Chettinadu cuisine with its spicy and aromatic appeal have been the most famous ambassador for the Chettinad region. Walk into any south Indian non-vegetarian restaurant and I’m sure you’ll spot the ever popular Chicken Chettinad listed on the menu. Was happy to have been invited for a Chefs Table to experience this ubiquitous cuisine at the ongoing Chettinad Food Fest at Dakshin, ITC Kakatiya where Chef Kasi who hails from Chettinad region himself showcased the traditional Chettiar recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation by the Aachis.
Started off this gourmet Thali format Chettinad experience with Kozhi Rasam – a stimulating & delicious soup made of chicken stock – flavored with onions, garlic, pepper & cumin. A rasam made of non-veg is quite unusual but I absolutely loved the subtle yet flavorful Kozhi Rasam. Next up was Kari Vadai – succulent, deep fried minced meat patties that was exceptionally good and perhaps my favorite among the appetizers. The aromatic flavors of the spices was well balanced inspite of its crispy deep fry texture. Acharya Kozhi Sukka that followed next was just about decent.
Conforming to obsolete home style way of cooking with spices used in moderation, Chef Kasi excels in bringing the best of this cuisine in terms of flavors, style, aromas and diversity. The Thali featured Cauliflower Milagu Peratu, Nei Parupu, Karaikudi Naatu Kozhi Kazhambu, Vanjara Meen Varuval, Cinna Vengaya Meen Curry along with Appam & Parotta. A sea food fanatic that I am, I was instantly attracted towards the gorgeous Vanjara Meen Varuval – a grilled sear fish marinated with aromatic spices that was exactly my kind of fish that I would prefer any day. Karaikudi Naatu Kozhi Kuzhambu & Attukari Kuzhambu were the perfect match with the flaky Malabar Parotta while Chinna Vengaya Meen Curry went perfectly well with the Appams. The combination of Nei parupu, steam rice and Cauliflower Milagu Peratu is the kind of soul food I definitely cannot deny and have had it to my heart’s content. The Chettinad Chicken Pulav that followed next was satisfying enough with its mild aromatic flavors.
Sakkaara Kolukattai & Pazha Payasam featured in the dessert section. The traditional dessert of Rice dumplings cooked with palm jaggery and coconut milk makes Sakkaara Kolukattai quite delicious and one of its kind while Pazha Payasam is simple yet delicious dessert of assorted fruits in cardamom flavored coconut milk which you shouldn’t miss.
After such a delectable heritage experience I must say, Chettiar food is a feast for the gourmet. With generous doze of pepper and not chilli, makes each of the dishes spicy and not hot. The spiciness is subtle yet robust – a secret of the instinctive hand of the Achis. Kudus to Chef Paul & Chef Kasi for curating such a legendary cuisine that for sure would take you on a journey of intrigue and delight!