festival at Ente Keralam
“Isn’t this what they serve for Onam sadya?” asks my friend, munching on a sharkara-varatti. They do I tell her as I much on the sweet fried banana chips too. We are at Ente Keralam, for a Mopla food festival. Evergreen Malayalam songs play in the background. I can’t help thinking of the Unnakaya and (a dessert using banana) and Sulaimaani I once had at Kozhikode, and I am now hungry.
Mopla cuisine is the traditional Muslim cuisine of people in Malabar region, and is much loved for its distinct flavours. The menu is elaborate, with variety of dishes in fish, chicken, mutton and crab. We order Nannari Sherbet and Muthari Sherbet. Sabja seeds floats on Nannari Sherbeth and it is cold, mildly sweet and refreshing. Muthari Sherbeth reminds me of paayasam. Jaya Prasad, Branded Chef, explains, “It is made of ragi, palm sugar and coconut milk”. He also says that Mopla cuisine is strongly influenced by Arabian cuisines.
Koondal nirachathu (squid stuffed with crab and fish) makes a good starter. The brown squid is moderately spicy, chewy and it’s filling is soft. Podi Pathiri, Nei Pathiri, Malabar porotta, Nei Meen Mulagittathu, Mutton Kuruma and Koondal roast follow. Podi Pathiri is served with coconut milk. Nei Meen Mulagittathu, is spicy and tangy. The fish is soft, and it goes well with Podi Pathiri. Prasad says, “In the Malabar region, valan puli is used to cook fish. For Nei Meen Mulagittathu, the main ingredients are fish, vaalan puli and tomato.” The Malabar porotta, is crisp and fresh and I relish it with the mutton kuruma and Koondal Roast. Garnished with chilli and curry leaves, the roast is tangy and mildly sweet. The Nei Pathiri is a letdown. It looked delicious, with the golden brown colour, but I have eaten way softer ones elsewhere.
For dessert we order Unnakai and Mutta Mala. The cotton-pod shaped Unnakai is made of banana and stuffed with sweetened coconut. It tastes of fresh ghee and I love it. The bright yellow and white Mutta Mala is sweet and soft. “It is a traditional dessert, which is difficult to prepare. The tricky part is with the yolk. It has to be beaten with sugar and milk powder, till it reaches the right consistency which is imperetive to get the texture. I wash it all down with a glass of warm Sulaimani. The drink is mildly sweet with a balanced flavour of spices. “This Sulaimaani contains 15 spices that help in digestion”, says Prasad.
Prasad, a chef for the past 31 years learnt Mopla cuisine from Ummi Abdulla, Babu Abdulla, and Ismayil Ikka, who are chefs from Malabar. I ask him about Malabar biriyani and he says, “Malabar Biriyani, one of the most popular Mopla dish uses Kaima rice for its preparation, instead of Basmati rice. There is a lot of ginger and garlic in it, when compared to the other varieties of Biriyani.” He claims that all the spices and fishes are brought fresh from Kerala for the fest.
The service was warm, welcoming and quick and I left the restaurant with a happy heart and stomach.
Average cost for two: ₹ 1500, Available for lunch and dinner, till October 22.