A Toast To Kerala : Cassava Has An All New Menu!

Kochi Marriott hotel has opened its doors to another exciting culinary expedition

This elegantly well-appointed 62 cover restaurant resonates impeccable class and a mysterious old world charm that lures you to explore its bounty. Warm smiles and enticing aromas greet you as you arrive at this warm diner. There is a distinct ethnic touch to the ambience with the open kitchen revealing the beautiful array of earthen pots and pans, glass baranis filled with pickles and uperis, striking hues of magical spices and other vintage knickknacks. Ever since its launch in 2014, this Kerala speciality restaurant has been a charmer for all the right reasons. As an added bonus, new add-ons on the menu offer delectable delicacies that are to be savoured with an assortment of beverages to compliment the meal. Ritz explores Cassava at the Kochi Marriott hotel that has opened its doors to another exciting culinary expedition with Sous Chef Saji Alex.

Text: Riya Sonny Datson

Cassava at the Kochi Marriott hotel has an interesting tale behind it’s name. It is believed that ‘Cassava’ or tapioca is of Brazilian origin and the story goes that the Portuguese brought it to India and Visakham Thirunal Rama Varma of Travancore, wanting to popularize the shrub, planted it along the palace fence. A royal proclamation was made that the root was only for the royals and anyone trespassing would be punished. All the plants were stolen overnight. Thus the Maharaja achieved his hidden objective of spreading the cultivation of kappa. (local name for tapioca).  And to this day, Kappa is a staple in every Malayali’s kitchen and it has adapted well to the innumerable varieties of preparation.

But there is a lot more to Kerala cuisine. From rich coconut milk concoctions to exotic spicy delicacies to seafood extravaganzas, Cassava has it all on its menu. The chart toppers, of course, Palappams paired with the meen managa curry, biriyani, chutta kozhi chaps, paratha and duck roast are all a gourmand’s delight! So what’s new on the menu? “We have tried to revive traditional recipes that have been handed down over generations. But these are not easy preparations and are hence reserved only for special occasions now. One such signature dish is the Nadan Kozhi Varatharachathu with the Palmanipidi. It is a traditional meal by itself, the curation is an influence of the Knanaya Christians of Central Kerala and the Malabar Region of the state and is a conflux of the best of the two regions. Homemade rice dumplings are served with chicken curry made with Idukki pepper powder, shallots, roasted coconut, hand-picked spices and fully ripened fresh coconut milk. For seafood lovers, we have two new additions – the Chemmeen Thenga Kothuittathu has tiger prawns marinated with ripe local coconut, kokum and a blend of spices. This prawn recipe that originated in Central Kerala is a delicious concoction of aromatic flavours.”

Chef has the classic highlight of Kerala Cuisine covered too with the Meen Polichathu – the Karimeen or pearl spot fish is marinated in a host of spices & shallots, wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed. The process infuses a unique aroma and divine flavour to the preparation. He recommends the choice of the new beverage additions in Cassava to complement his seafood delicacies. “Our guest is our priority. We take great care to customise each dish according to our guest’s taste and preference. While Kerala cuisine typically has spicy flavours, we also have subtle seasoning for those who sport a lighter palate, like for example – while we offer sea food platter in Indian masala, we also offer the platter in lemon garlic butter for our foreign guests who prefer lighter seasoning. We also have a live seafood counter at the restaurant from where the guest can choose their ‘Catch of the Day’ with their preferred choice of preparation,” explains Chef.

It is a difficult task to gauge one’s taste and to curate delicacies that suit every palate. So how does Chef work his magic? “I have travelled far and wide, tasting different cuisines and styles preparations and with research and experience, you begin to understand flavours, trends, favourites and the not so favourites. You begin to understand that there is a common palate. One needs to maintain that balance when you prepare a dish. But of course, there are also dishes that are meant to be spicy and need to be savoured that way. One such delicacy is the Erachi mulagupuralan, which is our house specialty,” he says. The recipe, a traditionally curated one by Chef Saji’s grandmother, has a special preparation of Escalopes of veal marinated in spices, shallots, pepper and chilli for over 36 hours and then shallow fried on a hot stone.

And for the grand sweet finale, the new entrant is the Pazham Pani – ancient Kerala’s popular dessert dish served during traditional Syrian Christian weddings. This dish comprises of the njalippuvan banana topped with sweet palm toddy reduction. “The sweet palm toddy reduction is a thick sweet syrup that needs to be prepared with great care, hence it is important to procure it from trusted and authentic sources,” says Chef.

So what makes Cassava different from other Kerala cuisine restaurants? “I would say it is our authenticity. We never compromise on quality and use only fresh and best quality ingredients. We have our own freshly ground spices that we use in our recipes. We stick to traditional recipes and never make compromises while using key ingredients like spices, shallots or coconut milk and that is the secret to our rich flavours and aromas!” signs off Chef.