Slurp! There’s a Moplah feast in town

June 24th, 2009 - 11:28 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, June 24 (IANS) Centuries ago, many trading Arabs who visited Kerala ended up staying back and marrying local women. So it was a matter of time before the Arabic influence pervaded kitchens there to give birth to what is called Moplah food.
Now a toast is being raised to Moplah delicacies as part of a special festival by ITC Hotels at its Dakshin restaurants in six cities - Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Visakhapatnam - beginning Wednesday.

“The Arab influence is predominant in dishes like alisa, a porridge made with shredded lamb and broken wheat cooked with Indian spices, and jeera kanji, cumin flavoured rice soup with a tinge of coconut and baby onions,” Sudharasan V.M., the sous chef at Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers here. The hotel is part of ITC.

The Moplah community is made up of Malayalam-speaking Muslims living in Kerala’s Malabar region with their roots in Arab countries. Moplah is derived from the Tamil word “maappillai” or new groom.

According to Sudharasan, Moplah cuisine is less hot than other south Indian food - originally aimed at suiting Arab taste buds.

The manner of preparing the ingredients is what gives the food a foreign taste, he said. “For instance, the masala for the meen porichatu/fried fish is prepared by dry griding of red chilli, coriander seeds and others first. To this coconut oil is added to make the masala paste and applied to the sliced fish,” he said.

Hotel spokesperson Prathima Vasan said, “For the first time in ITC Hotel’s history, the Moplah feast is being held at the same time in six different Dakshin restaurants.”

Both for vegans and non-vegans the Moplah feast offers a variety of choices.

For starters, one can choose from pachakari pettipathiri (vegetable filled puff patties), petti pathiri (lamb mince filled short crust, shaped into squares), alisa and jeera kanji.

Non-vegetarians can choose their main course from lobster mullakihathu (lobster that is spicy and tangy); kozhi varattiyathu (chicken marinated with spices from the Malabar region); chemeen manga charu (prawns cooked in gravy with raw mangoes) and erachi ishtew (lamb pieces cooked with coconut milk and spices).

Vegans can dig into kaya upperi (raw banana tossed with mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies); pachakari kurma or vendakai mullakihathu (ladies finger in tangy coconut based gravy).

For those with a sweet tooth, there’s muttamala (sweet strings of egg yolk cooked in sugar syrup); chatti pathiri (layers of rice pancakes filled with dry fruits) and elai adai (steamed rice crescent with a melange of coconut, jaggery and jack fruit).

The festival is on till July 5. A Moplah meal for two may cost around Rs.1,800.

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