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Curries from the french colony of Pondicherry

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SNEHA DUTTA   |   Published 19.08.13, 12:00 AM

Yeral Vindail — prawn curry with coconut milk and vinegar

A walk down the beach followed by a scrumptious meal sounds like the perfect weekend plan! Bringing those coastal flavours to town is the ongoing Franco-Pondicherry Cuisine Festival at Eden Pavilion, ITC Sonar.

On till August 25, the dinner-only buffet serves up the cuisine believed to have evolved when the local cooks stirred up meals for the French colony of Pondicherry.

“There are hardly any recipe books available for this cuisine, except for one written by a mother-and-daughter duo way back in the 1920s in Tiruchirappalli. That book is in tatters,” said Praveen Anand, executive chef, Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers, Chennai, who’s here to train the chefs in Calcutta.

So pumping in a lot of research, a selection of fine curries has found its way to the table, with subtle French flavours infused with the liberal use of Indian spices.

Meen Puyabaise, the desi spicy version of bouillabaisse, a French seafood stew, is the perfect introduction to these fusion flavours. Next up, Veechu Paratha, best had with Yeral Vindail (prawn curry with coconut milk and vinegar) and Sudal (Japanese quail curry). Vegetarians can try the paratha with COQ Curry (a rich and sweet-tangy affair of brinjal) and an interesting take on the poriyal — Keerai Kari (local greens cooked with coconut).

Most of the curries have a creamy texture and are smooth to taste. “The sauce-like texture is a French influence. The spices used are mainly bay leaf, cinnamon and clove. The French disliked cardamom, so you will hardly find it in anything apart from the desserts,” added chef Anand.

Coconut Baguette — French bread in thickened coconut milk flavoured with jaggery and cardamom

In the main course, you can try the Vendaikai Thair Curry (bhindi in a spiced yogurt creamy gravy), Meen Inji Curry (bekti in a ginger curry) and Kothamalli Puthina Kozhi Kari (chicken cooked in coriander and mint). But the one that stands out with its spice content is Kari Pachha Milagai Asadu, mutton cubes cooked in a green chilli curry.

Wrap up the spicy spread with a short and sweet dessert list that packs in Coconut Baguette, which is French bread in thickened coconut milk flavoured with jaggery and a hint of cardamom — a true fusion of both the cuisines!

The Franco-Pondicherry cuisine may soon find a way back to France if the French consul-general in Calcutta, Fabrice Etienne, has his way! “Pondicherry is very close to our heart since it’s the only place in India where the French were present for around 300 years. There’s room for introducing this cuisine back home too because our people are really interested in Asian cuisine,” said Etienne, who was present at the food tasting.

Till then, feel lucky to have it closer home at ITC Sonar for Rs 1,650-plus per person.

Pictures: Rashbehari Das

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