I’ve never been exposed enough to South Indian cuisine to call myself a fan; but who hasn’t had the humble idli dosa and enjoyed its simplicity? But authentic South Indian home cuisine is a whole different world, as I recently discovered at the The Novotel, Juhu, where a Navratri-inspired festival of Vegeratri was being held. A wide selection of vegetarian fare had been made available to guests for the duration of Navratri and I had the privilege of experiencing delicious Tamilian Brahmin fare as Ms. Gita Hari, a well known food critic and home-chef curated a traditional Tambrahm dinner for a select few.
Tambrahm community is majorly based out of Palakkad region, which is on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and their food is sattvik in it’s inherent nature.
“Tamil Speaking Brahmins settled in southern part of India mostly in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andra and Karnataka. Broad classification of Brahmins involves Iyer and Iyengars and even their style of cooking varies slightly. Even within Iyers, depending upon their birth places, their cooking style varies. For example, Tirunelveli Brahmin cooking is slightly different from North arcot Brahmins and even Palagat Brahmins. Though there are slight differences, the underlying concept remains same within all Brahmins. ” – Excerpt from Tamil Brahmin Cuisine by Subbu’s Kitchen
Ms. Gita Hari, who spoke to us before we dug into her sumptuous preparations, told us that most of the recipes were those learnt from her mother and mother-in-law. She explained the flavours that make up this cuisine (where onion and garlic is not used), many of them containing tamarind, a popular ingredient in south Indian food. True to her word, Ms. Hari’s food tasted as authentic as you would find in a traditional home. Being a fan of anything potato, I thoroughly enjoyed her potato curry. Most of the side dishes are to be eaten with rice, and being a big fan of rasam, I loved the rasam rice, tangy and spicy, just as one would like. Her arbi (colocasia) dish had the rich flavour of tamarind as did the delicious curd-based curry.
This meal was an eye-opener of sorts to a cuisine which we felt we knew, but in actuality were very unfamiliar with. A home-style cooked meal in a hotel is something that is rare to find but I guess when one is determined to put their heart on a platter, everything is possible!