Visit The Salt House to experience the flavours of Chettinad cuisine rustled up by Chef Sivakami

The two-day pop-up at the diner gives you a wholesome experience of the Chettinad cuisine

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  25th March 2023 01:34 PM   |   Published :   |  25th March 2023 01:34 PM

A Chettinad Thali

When we talk about Chettinad food the first thing that comes to anyone's mind is the Chettinad Chicken. But most of us will be surprised to know that there's actually no such dish as that. Chettinad, historically the most flourishing and rich district of Tamil Nadu is famed for the banker families living in the palatial buildings dotting the place. Pop-up chef Sivakami Subbiah brings authentic flavours from the region to your plate at The Salt House today and tomorrow.

With a rich culinary experience spanning over two decades, Sivakami learnt the art of Chettinad cooking from her mother and runs cooking classes at The Bangala in Karaikudi and Chennai. 

Sivakami Subbiah

"Chettinad cooking is all about hand pound fresh spices. The meals are fresh and wholesome having great nutritional value. Historically, the Chettinad ladies used to plan the meals of the day with a lot of care. The main spices are usually pepper and red dry gundu chilli which is not very high on the spice meter. Also, we only use mustard for splattering and rarely use coconut unlike other coastal regions in the South," mentions Sivakami.

It was on a trip to Chettinad that Prachi Saraogi, who runs The Salt House along with Saloni Jhunjhunwala, discovered Sivakami and her sumptuous spread and invited her over to Kolkata to give the gastronomes a taste of authentic flavours from a not-so-explored region in the South. 

A Chettinad Thali
A Chettinad Thali

"We are trying to bring different culinary experiences to Kolkata which are not limited to only European cuisine. We are exploring varied under-explored regional cuisines with interesting chefs and craftsmen, someone who can execute an interesting concept. I personally experienced this on my trip to Chettinad and thalis are a great way to showcase the entire food palate of any region. Chettinad is a unique region with its own history and culture that needs to be out there and what better way to get a glimpse of that than food?" says Prach Saraogi, partner at The Salt House.

In Kolkata for the first time ever, Sivakami brings a beautiful palate of diverse flavours in a comprehensive thali that comprises everything that Chettiyars will offer you at their homes. 

The pure meal started off with a platter of vegetable curries including the kootu kari and authentic Mandi made with okra and shallots tossed in chilli garlic and tamarind with a rice water base for the starchy consistency.

A Chettinad Thali
Dosais and lentils

We had them with the very simply-done curry leaf podi rice. This was followed by the very delectable Jackfruit Biryani and Sivakami achieved a heavenly taste by layering the rice with a base comprising tomato, onion and chilli.

We loved the tomato dosai and the Kheema Dosai with a generous topping of spicy mutton granules over the soft dosa was heavenly. We paired the podi dosai with the Crab Masala and Mutton Chukka. We can vouch that though Bengalis love their Kosha Mutton to death, you will be floored by the spice mix of the Chukka which is made with onion, tomato, ginger-garlic paste and a Chettinad special pepper powder consisting of black pepper, coriander seeds, saunf, cumin seed and red chilli, all roasted and powdered. All of it put together enhanced the flavour of the meat to a great extent.

We ended the gustatory session with some very rooted Chettinad desserts and we loved Adikumayam made with urad daal, ghee and two kinds of jaggery. It not only is toothsome, but Sivakami tells us, the sweets dish has therapeutic value as well and is good for one's kidneys and lower back too.  

We also drooled over Paal Paniyaram -- a bowl of dumplings made with urad daal and rice doused in coconut milk flavoured with just cardamom and sugar -- yummy!

The pop-up is on till Sunday, March 26, at The Salt House.

 Pictures by Anindya Saha