India's rich coastal culinary fare has found fans across the globe. Unfortunately, there are many Indians who are unaware of the rich confluence of flavours. Varq at Taj, is giving its patrons a chance to relish authentic ethnic west coast cuisine for its 11th Anniversary. To celebrate the special occasion, Varq would be showcasing some of the classic recipes from Karavalli, from The Gateway Hotel, Bengaluru. The famed Bengaluru restaurant serves ethnic west coast cuisine of Mangalore, Karwar, Coorg, Goa and Malabar. The pop-up at Varq would feature recipes like Crab Milagu Fry, Sea Crab Ghee Roast, Malvani Surmai Tawa Fry, Tiger Prawns Roast etc. The festival started on 21st September and would end on 28th September.
Chef Naren Thimmaiah, the Executive Chef of Karavalli, has flown down especially from Bangalore to make sure you are in for an unforgettable experience. Varq, an award-winning dining destination, is renowned for its modern Indian cuisine. The restaurant has also pioneered the concept of pre-plated Indian food. The pop-up is an incredible way for patrons to enjoy the best of both worlds.
We had a chance to interact with Chef Thimmaiah, who has been the face of the iconic Karavalli restaurant for over two decades. He has showcased his culinary finesse at World Gourmet Summit held at Singapore in the year 2005. In February 2009, at the Government of India National Tourism awards held at New Delhi, Naren Thimmaiah was also adjudged as the Best Chef of India. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
If one is new to seafood, what is that one food they can start with?
For the first-timers, I would suggest tiger prawns roast. Tossed in a Kerala spice mix of tomato, ginger, green chillies, coconut and lemon juice, this is also Karavalli's best-loved dish. Colocasia leaves pan-roasted with a paste of lentils and spices make an appearance as patrade. One can also dig into Camaro Con Cilantro, which has prawns flavoured with coriander and cooked in a delicate sauce.
Your recent favourite kitchen ingredient you are obsessed with?
Colocasia leaves which we use to make Patrade. Patrade is a unique colocasia leaves-based dish that is wrapped around a paste of lentils and spices steamed and pan-roasted.
The most difficult sea creature you have dealt with in your kitchen
It has to be crabs. Although it has got tender meat with little sweet overtones, we should always ensure it is fresh. The meat of a dead crab tends to be high-risk meat from the point of view of food safety. It's always safer to pick up live crabs to ensure freshness and it's a daily struggle!
Tips to make perfect ghee roast
To get the ghee roast right, we should focus on the main spice ingredient - the chillies. Source the Byadgi Chillies, which is a moderately-spiced chilli with good red colour that is grown in the Byadgi region of northern Karnataka. With the right ingredient in place, ensure that you soak it in warm water for about 15 to 20 minutes before grinding it with other spices to give a fine texture. Cook the ground paste on a medium flame for long, periodically folding in the ghee to ensure the masala is cooked well without leaving traces of raw masala.
Tips to find out whether prawns/shrimps are fresh and good to cook or not
Always source the fresh catch to avoid any ambiguity. Always look for the firm head, which generally tells a lot about its freshness. Skip the ones that have a drooping head, clumsy and mangled shell.
A lot of our coastal curries are fiery or tangy. Were spices always so important to coastal cooking in India?
This is a misconception that lot of our coastal curries are fiery or tangy. There are many dishes that are mild and delicious on the palate. Yes, of course, there are few curries especially in the South, which are fiery or tangy, but here the spice or souring agent lends itself well to the seafood or any other ingredient. As per the fundamentals of cooking, locally grown and available ingredients are used for cooking. Climatic conditions and eating habits also define the spice handling capacity!
Your favourite restaurants/eateries in Bangalore
- Taj West End- Blue Ginger for Vietnamese
- Olive Beach for Mediterranean
- Sanchez for Tex Mex
- Soi and Sake for Asian
- Toscano for Italian
- MTR for local Karnataka fare
- Trinity Square for the world cuisine cravings through the day
About Sushmita SenguptaSharing a strong penchant for food, Sushmita loves all things good, cheesy and greasy. Her other favourite pastime activities other than discussing food includes, reading, watching movies and binge-watching TV shows.