Friday 26 September 2014

What does one think of when the name of a hill station is suddenly mentioned? It would definitely be the weather, the scenic beauty and the flora & fauna that surrounds such places. But when it comes to foodies, we tend to vary slightly and think of the tea/coffee plantations and the selections that one might find there. This is primarily because the food is often an adapted cuisine from the lower places. 

This was my impression until very recently. I stumbled across a food festival that was being celebrated at ‘Taj Club House – Chennai’ centred on a cuisine which so far was just the name of a hill station for me. Yes folks, their restaurant ‘Clubhouse’ has a ‘Kodava Food Festival’ that delivers some mouth-watering delicacies from the hill district of Coorg. Chef Naresh, their cuisine specialist from ‘Vivanta by Taj – Madikeri’ has pitched tent in Chennai to bring us a true blend of Kodava dishes.
(Meen Cutlet)
(Kari Bale Cutlet)
(Koli Chuttadh)
 The evening started out with a variety of cutlets namely the ‘Meen Cutlet’, ‘Kari Bale Cutlet’ and the ‘Kummu Barthad’. As the name suggests, the first was a mixed seafood mince made into a cutlet and shallow fried. The Kari Bale were roasted banana patties while the Kummu Barthad were juicy with chilli spiced mushrooms. All three though being clearly distinct on the platter resembled a close similarity in the way they were cooked. Moving away from the cutlets, we were also served with ‘Koli Chuttadh’ which were good portion sized morsels of chicken well-seasoned with spices and then griddled to perfection. 
(Attukal Soup)
With the appetizers done, next arrived the famous ‘Attukal Soup’ which is the traditional peppered lamb shank soup. This particular soup is like a biryani and can take multiple avatars depending on the person who is preparing it. The variant of spices that one uses depends on their preference and how it has been handed over time to them. I found the soup here to be delicately spiced to hit the right notch unlike others that are either too hot or too bland. 
(The Mains)
The mains that followed were quite simple in stature but strong on flavours. The curries comprised of a simple ‘Koli Curry’, ‘Molai Kuru’ and ‘Toppu Palaya’ while the accompaniments were ‘Tarkari Pulao’, ‘Kadam Puttu’ and ‘Akki Ooti’. The Koli curry was a chicken curry cooked with ground spices and worked on with cream and coconut oil. The chicken had a strong infused flavour that clearly highlighted the dish. The Molai Kuru seemed to be the perfect dish for those who are health freaks as it packed a punch of healthy sprouts well made as a dry curry. The Toppu Palaya was a traditional Kodava curry made using double beans and exotic spices. 

The Tarkari pulao was the Kodava take on how a Veg Pulao needs to be and mind I say that it infact was quite interesting. The other two accompaniments for the evening were both relatively well known to me as they were similar to the ones that usually forms part of the Kerala cuisine. The Kadam puttu is very similar to the tall cylindrical puttu that we get in Kerala while the Akki Ooti was again very similar to the pathiris while being slightly thicker. This so reminded me of traditional meal days at home when such delicacies are home cooked. But the fare that evening was as good as home food can be. 
(Cardamom Custard)
To bring closure to this wonderful trip down Coorg’s traditional cuisine, we were served with a ‘Cardamom Custard’. This was quite tricky as there was a clear battle between the senses. The sight kept beating that it was a Caramel Custard while the palate kept rebelling because of the strong infusion of the Cardamom flavour. The dessert was over before the battle could be completed but the verdict definitely is that this is a must try as the intentional overdose of cardamom is to bring the Kodava feel into the dessert. The overall experience was clearly a pleasant on the palate.

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