Taste the famous black chicken curry with Desi Di's 2.0 menu
From Mizoram Beef curry to a Goan Coconut Vinegar dip, Desi Di’s 2.0 version is an explosion of flavours
When Aaron Coutinho, head chef at Desi Di isn’t cooking up a storm in the kitchen, he’s usually weaving in and out of the local markets and fishing hamlets in the city. As he shows us a picture of him holding up a giant red snapper at Kasimedu in North Chennai, we find out about Desi 2.0, the restaurant’s exciting new menu. Experimenting with flavours that are seldom explored in Chennai, the chef was also in the news recently for introducing the black chicken curry or the Kadaknath chicken curry.
“When we started working on this menu, we didn’t know how the response would be,” says Aaron. “So we maintained a 60-40 ratio where 60 percent of the dishes were new and 40 percent of them were safe dishes. Because the regular customers should always get their favourites.” Aaron calls the concept ‘adaptive Indian’ where inspiration is drawn from all over India where the tastes are adapted into the local context. However, this is not to be confused with fusion food. The chef is trying to introduce different types of fish into the menu like the Sheela fish (barracuda), lady fish (kilanga), malabar trevally (para) and the red snapper (sankara). “It is very exciting because if you venture out into these markets you’ll understand what kind of variety is available there.” Aaron hopes to explore the flavours from Madurai, Kovai and Coimbatore and says that people need to become aware of the kind of tastes that are available, especially at a local level. Kadaknath Chicken is next on our table
Kebabs and Khakra
We dive straight into the new menu and order us some drinks; a Lemon Barley Shikanji, Red Hibiscus Ice Tea and Kokum Mojito. While the barley shikanji is a slightly denser drink, the red hibiscus ice tea and kokum mojito are cool and refreshing. The Sugarcane Chicken Kebab is next - spiced meat deftly packed around a sugarcane piece, served with gongura leaves. The meat is seasoned just about right and the leaves impart a hint of sharpness which complements each other. A mix of Squid and Onion rings come next served with a really fresh dip made of Goan coconut vinegar and crushed chilies and onions. There’s a mix of sweet and heat all at the same time. Another dip we loved and perhaps deserved to be bottled is the thorai dip (ridge gourd). Pair the Chicken Tikka Khakra with this and you’ll know what we mean. Pescetarians will be spoiled for choice here with their Tawa fried red snapper and para. While the red snapper is succulent and soft, the para is a little tougher and dry. You can also try with Tandoori Prawns and Fish Head Curry with potatoes.
The star of their menu however is the Kadaknath chicken. With over three hours of cooking time, the Kadaknath chicken is a native breed of Madhya Pradesh. It's strong peppery flavour is enough to clear out your sinuses on a sick day. However, it's the texture of the meat that takes us by surprise. It's tough, chewy and unlike a regular chicken, doesn't melt off the bone.
Flavours without boundaries
Local ingredients make another appearance with their beef dishes - the Amaranth beef and the Mizoram Beef curry. While the former is loaded with spices and red spinach, the latter is a comforting broth with no spices and just pepper and salt. The star ingredient of the Mizoram beef is the dried bamboo that gives its smoky, homely flavour. For dessert, Aaron brings in the Bebinca Suzette, a crossover of the French Crepes Suzette and the traditional Indo-Portuguese dessert Bebinca. While the bebinca in itself is quite dense and rich, it has been paired with a fresh orange reduction and tangerine that cuts down the heaviness. An apple phirni is also on the new menu.
Meal for two: Rs 1000