Went out last night to try something new .... an exclusive dinner, specialised menu, small 'elite' crowd and absolutely homely setting.
Thanx to Rushina and her FB links one came across a very interesting group called CORAL ... who advertise the concept called a 'networking dinner'.
What leapt straight out of the page were the word Pandi Curry - for the uninitiated it is the very pinnacle of southern Indian pork dishes and is a speciality of the Coorg (Kodagu) Hills in tamil Nadu and bordering on the eastern edges of Kerala. The Coorgis are a proud martial race and are known as much for their hospitality to friends as their implacable hostility to foes. One of India's only two field-marshal's, Cariappa, was a Coorgi!
Their cuisine is quite unlike any other part of the South of India and the autochthons of Coorg - the Kodavas are famous (or infamous) for their passion for meat and liquor. The food is an amazing blend of local tribal traditions with influences from the neighbouring regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the subtle influence of Manglorean Christian refugees and Muslims traders that came from the Keralite coast.
Their most well known and perhaps most popular dish is Pandi Curry a pork preparation that uniquely identifies them. It is a spicy albeit not fiery slow cooked preparation that is made for all weddings and other auspicious occasions. Its secret though lies in a special souring agent called kachampuli which is seldom available outside Coorg and is carefully couriered to the diaspora by hand. It is a unique fruit based souring syrup which whilst following the raison d'etre of its other cousins like tamarind and kokum deviates by not just changing flavour but also add an unmistakeable texture to the dish. It is usually served with an unleavened rice bread made by mixing cooked rice paste with dry rice flour and is known as Akki-roti.
Our host and chef Megha had made the Pandi Curry with the authentic Akki-roti which she made after we got there. All of us (Rushina, Rhea and I) crowded around and made a general nuisance of ourselves in her kitchen.
We, Rhea and I, arrived in Bandra earlier than expected and spent two happy hours driving down streets that we had played and ploughed through in our childhood, Rhea's family lived in Bandra and it was my maternal grandparents home - where I spent most of my holidays. I keep wondering whether we ever passed one another in those days without the slightest inkling that we'd meet up in College and the fall in love in Pune!
It poured in Bandra and we had a lovely time driving around (including a short recce to confirm the address). We arrived at Pawan and Megha's at 9.15 and they were quite surprised that we had found thier place which is nestled deep inside the little gallis of Bandra village. Rushina arrived a few minutes later and pawan went off to the main road to fetch her.
We had a little wine and some gorgeous tiny murukkus and some Superb pepper Chicken as starters, the chicken was interspersed with crunch kadipatta leaves that exploded flavour in the mouth.
We were soon fed an amazing meal of the BEST Pandi Curry (with akki-roti) I have ever eaten followed by a very interesting preparation of gauti (free range) chicken called Nati Kori (which translates as scrawny chicken) with rice. As though this gastronomic event wasn't enough Megha topped it off with some absolutely mind numbing fantastic dessert made with bananas, ghee and finely chopped coconut. She then served us some lovely light filter kaapi (coffee) to round up one of the best meals I have had this year.
I have eaten Pandi Curry at two other places, enjoyed it thoroughly and now realised how much better the authentic version is. The main difference apart from the TLC is the kachampuli which was missing in the previous versions.
Three more guests rolled in a bit later and we had an amazing 'salon' where we trawled the depths the food business and shared food and kitchen and catering related anecdotes .... before we knew it - it was 2 am and we apologised to our perfect hosts and made a speedy getaway back to Kharghar. But not before they plied us with takeaway bottles of Megha's home-made home-style Peanut Butter (which I am eating as I write this).
We returned home sated in mind and body.
(The only tragedy of the evening was that both me and Rhea forgot to take along a camera)
PS Pawan and Megha do this with a different cuisine almost every week!!