Sadhya with a difference
Savour a traditional meal from Kerala with a twist of seafood and meat dishes from Syrian Christian and Islamic influences in the state's cuisine
In December 2018, Bandra-based South Indian restaurant, Thangabali, hosted a pop-up of Keralite food by chef-couple Vinod Nair and Sarah Jacob. A houseful of happy bellies gave them the validation they needed to start a weekend home delivery, pop-up and catering service called Nair on Fire, with third partner Toral Sanghavi.
"We had just one criterion, no modernisation or fusion. The menu would always be classic Keralite cuisine," Nair, a Hindu Malayali tells us.
Vinod Nair and Sara Jacob; Ada Pradhaman
It is a few days before they host Un-Sadiya, in partnership with Cambay Tiger, to mark Independence Day celebrations. The menu offers chicken, vegetarian and seafood options from 35 dishes for a six-course meal.
"Sadhya," Nair explains, "is a vegetarian concept offered during weddings and Onam, as it uses ingredients from the harvest. The addition of non-vegetarian dishes from Syrian Christian and Islamic recipes makes ours unique, so the name Un-Sadiya."
Thattukada chicken fry
One of the dishes found across the state is meen mappas, a Christian dish which is a hybrid between a fish stew and fish curry. It has the flavour of curry and is usually made with pomfret or surmai. Another dish is the thattukada chicken fry. "An extremely tedious dish, you will not find it on restaurant menus. Khada masala — comprising cardamom, clove, cinnamon, jaivitri, star anise, khus khus, coriander seeds, fenugreek, dry red chilli and pepper — is roasted without oil to give it a smoky flavour, after which oil and chicken is added. Water is added only in the end. This gives the curry a deep, mahogany colour."
Jacob tells us about mathangya van-payuru velayichathu, a classic dish with red pumpkin and a small variety of red black-eyed peas they source from Kerala. The addition of red pumpkin gives it a semi-gravy texture and the peas lend it a nuttiness; which is then blended with a coconut masala with red chillies.
While our mouths have started watering, another must-try on the menu is maanga oyichukutaan — a mango curry cooked with coconut, drumsticks and a lot of red chillies.
AT The Cambay Tiger House, near Johnson and Johnson, 64/66, Senapati Bapat Marg, Mahim West.
ON August 18; two seatings from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm and 1.45 pm to 3.45 pm
Cost Rs 1,450 to Rs 2,250 per head
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