Kurinji: Foods of the Western Ghats

Chef Rakesh Raghunathan

This April, residents of Chennai will get a taste of the Western Ghats before they make their way to the hills for the summer. Chef Rakesh Raghunathan, in association with The Kodai Chronicle Trust and Wild Garden Cafe, Amethyst, will present Kurinji: Foods of the Western Ghats, an original and delectable two-week food festival, held at Wild Garden Cafe, Amethyst from 5th to 19th April 2024. This special food festival is the first time mountain foods, especially foods and produce of the Western Ghats, will be showcased in this manner.

The Nilgiris and Palani Hills are mountain ranges located in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, known for their rich biodiversity and unique flora and fauna. The produce from this region includes fruits like oranges, bananas, plums, avocados and tree tomatoes; vegetables like carrots, cauliflowers and beetroots; tea; coffee; and spices like cardamom and pepper.

Communities in the Western Ghats region have a diverse diet that includes these fruits, vegetables and spices, as well as grains like millets and bamboo rice. Promoting the produce from this region is important to preserve cultural traditions, support local economies and promote sustainable agriculture. By doing so, we can also help elevate the voices and knowledge of indigenous communities and celebrate their culinary heritage.

Rakesh Raghunathan is a well-known Indian chef, food historian and TV host. He is known for his expertise in traditional South Indian cuisine and for promoting the importance of preserving and celebrating indigenous foods. Chef Raghunathan is passionate about showcasing the rich culinary heritage of India and educating people on the diversity and flavours of regional Indian cuisine. With this festival, he hopes to shine a spotlight on the marginalised communities of the region and revive their unique cuisines and traditions.

DISHES THAT WILL BE FEATURED AT THE FESTIVAL INCLUDE:

Mixed Food

Cauliflower Soup with Local Pavazham Beans—a blend of roasted cauliflower infused with aromatic spices and complemented with local beans; Tamarillo/Kodai Thakkali Soup—a hearty tomato broth; Potato Cheddar Soup—a creamy indulgence featuring the comforting flavours of potatoes and cheddar cheese; Nilgiris Mutton Soup—mutton broth infused with hints of coriander, mint and aromatic spices, capturing the essence of the Nilgiris region; and Chicken Dumplings in Fresh Turmeric Soup—chicken mince dumplings cooked in a fresh, spiced turmeric broth.

Kodai Buddha Bowl—a vibrant and nourishing bowl featuring fresh produce from the hills like avocados, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, roasted beetroot and millets, topped with a tangy plum-based vinaigrette; and Roast Chicken Herb Salad—diced chicken and vegetables in a fresh herb dressing.

Smoked Hill Garlic and Cardamom-Scented Sweet Potato Roundel—sweet potato roundels infused with the aroma of smoked hill garlic and cardamom; Avocado and Corn Fritters—served with a refreshing avocado, coriander and lime sauce alongside a tangy tomato chutney; Kodai Lake Milagai Bajji 2.0—a contemporary twist on a traditional favourite, featuring peppers stuffed with spiced potatoes and cheese, served with a flavourful chutney; Herb-Fried Chicken—chicken coated with herbs and crispy panko crumbs, fried to perfection; and Mutton Momo—served with a traditional momo chutney and a cashew cream harissa sauce, paying homage to the Tibetan influence in Kodaikanal.

Stuffed Mushroom Casserole—mountain-grown mushrooms tossed in a spice mix and baked with cheese; Potato and Peas Gratin—sliced potatoes and sweet peas enveloped in a creamy sauce and baked with a cheese topping; and Herbed Chicken, Broccoli and Bamboo Rice Bake—mountain-grown bamboo rice sauteed and baked with herbed chicken, broccoli and a cheese topping.

Pazhani Prasadam Deconstructed—our take on the sacred Thenum Thinai Maavum and the revered Palani Panchamirtham, featuring honey and foxtail millet flour; Kodai Banana Churros and Salted Caramel; Nilgiris Trifle Pudding—layers of indulgence featuring a pineapple crumple, creamy jackfruit ice cream and assorted fruits in a spiced sugar syrup; and Masala Chai Tres Leches.

Leave a Reply