It was going to be a Thali lunch at the Copper Point at The GRT Grand Hotel in Chennai and we had been invited to The Southern Village Culinary Tour at the Indian Restaurant of the Hotel. My guests today were all family! There was my cousin Sunita Prasad, Princess of Vijayanagaram who is visiting Madras; taking a break, after a very hard and successful campaign tour for her brother Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who is now the Union Minister for Civil Aviation in Prime Minister Modi’s Government. She has always campaigned for Ashok during all his election tours and does it with great élan! My other two guests were my nephew Abhimanyu Prakash and his lovely wife Ishani Appayya. Abhimanyu is the Great Grandson of one of Indian Cricket’s great Buchi Babu. He and his wife are developing a wonderful center at the home of Buchi Babu called Luz House. It is one of the last of the heritage homes of our city to have survived the onslaught of progress and is being lovingly restored by the family.
Chef Damu welcomes us into the restaurant and in keeping with the tradition of serving the most authentic Indian cuisine; they are preparing to treat us to recipes from the heritage villages of South India. This Gramathu Virundhu has been prepared using recipes of our forefathers, all the food being prepared just the way they used to. Some of the recipes are over a hundred years old and Chef Damu hopes to recreate the magic of the past for us. The Non-vegetarian food has been cooked in mud pots as it is the best method to retain both flavor and taste.
There were pappads and accompanying chutneys, mint and coconut to go with them and we were served a welcome drink, a Panakam made with tamarind water mixed with Jaggery. This was followed by a mixed vegetable soup that was spicy and tasted somewhat like a Mulligatawny! The starter was a Spinach Pakoda that was rather crunchy that was servedwith an interesting beetroot sauce that was tart.
Chef Damu sent out the Thalis to us and it was rather overwhelming as there was no place on the platter for anything more!! The highlight for all of us was the delicious Kaapa Koolu which was a thick drink made with rice ragi with yogurt and raw onions paste. It was cooling and grainy textured and rather delicious. There were soft Dosas, with chutney to accompany it, Kothamalli Rice that was totally flavourful and all of us ate every last morsel of. An interesting array of vegetables, that had a mushroom fry with onions, a tapioca fry that was soft and very interesting, a lentil curry and of course the sambhar and rasam. This had the white rice accompanying it as well as a yummy mashed dal that was mixed with ghee! Yougurt set in a matka that went well with the kothamalli rice as did the onion raitha.
For Ishani and Abhimanyu who tasted the non-vegetarian preparations there was a wonderful chicken curry, the Pallipalam Kozhi Vathakkal and a fish curry that both of them declared was fresh and lightly made. There was a mutton curry, the Mallur Mutton Vathakkal as well to round of the selection.
We had eaten so much that it was almost impossible to even consider the next course, the desserts! But we gamely marched ahead and requested to have sharing portions, so we could do some justice to the Chef’s preparations!! There was a delicious platter of a variety of fresh cut fruit that was very welcome! Badam Halwa was yummy and we could taste the ghee that had gone into it. The Paruppu Payasam was totally delicious and having been made with jaggery had its own unique flavor and a well-rounded colour as well.
A wonderful meal thanks to Chef Damu’s recipes that he has recreated for this South Indian Culinary festival and we were very fortunate to have been able to experience this at the Copper Point restaurant.