Kerala Food Festival @ Keys Cafe, Andheri, Mumbai

Fish in Red Paste
Fish in Red Paste

Kerala needs no introduction. Steeped in a culture, which at best can be described as a smorgasbord of global influences, this southernmost state of India is a true reflection of its past. Developed and utilized mostly as a port of trade, Kerala saw huge exchange of spices amongst other things that travelers to its shores brought. Consequently the food of Kerala has more than just a passing touch of the various influences the region has been subjected to.

The Kerala Food Festival at Key Café, which is part of Keys Hotel – Nestor is not an elaborate affair at first glance. But as you sit down to eat, you realize sufficient thought has been put behind selecting the dishes. From soups and starters to the main course and dessert, each dish complements the setting.

Take for instance the Kanji soup, which essentially is a rice broth cooked in coconut milk with shallots, and seasoned with pepper and green chilies. Balanced perfectly, it is ideal for the soggy rainy weather that Mumbai has been subject to for the past few months.The starters were a delightful affair. Parippu Wada (Lentil fritters), Pavakka Kontam Fry (Bitter Gourd fried with dry coconut), Pacha masala fried Prawns (Prawns fired in Green paste), Fish in red masala paste and Ellu Kozhi (Chicken with sesame). Clearly the menu was very well balanced keeping both vegetarians and non- vegetarians in mind. The prawns were well done, though I wished they were a bit larger; the chicken was hot and full of flavor, and the wada seemed doused in a little more oil that I would have preferred. Surprisingly, the winner for me was the Pavakka Kontam Fry. Crisp, aromatic and something that represented the very essence of Kerala for me! The fish in red masala paste came wrapped in a banana leaf, not unlike the Parsi Patra ni machhi, the only difference being that while the Kerala fish was smothered in red paste, patra ni machhi is prepared in green chutney. Both are steamed pomfrets. The fish was done well, and the paste lent it a certain tangy – sweetish taste. I was also served the Beef Coconut fry, which though a bit overcooked had mild flavors allowed the taste of the meat to stand out.
Next: The main courses