When you hear of Kerala, the first thought that comes to mind is the pristine backwaters, lush green landscapes, and the widely celebrated warm hospitality.
But there’s another facet to the state – its exquisite cuisine.
Imagine relishing fresh Karimeen, slow-cooked in whole spices and wrapped in banana leaves or tender mutton chunks cooked to perfection in a thick curry of pepper, served with the state’s especial parotta — such is the sensory delight at ‘Backwater Chronicles’, the food festival at The India Grill, Hilton Garden Inn, Saket, which starts on September 15.
As one steps into the ‘Backwater Chronicles’, a banner of Kathakali, the state’s unique dance form, welcomes them. The festival will take in visitors from September 15 – 17.
The venue is adorned with traditional decor. Colourful banners and aromatic spice garlands welcome visitors, instantly transporting them into the heart of Kerala.
What’s in store
To begin with, there was pan-fried seer fish — a delicacy in Kerala, fried chicken and pepper fried paneer — a bomb of a combination for appetisers.
From the ubiquitous banana fritters (known as Pazhampori) to savoury snacks like Parippu Vada (lentil fritters) and Thattukada-style dosas, a plethora of mouthwatering bites to tantalise the taste-buds.
In the main course, traditional dishes like Sadya, a feast served on a banana leaf, showcased an array of curries, pickles, and sweets. There is quintessential vegetarian stew — vegetables cooked in coconut milk and whole spices and traditional mushroom curry to name a few.
For seafood lovers, there will be Meen Curry (fish curry) and Karimeen Pollichatthu (spiced fish wrapped in banana leaves).
For those favouring meat, the festival offered Malabar biryani, a fragrant and spicy rice dish, mutton roast and fry.
There will also be a bread spread to go along with the main dishes. Appam, pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk, traditionally cooked in an appachatti, a deep pan similar in shape to a wok, and Parotta, crisp and flaky flatbread are essential to complete the cuisine.
The dessert section has the classic payasam.
The menu is different on all three days.
Chef de cuisine
Chef Rekha Raghavan says that the festival is an endeavour to bring people closer to the Malabar cuisine. Born and raised in Bhopal, Rekha has been organising food festivals since 2019 after she moved to Gurugram. This is her first venture in Delhi.
“Just two weeks ago, I hosted a Sadya event for Onam and people loved it. This was anyway lined up and I am looking forward to having visitors,” she said.
“I grew up in Bhopal. The only time I did not eat Kerala cuisine was in school while eating my friend’s tiffin. I learnt cooking from my grandmother, who was an expert in cooking Malabari food. Whenever I cook, it is a tribute to her,” she said.
The festival showcases the diverse and rich culinary traditions of Kerala, which reflect the state’s multicultural heritage. Kerala’s cuisine is a harmonious blend of flavours influenced by Arab, Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, making it a unique and delectable experience.
Talking about the cuisine of Kerala, one cannot overlook the use of whole spices that are grown in abundance in the state.
Kerala is home to a variety of spices: pepper, vanilla, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric. The flavour of spices lingers long in one’s tongue and even longer in one’s memory. Spices have shaped Kerala’s tryst with destiny. It was the fragrance of spice that awakened the curiosity of the explorers.