Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Kerala Christmas Spread

Last night, we went to Ente Keralam, the (yes!) Kerala restaurant in Bangalore. It has received consistently good reviews and was always on our 'must visit sometime' list, but inertia intervened. Yesterday, my brother snapped us out of our overwhelming reluctance to drive into town and we met some family and friends there for dinner.

Kerala has a rich (and, like each Indian state, fairly unique) cuisine, owing to its distinct geography and cultural diversity. It is a region of rivers and backwaters, low lying fields and hilly plantations. The land is fertile and just right for cultivating rice, spices, nuts, tea and coffee. It also has a long, accessible coastline. For these reasons, it has traded with Southern Europe, the Arab lands and South East Asia for centuries, resulting in an intermingling of people and culture over time. About 24% of the population is Muslim and about 19% Syrian Christian, the rest is Hindu. Each region and community has its own cuisine.

Thus, it was no surprise that the menu was filled with things we had never tried and while we were pondering over what to order, another 'Christmas and New Year special' menu was produced. This had a list of delicious sounding dishes, many recognizable Syrian Christian specialties. We all decided to sample the fixed (but unlimited) menu that began with mulled wine and Christmas cake and ended with three kinds of sweets (pounded rice cooked with jaggery and eaten with small bananas, a thickened jaggery and coconut milk payasam and tender coconut icecream with a sprig of mint).

We raised a toast to friends, festivity and feasting. Conversations were struck, wine (and more wine) appreciatively sipped and crispy-tender mutton cutlets downed with ease. At some moment, there appeared gigantic silver thalis laden with bowls full of wondrous creations. Golden morsels of fried bittergourd, a bowl of dry lentils and grated coconut, a mild curry made with thickened curd and all kinds of special meat and fish preparations. Roast duck that melted in the mouth and released flavours of ghee, onions and whole spices, creamy and mild mutton ishtu (mutton stewed in coconut milk and spices), a tangy fish curry, almost like a pickle, a mild fish curry in coconut milk (meen moilee, one of the few things I was familiar with), beef fry (a delicious stir-fry of slivers of beef, onion, garlic, whole pepper and curry leaf) - these were served with a local bread (soft and porous), wholesome Kerala red rice and the distinctive Kerala appams that were tender in the centre and golden brown on the outside (this colour and texture is obtained only when the rice flour used to make the appams is fermented slowly with toddy and then cooked in shallow, lightly greased cast iron pans).

At this stage, the conversation was limited to "Have you tried this?" and "I wonder if I can have more of that?". Finally, the contents of the groaning table having been transferred to our now-groaning stomachs, we sat back, with small glasses of Sulaimani chai (sweetened black tea with generous doses of lemon and cinnamon) - a much needed digestive!

I happened to have my camera handy and took some photographs of the food as it appeared, in steady succession, at our table. Here are some pictures; unfortunately blogger does not allow me to attach smells and flavours...


Kerala Tourism said...

Kerala is a place with many good destinations to visit and enjoy the vacation. India Tourism provides many opportunities to see all the natural beauty in India. In Kerala Tourism tourist will get all the opportunities to see the Kerala destinations like backwaters, houseboats, temples, etc.

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