The Southern part of India is famous for its use of the variety of spices used in preparing mainly non-veg food. This time, I got invited for Chettinad cuisine @ ITC Maratha. Chettinad is known for its culinary delicacies and now is one of the many reasons why people get to know Chettinad. If you look back at history Chettinad is a small village in the Southern Tamil Nadu State of India. The cuisine traces its roots to a small village called Nedungudi, located 600 km south of Chennai, which has traditionally provided Chettinad cooks.The region of Chettinad encompasses the districts of Sivaganga and Pudukottai bordering a narrow strip of the sea called the Palk Strait dividing Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka. Indians usually associate the term Chettinad with the region’s cuisine, especially Chettinad chicken that is fairly popular across the country.
People in Chettinad, here dishes are served on a huge fresh banana leaf, a disposable platter. The reason is you have direct contact with your food and tactile as you eat with your right hand, mixing wet into dry ingredients – a messy business for the uninitiated. At ITC Maratha, we did not try with our hands but we experienced the authentic original flavours of Chettinad.Especially Master Chef Sundar came all the way from ITC Grand Chola.
Chettinad food is predominantly a non-vegetarian fare, but vegetarians don’t worry they have plenty of options in Veg too.We were served welcome drink i.e Arambham – Tempered extract of lentil, tamarind and tomatoes. It was delicious. You can have it as soup or curry with rice.
The main course was known as Bhojanam. The first dish was Murungakai Kaara Kozhambu – Made of drumstick cooked in gravy of Onion and tomato and other spice. It was spicy and tangy taste. Vendakai More Kozhambu – Okra skimmed in buttermilk and tempered. I loved Okra. I never like Okra, but the preparation was superb. Valaikai Podimass – Spiced roasted raw banana finished with garlic, cumin and aniseed. , Vellai Poriyal- it was the combination of cauliflower and lentil and tempered. However, I didn’t like the taste it was sour. We were served Appams,Parotha and Tomato rice. I like appams since it was soft and delicious. The dishes were hot and pungent with fresh ground masalas
In Chettinad food, the most important spices are maratti mokku (dried flower pods), anasipoo (star aniseed) and kalpasi (“black stone flower”). In addition, tamarind, whole red chillies, and sombu (fennel seed) are also used along with pattai (cinnamon), lavangam (cloves), bay leaf, karu miLagu (peppercorn), jeeragam (cumin seeds), and venthayam (fenugreek).
Pepper, garlic and ginger are some of the key ingredients used. Black pepper is used in abundance with fennel, red chilli, mustard, fenugreek, cloves, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, curry leaves, tamarind and jaggery. Like most South Indian cuisines, Chettinad cuisine also uses a lot of rice and rice-based accompaniments.
Lastly, Madurams were on its way. Dessert rolls down with Basundi – Saffron flavored milk and Pacha Payire Payasam- made of green lentil cooked in sweetened milk. I like Payasam .Its yummy blend of jaggery and coconut milk.
Now I can say South is not just about Idli and Dosa. There is so much to explore if you go to locales in The South. I am sure you will get mix in colorful flavours of Chettinad.