Indian cuisine is often known for its tandoori kebabs, biryani, butter masala and curries, but according to Chef Natarajan Kulandai, corporate chef for Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, this is not true.
“India is multicultural and each state follows a particular type of food and style of cooking, which is different from community to community,” he says.
In India, recipes are not documented from generation to generation and often disappear as a result, but a growing interest in South Indian food, matched by an increased curiosity in regional and ethnic food has inspired some chefs to rediscover them.
“Surprisingly the South Indian cuisine was not explored until more recently, with many of these dishes and tastes held secretly within homes. Until now, the food and recipes were not previously available to the chefs,” says Kulandai.
A team of chefs at Southern Spice restaurant at Taj Coromandel in Chennai went as far as visiting the kitchens of locals from surrounding regions and communities to bring back some of these lost foods. One of the restaurant’s notable dishes is Kayar Katti Yerachi Kola Urnudai, consisting of fennel-flavored lamb meat dumplings.
“Since the chefs work very hard to bring these particular flavors to the guests’ table, it is especially important to taste the South Indian food specialty dishes at Southern Spice,” says Kulandai. “Guests receive a tasting of the simple, healthy, pure and artistically blended spices, which can also be moderated in terms of spice. This is the food that reflects the true culture of the land and speaks volumes about the honest combination of slow cooking and additional touches of unique flavoring.”
The popularity of the restaurant has since encouraged other trends and culinary activities within the Taj brand. The “Rediscover the Spice Route” tour takes guests on an exploration of Taj hotels located in four South Indian countries: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh—so that they can sample some of the unexplored traditional dishes. On the tour, attendees will go on a culinary exploit of street food, community feasts, plantation walks, Indian bazaars and authentic cuisine at the Taj hotel restaurants. The hotel chefs can also arrange cooking demonstrations for groups that want to stay in one place.