Ente Keralam, a restaurant known for serving premium Kerala cuisine, comes up with many food festivals throughout the year. It is the Syrian Christian Food Festival this time that started on 23rd of November which extends for another week till December 11th. Syrian Christians a.k.a Nasranis are a community in Kerala whose cuisine has been passed down through centuries of tradition. The Syrian Christian cuisine is known for the use of different meats and rice based dishes. Ente Keralam has emulated this for the festival with the help of Ms Aleyamma Paily. She is a classic culinary expert who is known for her ethnic delicacies. Ente Keralam has introduced an a la carte menu for the festival curated to highlight such dishes.
We tried menu out for lunch and here is my take on it. The menu was elaborate with dishes like Erachi Ularthiyathu, Aattirachi Kurumulagittu Ularthiyathu and Kaada Fry in Starters, Ishtew, Karimeen Moilee, Chicken & Beef Roasts and Erachi Peralan in Gravies, many varieties of Puttu, Kallappam and Erachi Chertha Kappa Puzhukku for Mains and Vattayappam and Neyyil Vattiya Eatha Pazhavum Thengayum for desserts, dishes that are exquisite to the Syrian Christian cuisine. Here is an elaborate description of what we tried from this festival that afternoon.
It started off with a cool, refreshing beverage; the Keraleeyam. Made with Tender Coconut, it was just what was needed after the tiring travel. The ambience and this drink together had already transported me to the locale and I was totally set to enjoy the feast that was to follow. As a part of the festival, Ente Keralam had set up a ‘Petti Kadai’ with Achappam, soda bottles, old movie posters and other little additions that totally complimented the theme.
After a quick look around all this, we proceeded on to the starters.
- Idi Erachi
A beef starter, this was very unique being subtly smokey. The fresh shallots, chilli, slight hint of coconut and garlic elevated the tender meat. Traditionally, this would be the ‘hunted meat’.
- Kakka Erachi Fry
Clams are something I am totally new to. The thought that it would be too strong in it’s seafood smell/taste was totally overcome by the spicy kick in the slow cooked clams. Unique and one of a kind. Clams are their preferred catch from the sea.
- Kanava Peralan
This is another straightforward starter where the hero was the seafood. The squid was perfect in taste and texture while the masala around it fell properly in line with the cuisine. Again, being slow cooked improved the taste of this dish manifold.
- Poricha Kozhi Masalail Varattiyathu
This is one of the most common appetisers, be it Syrian Christian or it’s close variation in Keralite dishes; the fried chicken with coconut, chillies and onion. This was my favourite from the lot, simple and to point.
The starters were just the right sort of start and proceeding to the mains, we felt it wasn’t too heavy but just increased our appetite to the right levels.
For the mains we had:
- Pidiyum Kozhi Curriyum
In simpler terms, these are seasoned rice dumplings with a strong Chicken Gravy. The dish was very subtle, very unique in taste. With extreme traditional significance, this is one of the most important mains prepared in a Syrian Christian household. The light rice dumplings and the strongly seasoned gravy balanced each other.
This is another traditional mains in their household, made with rice flour and Kallu (a.k.a. Palm Wine). Obviously, the non-alcoholic version was served to us where the batter was fermented with yeast instead of Kallu. It tasted just as well; fluffy and soft. We had a Chicken Gravy to go along with this and it felt nothing short of Kerala.
Having had just the right amount, we decided to proceed on to desserts. It started off with a bowl of ripe banana slices drizzled with honey.
We also had a couple of other desserts.
- Ela Ada with Vanilla Ice Cream
This was the heavier of the two desserts; in sugar levels and the filling that it had. While it tasted as traditional as ever, it got too sweet for me towards the end. This was a great Keralite speciality though.
- Paaniyum Pazhavum
This was my favourite dish from the fest! While the description made the dish seem too sweet, I absolutely loved the medley of ingredients that made the dish balanced and a wonderfully simple dessert. Made up with forest honey, palm sugar and banana, it was exotic despite seemingly simple. Adipoli!
Wonderfully depicting the Syrian Christian culture, this is a unique fest that has had a lot of thought and effort put into it to deliver the purest form of the tradition across to the diners. The soulful rendition of the cuisine of an age old sect of the country is the most appealing part of this and so it’s is skilful execution. Do visit the fest to understand the cuisine and the cultural values that it carries. The dishes for this fest are served a la carte.
For more details and reservations, contact – Alwarpet: +91 7604915091; Anna Nagar: +91 7604915092; MRC Nagar: +91 7604915036.