Mumbai Food: Husband-wife duo to whip up Kerala-style fare at their debut pop-up
It was her mother-in-law's Chicken Stew that sparked Pragati Saigal's interest in Kerala cuisine. This was in 2015, when the third generation Malaysian of Punjabi origin had just married Kim Koshie, a music producer born to a Syrian Christian family in Kochi. "She used coconut abundantly in the stew. It brought the flavours to life. Having grown up eating Malay food, I discovered that it is similar to Kerala cuisine in its use of spices, coconut and rice. Both regions also have hardcore meat and fish eaters," says the 37-year-old. The husband-wife duo, now based in Mumbai, decided to delve into their cuisines, and late last year, launched The Kopaara Kitchen. The catering venture offers Keralite and Malaysian fare, made using a collection of family recipes. "Kopaara is Kim's 'house' name, similar to a family name. Through marriage, I'm a Kopaara too," she adds.
This weekend, they'll present their debut pop-up in collaboration with Pune-based craft brewery Great State Aleworks and Meraki as part of TapTakeover at a Bandra cafe.
What's on the menu?
The duo has curated four dishes (Rs 300 to Rs 400) for the pop-up. These include Poricha Kozhi, a fiery red complexioned dish where chicken is marinated in a blend of Kerala spices (and Kashmiri chillies) and deep-fried; Meen Pollichathu starring Surmai fillet, which is coated in an aromatic coriander and black pepper-heavy masala, and roasted in a banana leaf. There's also Erachi Fry, featuring succulent mutton cubes coated with coconut bits — similar to Kerala-style beef fry — that will be served with flaky Malabar Porotta. "It's a typical Syrian Christian dish, which I grew up on. My family not only has great women cooks but men love cooking too. So, I was pulled into it as well," says Koshie, who had a long-standing dream to start a food business in Mumbai considering "the lack of options for traditional Kerala fare."
Erachi Fry and Malabar Porotta
Little surprise then that the duo use toddy to ferment the batter of Kallu Appams, which will accompany the Chicken Stew. "Toddy lends a unique flavour to the appams. Since it's not available in Mumbai, we make it at home. We source various other ingredients from Kerala, including spices, coconut oil and condiments like pappadam as well as a variety of banana and jackfruit chips," informs Saigal.
Scouting for recipes
Besides sourcing recipes from families, the duo also made trips to their relatives' homes to learn certain dishes. For instance, Saigal learnt to prepare Sadhya fare from Koshie's aunt in Kochi. "Kim's relatives in Kozhikode, who are Nairs, taught us Malabari dishes," says Saigal. Through the process, she also discovered how Syrian Christian cuisine is distinct from the other community cuisines within Kerala. "For instance, the Nairs replace coconut with cashews to add creaminess to the chicken korma."
Kim Koshie and Pragati Saigal
The couple admits they are usually on the same page in the kitchen. "Kim has a great understanding of Kerala cuisine, and I am good at cooking. I'm also on the lookout for interesting vegetarian substitutes to offer these dishes with a modern twist. For instance, using jackfruit as a tasty vegetarian option for pulled pork," says Saigal, but adds with a laugh, "Kim's sceptical about it." And when does Mumbai get to try the Malaysian fare? "We're still working on it. Fresh Malaysian ingredients are hard to come by, so for now, we're focusing on Kerala cuisine."
ON: November 5, 12 pm to 5 pm
AT: Cafe Terra, Hotel Executive Enclave, 331 Dr Ambedkar Road, Pali Hill, Bandra West.