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Chettinad Cuisine - spicy and aromatic or...

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#1 brucesw

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Posted 25 June 2012 - 11:57 AM

I’ve been exploring a little restaurant serving dishes from Chettinad and have a few questions. The Wikioracle calls the cuisine one of the most spicy and aromatic in India and that was an apt description of the only Chettinad dish I’ve had before, a vegetable kurma at another restaurant, but the food here is neither particularly spicy nor aromatic, although the kitchen will adjust heat level to your taste. Actually there aren't that many dishes on the menu labeled as being from Chettinad.

So I went in search of more information and found a discussion suggesting that characterization is just the result of restauranteurs trying to incite more interest in their businesses and Chettiars really prefer subtler seasonings.

The easy answer is you can’t believe everything you read in Wiki, of course, but I thought I ask for some insight here.

I have been enjoying the food, partly because of an enthusiastic young manager, but what should I be expecting? Just what is Chettinad cuisine? What sets it apart from other regional cuisines in India?

By the way, the restaurant is in the same suburb where there are now four restaurants catering to an ex-pat community from Kerala and the chef is from Kerala, I’m told.

#2 DickL

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 10:59 PM

I'm no expert on this, but my impression is that one feature of some Chettinad dishes is the use of quite a bit of black pepper. I've been following a blog "Solai's True Chettinad kitchen", and a few of her dishes reflect that. For example, there is a dish "Chettinad Milagu Kozhi Kuzhambu (Chettinad Pepper Chicken Gravy)" that calls for two tablespoons of a spice mixture (which is 2/3 ground black pepper) for 3/4 kg of chicken. But many of the dishes discussed don't seem particularly peppery. Anyhow, that blog might give you a better idea of what to expect from Chettinad dishes and/or something to discuss with the manager of the place.
Dick in Northbrook, IL

#3 brucesw

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 02:57 PM

Thanks for the link to the blog. I’ll be perusing those recipes when I get some time. Yes, the menu descriptions for several of the dishes refer to a roasted coconut and peppercorn or spicy black pepper sauce. The Chettinad vegetables also had a notable presence of star anise.

I found the link from the other forum. I had meant to post that with the original post but couldn’t find it. It seems my place is not very ‘authentic’ - there is no one passing through with a bucket of spicy chicken gravy, no organ meats on the menu nor red rice and no omelets - but it is growing on me.

A couple of the links in the thread do not work for me but the ones that do give a picture of the cuisine more in keeping with Wiki.

#4 Kerala

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:09 AM

Thanks for posting. The restaurant is not producing pure Chettinad food. It's fairly honest about this. If you were in Chettinad and you went to a restaurant you wouldn't expect pure Chettinad food either. The menu looks tempting. If it tastes good and you like the staff, my top priority would be to work my way down the whole list. Feeling quite homesick looking at that menu...
For authenticity: yes to heat, yes to pepper, yes to coconut.