When I got an invitation to experience the fusion coastal cuisine iconic of Pondicherry, my first thought was, wow–South Indian style seafood! Well, the evening certainly met that criteria, but with a very pleasant twist of surprise!
If you’re the type who loves different regional and traditional foods, you would love Pondicherry cuisine, no doubt. ITC’s Dakshin Coastal brought this lovely cuisine to me and made me fall in love with it too! Sitting down to a well-planned, traditional 3 course meal truly takes you on a trip of its own.
It all started with the arrival of the French in 1674; thee cuisine stayed in the kitchens of their descendants, buried in layers of time and history. In the course of time, it took on regional elements that resulted in the Pondicherry cuisine we know today.
The table at ITC’s Dakshin was laid out in a South Indian fashion, complete with banana leaf lined platters. Sitar tunes played in the background, and we broke our the gorgeous hand made knife sets. A light jasmine scent kissed the air. Smartly designed seating with the kitchen visible from your seat, made you even more excited about the little food adventure you were about to go on.
The dhoti-clad waiter came around to pour Tengaiy Paal Rasam–a traditional rasam that they ensured, we will love. And boy, did I! It was a tangy, pungent concoction that left you craving for one more sip, just seconds after you put your glass down! Although we had some Chardonnay at the table too, the rasam seemed to still getting most of the attention.
Chef Padmaja came to greet us at our table, explaining how the cuisine we were going to experience was food that contained the proof of being a district dispersed over four states and having very strong French roots. It was, in fact, an easy and beautiful amalgamation of all these elements that made the cuisine so unique. She rightly explained that the fusion would be experienced in the manner in which the food is prepared, rather than the choice of ingredients.
The taste of every dish had the delightful South Indian tinge. And yet, each dish stood out with its own distinct character. The starters consisted of Erral Kavapu- masala fried prawns and KassaKassa Kola Urandai- spiced meatballs with poppy seeds. Both items, although commonly found in other cuisines, had a special touch to it. The careful blend of spices gave the poppy meatballs a mighty taste but the meatballs felt light at the same time too. Although gently crisp on the outside, the king-sized prawn was by far the juiciest I have ever had. The French connect was evident in the light feel that the coating of the prawn contained.
These starters were also accompanied by their vegetarian counterparts–a corn pat
ty and a deep fried potato ball with four chutneys ob the side: coriander, coconut, bottle gourd, and tomato. There was a light, but intense and truly virginal taste to each of the chutneys. The simple coconut chutney was so gentle and sweet, it seemed far from our everyday coconut chutney. My favorite, the coriander chutney, seemed to complement every entrée, especially the meatball.
The Beetroot Saladu had a strong vinegar chili dressing that dint require any chutney to go with it. Served with eggs, it was a delicious tossed salad containing minimalistic a dressing that did justice to the star ingredients and was exquisite and fresh.
The main course had the perfect combination of dishes that a hearty non-vegetarian like me would like. The Kothamalli Puthina Kozhi Kari- chicken curry with coriander and mint, and was one of the most delicious chicken dishes I’ve ever tasted (and I truly mean it). The ginger-spiced fish curry, Meen Inji Curry didn’t have a taste that etched its way into my palette, though. But the Yeral Vindail- prawns in coconut milk and vinegar sure made up for it. The vinegar was powerful but it wasn’t so strong that you’d cringe on biting in. It had a light sour taste that married well with the coconut milk.
The mutton mince–Kothina Kari Puliperattal with chillies and tamarind was seasoned just right and so deliciously, it had its own burst of flavor in your mouth. The eggplant in a creamy gravy with the right amount of tomato a delicious vegetable dish that I enjoyed too.
Although we ate these with appam, which isn’t a traditional Pondicherry main, most of the households now have appams as a staple. All the dishes we sampled paired well with rice too.
Despite being full to the brim, we just couldn’t resist dessert–plain old Pondicherry cake. But oh, plain as it sounds, it was absolutely perfect! The semolina cake topped with a rose petal and placed in a shallow pool of coconut milk was the the right amount of spongy and sweet. Next to it, the intelligently configured, tiny baguette dropped in coconut milk was almost like a symbol of the concept of the meal that we just experienced. The sweet and light taste summed the evening experience quite well.
It might be evident that I have become a fan of Pondicherry food, but I simply love a meal that lets you eat such a variety and yet, not leave you feeling like a bean bag. I enjoy all things creamy, and having such amazingly light creamy gravies made me like this cuisine all the more. A trip down Pondicherry just to experience this cuisine is highly recommended.
One of the most popular and commonly used icing for decorating cakes, fondant is also an extremely fun ingredient to work with. You can do absolutely anything with fondant; cut it, shape it, color it, roll it to cover cakes, flavor it and so much more. You can just go nuts with it! With this article, we will try to rule out any doubt on how to use fondant. To begin with, here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to cover a cake with fondant: First cover your cake with a thick layer of butter cream icing. The harder the butter cream layer, the better. Make sure to let your butter cream layer cool on the cake. The butter cream layer gives you a hard surface to use the fondant on Knead your fondant to the right consistency. This will have a slightly elastic touch. Use a little icing sugar if you find it way to sticky.
Before you begin to roll, be sure to dust the counter top and your rolling pin with some icing sugar. Fondant by most brands (we love the one by Vizyon and Fonda Frost) come ready to roll which means you can move directly to step two below Roll out your fondant to the required size. Say your cake is of 10” diameter and 3 “ in height, you should roll the fondant out to 16” wide. But always take an extra 2 inches to give you sufficient room to work with while smoothing the fondant. Roll the fondant to about an 8th of an inch in thickness. When you think you’ve rolled the fondant out enough, roll the whole sheet back on the rolling pin to transfer it onto the cake. Using this method, you will have less chances of getting air bubbles and unwanted pleats while transferring it onto the cake. It makes this process a lot easier. Now slowly unroll the sheet on your cake. Cover your cake thoroughly from the top, letting the extra portion you rolled out flow generously around it. With quick and light hand gestures, smoothen the top of the cake and the top edges as well.
For the side walls, hold out the extra portion hanging out with one hand, and smooth down the fondant on the cake wall with the other. These motions must again be very gentle but fast as the fondant will harden quickly. Continue this, inch for inch, working your way all around the cake. Once done, use a smoother to do a final touch. If you spot air bubbles, pierce it with a needle or sharp knife and smoothen it up again. You won’t even notice it later. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut out the extra fondant around the cake. Tadaa! You’ve just covered a cake with rolled out fondant! Give it a quick professional touch by running a butter knife all along the bottom edge to tuck in extras and jagged bits. Wondering how much fondant you need for the cake you’re planning? Here’s a quick base calculator for the fondant you will need, depending on the cake you’re about to make. For cakes that are about 3” in height and of the following diameters, you will need this amount of fondant. For a 6” diameter cake, use 400g fondant. For a 10” diameter cake, you will need about 680g For a 12” diameter cake, use around 740g fondant. If you have a 1 kg fondant tub and want you use the entire thing in one go, make a cake that’s about 15” diameter! You don’t need to use up the entire tub of fondant in one go though. Fondant stores well as long as its kept in a cool, dry place in its air-tight container. Now, lets move on to coloring fondant To color fondant, you will have to use gel colors. We recommend using gel colors rather than liquid colors cause they are a lot easier to work with and give a much deeper, more vibrant color to the fondant.
Dip a clean toothpick into the gel color and dot the fondant lump in various spots. Knead the fondant well so that the color mixes and till you get the right color shade. Always start with very little color. Once kneaded, if you feel it is still too light, you can always add more. If you already have colored fondant, you can add a small piece of it and knead it with white fondant to get the shade you want. Once kneaded, keep the fondant plastic wrapped and stored in an air tight container. This is to avoid it fading as some colors get lighter when exposed to sunlight. Flavoring fondant is highly dependent on one’s personal taste. Fondant is already sweet, hence you may not want a flavour that will further sweeten it, but rather, something that would complement the sweetness. Also, keep in mind the flavour of the butter cream that was used, so as to ensure that the flavours of the icing and the fondant marry together. The oil based flavors of your choice should be added at the time of kneading. For around 680g fondant (10” cake), use a 1/4th tea spoon of oil based flavor ring. Knead it well into the fondant. Love working with Fondant and have your own tips & tricks to share?