All through college, my friends and I have eaten at these random obscure eatries. Hole in the wall cafes, udipi joints, veg thalis, or even road side sandwich wallas. Not your usual restaurant or cafes but one can’t complain when you’re in college not earning and recieve a paltry sum for pocket money. A random tweet I read one day had me very curious. I can’t even remember who tweeted and for what but the name of a joint caught my eye. – Taste of Kerala. Now I’ve eaten at the now suddenly famous Hotel Deluxe many times (back when no one knew what it was) but I never heard of this place. So I asked my sister (who is a big fan of Malyali food ) and my cousin to join me and off we went!
It’s ironic that I’ve been telling her about Hotel Deluxe for so long and Taste of Kerala is in the same lane barely 4 buildings away from it ! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect food wise, but I decided to just go with it. We had to wait a wee bit as we wanted to sit in their small but superbly cosy A/C section. While waiting I can see waiters going up and down with trays full of colourfulgravies, vegetables and tiny bowls full of treats. Ooo I cannot wait to get started!
My sister opted for a veg thali (no non vegetarian option in thali )and we got prawns roast, surmai fry a chicken biryani and lots of parottas. Parotta is a flat bread popular in Southern India but not to be mistaken with parathas popular in the north though they are slightly similar. I absolutely love parottas and it just took me back to Singapore when we were on holiday, it was my favourite snack.
Our orders given, banana leaf placed in front of you and the food just kept coming.It’s hard to describe everything but I’ll try my best. Despite not eating the thali my leaf has delicious tamarind chutney, a fiery but divine coconut and chilli chutney (my favourite) and a spicy and strangely sour pickle.
The surmai fry was a bit oily as one would expect but delicious all the same. I found it very strange that they served us a bowl of fish curry but with no fish in it! Now I’m pretty sure we didn’t order a curry but with a slight language barrier I couldn’t make out but he insisted it was fish curry. I have to say I enjoy curry on very few occasions despite some sort of curry being cooked at my house EVERY SUNDAY.I would prefer a Thai curry to be honest or at the most a prawn curry never a fish one but oh my lord was this one stunning curry. I didn’t even miss the fish! I just kept mopping it up with my fantastic warm but slightly flaky parota. If I had just eaten that curry and nothing else it would have made my meal- it was that good.
Fish Curry along with Tamarind Chutney, The Red Spicy Sour Pickle and the Green Chilli Coconut Chutney
Next up was a Prawn Roast. This dish as recommended to us by our server and I had no idea what to expect but I don’t mind, prawns never disappoint me. I’m told a roast is a standard dish and can be eaten with anything eg, chicken roast, mutton roast etc. This was spicy as well but had loads of onions in the gravy. That’s something I really like because I love the crunch it gives a dish. I like different textures in the dish, the soft well cooked prawns, the spice in the sauce and loads of crunchy onions. I cannot decide which I loved more the curry or the prawns !! Ooo this is a tough one !
Parotta, Prawn Roast and a little Surmai Fry
Left over Prawn Roast
The thali had about six different types of vegetable dishes who’s names I don’t know and when asked just couldn’t understand. A portion of dahi, payasum and rasam ( the rasam looked rather sad and unappetising) Our adorable waiter could sense my excitement over this meal and very sweetly insisted I tried some when he saw me pecking at my sisters thali. First up was a delicious French beans cooked in a coconut base. I love that the vegetable still retained its colour and was crunchy not over cooked. The second thing I tasted (only 2 because I really didn’t have space for more) was the ever famous Avial. Now this I know about and have eaten before because it happens to be my sister’s favourite dish. Avial is a mixture of vegetables with curd and coconut and is a very well known dish.
The six vegetables in the thali along with the chutney and pickle
One of my Mallu friends once told me that Avial is said to have been invented by Bheem (one of the Pandavas) during their exile period he was a cook in one of the kings’ kitchens. He didn’t really know how to cook and the first thing he did was chops up some vegetables and make avial. Some say the first dish he presented to the king himself was avial. A simple dish with basic ingredients but tasty enough to be fit for king.
We also got a chicken biryani but we could have avoided it. Not really a biryani and by the time it arrived we were stuffed but I decided to just sample a bit and pour some of the super fish curry over it.Added some crushed papadums to it and I have to say very enjoyable!
Papadums with my meal
The meal ended with just a few bites (absolutely no place for more) of Payasum. This is a type of kheer basically. Just vermicelli rice and milk.
(L-R) Rasam, Payasum and Dahi
I have to say this meal brightened up my day. I loved the enthusiastic waiter who was so happy to serve me. I enjoyed my meal and more than that this entire lunch got me very nostalgic. It took me back to a time when we used to often frequent joints like this. My college was within the Fort area and we use to scurry off for a quick but satisfying meal ever so often in between classes.It took me back to a time where life was uncomplicated, exciting and scary all at once. When you’re on the cusp of shedding your teenage avtaar and embracing what’s in store for you.This simple non extravagant meal has just delighted me so much that I’ve decided to re visit all my old haunts. I might not be in college anymore and my tasting troops might have changed but the food served in these little treasure troves most certainly hasn’t. I’ll be coming back for more.