Wednesday, 7 September 2016

'The Moplahs of Malabar' - Unique Tastes at Dakshin - ITC Windsor, Bangalore

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Under the aegis of Kitchens of India, ITC Hotels have been hosting numerous food festival; each showcasing an aura of specialty cuisine that they aptly categorize under the following themes:
- Unique Tastes
- Forgotten Treasures
- Royal Repasts

Like always, this running food festival showcasing the unique tastes of 'The Moplah Cuisine' is no less of a grandeur giving insights into the food and cultural amalgamation of the highly respected community of Kerala Muslims also known as 'Moplahs'. Under the able guidance of Mrs. Ummi Abdullah - a Moplah culinary specialist; chef George at the helm from ITC Windsor's Dakshin along with his team are wonderfully steering a legacy that ITC hotels is known to live by.

A meal here always starts with generous servings of a variety of chutneys, uttappams, papads and fries. I've always looked forward to this especially the banana uttappam which tastes so very distinct when had with a different type of chutney. I expected it to be a long evening with loads of food so I had to balance out my indulgence to be able to last through the rest of the evening.

The experience of the 'Moplah Cuisine' started with the arrival of none other than Mrs. Ummi Abdullah who in all her enthusiasm shared stories ranging from the love for cooking, extracting coconut oil, the 3 generations that follow her, all time favorites, complexities and unique techniques involved with this traditional cuisine and so on. All these conversations were enjoyed in the company of delicious appetizers that followed one after another.
Mrs. Umi Abdullah (3rd from Right)
Taking the lead were fried onion fritters and deep fried pockets of spiced chicken; the former called 'Ulli Ada' and the later being 'Kozhi Ada'. A bite into each of these and you know right away that the food is non-greasy, not spicy / hot but the emphasis is clearly laid on the use of fragrant spices. I can be biased towards non-vegetarian food and you know that very well too. But in this case, I was really impressed with 'Ulli Ada' the fried onion mini samosas if I may call them.
Kozhi Ada
Fried Onion Fritters
The filling of deep fried sweet onion and it's marriage with the fragrant spices hit the right notes on my palate. 'Kozhi Ada' was minced chicken subtly flavored with spices stuffed in a really thin yet perfectly crisp casing. I was amazed to hear that this can be deep fried and then stored for over a month packed in containers for consumption as a tea time snack. How cool is that! Isn't it?

Next up were 'Thenga Unda' and 'Chemeen Unda'; both being steamed rice dumpling with the former containing onion and coconut while the later contained fragrant - spiced minced prawns. subtle and delicate flavors and the simplicity of flavors is what made me happy about 'Unda'. 
Tenga Unda
Chemeen Unda
If you thought this was all we had for starters, the best was yet to arrive and when it did; it seemed like a complete meal by itself. This was the 'Meen Porichandu' - grilled seer fish slices marinated in Malabar spices. A drizzle of lime and accompaniment of onion was all that was required to make this soul satisfying.

With this, we made a foray into the mains which were served in the classic Dakshin thali. Served on the plate left to right in the cups is - 'Meen Mulakithattu' a traditional moplah fish curry made with tamarind; 'Chena Varatharacha Curry' yam simmered in coconut gravy; 'Erachi Nadan Porichathu' an authentic preparation of succulent lamb in a paste of garlic and coriander; 'Thakkali Vattichathu'; 'Kozhi Varattiyathu' chicken drumsticks tossed with traditional malabar spices and to the extreme right is 'Alisa' a porridge of slow cooked broken wheat and lamb topped with fried onion and ghee. This was similar to haleem and traditionally in a Moplah household; Alisha is best enjoyed with a mixing of sugar and hot ghee. I tried it both ways and did love the rich consistency of Alisha. 
Main Course - Dakshin Thali

The mains were accompanied by 'Appam', 'Podi Pathiri' and Ney 'Pathri'. Each one was very different from another and was a blend of distinct texture and unique tastes. The course does not end here. What followed was a delicious 'Thallasseri Mutton Biryani' which was fragrant rice  with succulent mutton and topped with dried fruits.

Mrs. Ummi Abdullah at the start of the meal introduced our table to a dessert that is a result of finesse. This uses egg as a main ingredient and when plated traditionally it takes the form of a garland and hence the name 'Muttamala'. Muttamala made with egg yolk is served resembling string hoppers and comes topped with 'Kinnathappam' steamed and sweetened egg white disks. Saffron, cardamom and the sugar syrup used as ingredients in the making of this dessert wonderfully basks the otherwise prominent flavor that egg can leave behind in a dessert if not done right. This was perfect and was polished off in no time. 

This meal at Dakshin is available for lunch and dinner as a thali or can be called for a la carte from the menu till 12th September. At Rs. 2300 + taxes (ITC does not levy Service Charge), trying the thali is the perfect way to experience the unique tastes of Moplah cuisine which is yet another experience wonderfully curated by the team of ITC Windsor.

Address: ITC Windsor, 25 Windsor Square, Golf Course Road, Near Sankey Road, Bangalore
For Reservations - Phone Number: +91 80 4140 1205

Note: This visit to ITC Hotels Windsor, Bengaluru was on invitation but the opinions expressed are solely mine and are absolutely unbiased nor influenced by the brand in any way.

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