They might sound similar, but Chettinad and Kuttanad belong to two totally different culinary traditions. If Chettinad cuisine is known for its super-fiery preparations, Kuttanadan recipes stand out for their less-spicy coconut-based delicacies. And if you are on the lookout for a spicy break from the routine tastes, head straight to the Chettinadu to Kuttanadu food festival going on at Classic Avenue, Manjalikulam Road.
Chettinad food, which comes from the Karaikudi region of Tamil Nadu is famous for its hot and spicy character. Most of the dishes are a potpourri of hand pounded masals, garlic and onion. Cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves, fenugreek and tamarind are the other routine spices. “But what gives Chettinad food its distinct flavour is the use of some local spices like maratti mokku, anasipoo and kalpasi. They are mixed with garam masala, cashews and dry fruits. Beef and pork are not used in Chettinad cuisine,” says chef Thulasidharan Pillai, who is in charge of the fest.
You can kick off your gastronomic trip slurping Kuttanadan chemmeen soup or Keerai and muringayila soup. Madras soup, spicy njandu soup and kaikari soup are also on offer depending on the menu of the day.
Ready for some fiery Chettinad food? Start with some kari biriyani, a delicious mutton biriyani or koli sadam. To go with that is the spicy chicken Kalpasi khurma. “Kalpasi khurma is made with a strong and spicy masala mix and is one of the highlights of the fest,” says the chef. Karaikudi njandu roast, annasi poo kari kulambu and meen kulambu are the other Chettinadu specials.
If you are a seafood person the Kuttanandan section has everything you would wish. Chippi and kanava thullichathu, netholi fry, chala vattichathu, meen kudampuli charu, ayala roast, therandi varutharachathu, kallumekkai vazhattiyathu, choora thackaliyittu vattichathu, podi sheelavu kurumulagu fry and njadu red chilly curry are part of the festival menu. You can also taste the yummy karimeen pollichathu which comes wrapped in a plantain leaf. “The specialty of Kuttanadan food is that while most of the dishes have coconut, garam masala is not used in any of the traditional preparations,” says the chef. Kuttanad is also known for other non-veg preparations, duck specials being an important part of the region’s cuisine. The chef has prepared tharavu roast, Kuttanadan tharavu fry and tharavu coconut fry - all in typical Kuttanadan style for the festival.
Though both the places are known for their famous non-veg dishes, veggies need not be disappointed as there is a reasonable vegetarian spread. While chembu kudamkuthi fry, pavakka pattichathu, muthira olarthu, vazhapoo peralan, thackali poondu vattichathu, idichacka roast, Cheera and mathanga koottu, pachapappaya ularthu, chembu varattiyathu, cabbage and achinga mappas, drumstick leaves erusherry and Vilumbipuli vattichathu are all tastes straight from the Kuttanadan kitchen, the festival also features some of the not so familiar flavours from Tamil Nadu. You can try venkayakoora, parippu usili, or kaikari vellaih khurma. Kathrikai kara kulambu, karunai kilangu masiyal, elambachi palam sadam, karamani porial and Ven pongal are the others on offer.
During all the days there will be a live counter offering a variety of dosas, appam with sweet coconut milk, egg preparations, kothuparotta, chappathi and veechi paratha.
Since rice makes a main part of both cuisines, there is no wonder there are too many accompaniments. Dry prawn chammandi, fish pickle, lemon pickle and mango pickle will be served all the days along with two types of pappad, curd, vadakom and kondattom. Rasam and pulissery will be there too and kappa of the day will feature various tapioca preparations.
The dessert section features the best delicacies from both the regions. You will find jackfruit halwa, elayappam, pal paiyaram, boondi laddo, banana kumbilappom, sakara pongal, athirasam and kavuni arisi along with a wide range of payasams.
The festival is on till November 30. Walk in any time between 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm.