These days, we’re often gung-ho about trying out new cuisines every time we eat out . But how how much do we know about the food of our ancestors and the culinary traditions of our homeland? The ongoing Chitirai Virundhu South Indian Food Festival at Grand Serenaa envisages a sort of return to roots, with a menu comprising traditional recipes from all five southern states along with a a space to play popular yet almost-forgotten games.
The concept and the menu have been developed by chefs Malgudi Kavitha and Palani Murugan of television fame, using recipes from the hinterland of Southern states. They take pride in using fresh, sun-dried and hand-pounded spices with absolutely no artificial colouring or flavouring agents.
We started our meal with a bowl of piping hot Aattukaal Paya Rasam followed by the starters – Aratti Tootha Alasandala Garelu (banana blossom fritters with black-eyed peas) and Milagu Kozhukattai. The former was a twist on the familiar vazhaipoo vada and its crisp, crunchy texture was a contrast to the pleasantly peppery soft kozhukattai.
From the main course offerings, the Panju Parotta, true to its name (panju is cotton), was extremely soft – a rarity among parottas which require using two hands to break them apart. The Kozhi Varutha Curry, a thick Kerala-style curry with tender chunks of chicken, redolent with the taste of pepper was the perfect accompaniment. Another interesting dish was the Guntur fish fry. Andhra cuisine is known for being spicy, and the fiery fish lived up to its reputation with bits of scrambled egg white, adding an innovative touch.
The Karaikudi Meen Kuzhambu (from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu), the Muttai Thokku and the Vazhathanangai Sambar were home-style preparations and reminded me of the kind of food I have grown up eating. The Karnataka Kori Biriyani made with jeeraga samba rice, the Malli Elai Palavu Sadham (a coriander-based pulao), the Senaganpappu Untalu Pulusu (a curry with lentil dumplings) and the Kalasu Melogara (a mixed vegetable gravy) were some of the other signature dishes. The special thuvaiyals, peanut chutney and cabbage chutney, deserve a mention. We rounded our meal off with a rich moong dal halwa.
The lawn outside the restaurant showcases games one might remember from childhood summers- Pallanguli and Pambaram. There is a display of tools used in a traditional South Indian kitchen and a spread of the commonly used spices. These games teach children the values of unity and tolerance, which is sorely lacking in today’s technology-oriented lifestyle. Food and culture are inextricably linked, believe the organisers who wanted to promote the traditional way of eating as well as living. This way, they hope to promote, popularise and pass on to future generations, the wisdom from our forefathers’ kitchens.
WHERE: Grand Serenaa, Puducherry-Tindivanam Road, Thiruchitrambalam, Puducherry – 605011
WHEN: Till April 22, lunch and dinner
HOW MUCH: Rs.550 for adults, Rs.275 for children
CALL: 0413 2266950, +91 7402603340, +91 7402603337, +91 7402603332