Explore authentic traditional flavours of Kerala at The Kitchen
Urbanisation brought two trends to Kochi—Malabari food crowned as the best Malayali cuisine and a rustic ambience and samovar out front promising rustic recipes in any restaurant.
Anybody who’s been around the city on a tasting trail would know that these motifs have become mere marketing tactics. If you’re tired of all the pretentions, don’t hesitate to walk into the spacious 72-cover restaurant The Kitchen at Palarivattom highway signal sporting contemporary interiors.
“People are easily misled by the sham put on by most restaurants. Every region in Kerala has their own culinary traditions and we want to serve these without tastemakers and overbearing masalas,” says owner Mani K Kottaram, who is known for his naadan restaurants he started across towns like Thodupuzha and Pala way back in the early 2000s.
As we speak, cubes of kachil (purple yam) and chembu (taro) served on toothpicks are placed in front of us. We get down to business testing out the earthy flavours with the vinegar-chilli and curd-chilli-shallot chutneys—the latter a favourite in high ranges of the Western Ghats.
Back to flavours
Mani aims to bring about a change in the unhealthy fast food consumption habit prevalent among office-goers.
“Instead of porottas and fried food, everyone’s welcome to try traditional dishes like appams prepared live in the evening,” says this Ayurveda doctor turned restauranteur who’s been in the industry for 37 years.
Hardly found in places boasting a ‘naadan’ identity, my first choice is pidi along with chicken perattu. Salty beyond my preference, this curry leaf loaded slow-cooked chicken dish works well with the consistency of the rice dumplings dish.
“Most kinds of meat have a distinct aroma and it releases flavours when cooked with spices. The modern trend of using excessive masala powders spoils this and we don’t practice it,” says Mani.
Vattayappam is mostly considered an evening snack but inspired by Thrissur cuisine it’s paired with meat here.
Laden with dried raisins, the soft rice cake almost melts in the mouth when dipped in the gravy of the mutton dish which has chunks of tomato and potato.
“While chiratta puttu is prepared in metal moulds elsewhere, we use original coconut shells which are replaced every two days. Our appams are also prepared on the conventional kallu (stone) rather than a pan,” informs Mani, as I try out their appam.
There’s no better accompaniment for the appams—different in texture and consistency from usual ones—than the coconut milk infused Achayan’s beef. “We’re also planning on seasonal dishes like chakka puzhukku and desserts like mathanga vilayichathu,” he informs, as we finish the meal with a sweet chutta ada.