Chef Saji Alex elevates a simple Central Travancore staple into a gourmet delight

Chemmeen Thengakkothittathu is a simple coastal dish

author_img Likhitha P Nair Published :  11th October 2019 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  11th October 2019 06:00 AM

Chef Saji P Alex

Kochi Marriott Hotel’s Cassava restaurant is one of the best destinations in the city for dining on authentic Malayali flavours. For the same reason, it was recently named one of the top 52 restaurants across the Asia Pacific region by Marriott Bonvoy—the company’s loyalty programme. For Chef Saji P Alex, the flavours served there is a result of years of travelling around the state and learning about its food. “Every village and community in Kerala has its own way of cooking and blending spices. I have been working in Ernakulam for years now, and have observed plenty about the cuisine here,” adds the 49-year-old chef.
Originally from Kottayam, Saji admits that the familiar flavours from his childhood have influenced his style. In 2016, he cooked for the MasterChef Australia judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston in Bengaluru, and his authenticity impressed them too. For Indulge, the chef handpicks a simple coastal dish from central Travancore that is sure to captivate your tastebuds. 

Chemmen Thengakkothittathu

1.8 kg prawns
60 ml coconut oil
220 gms onion sliced   
30 gms green chilli
30 gms curry leaves
½ a coconut
50 gms kokum
40 gms chilli powder
10 gms turmeric powder
30 gms ginger
40 gms garlic
5 gms fenugreek powder
20 ml vinegar
Salt, to taste

For tempering
60 ml coconut oil
10 gms mustard
20 gms crushed 
black pepper
8 gms fenugreek powder
20 gms green chilli
60 gms sliced shallots
25 gms curry leaves

1. Mix all the ingredients except prawns.
2. Cook the prawns separately till tender.
3. Heat the coconut oil in an uruli (handcrafted vessel), crackle mustard and add sliced shallots. Fry till golden brown in colour.
4. Reduce the flame and add the rest of the ingredients. Fry for a minute. 
5. Add the cooked prawns and toss the mixture well. 
6. Garnish with curry leaves and serve hot.