Sitting in the drawing room of a family friend in Cherai in Kerala, I just remembered a lunch I had at the Vembanad – The Paul recently. The food was so close to the one I am having currently.
After a few drinks to refresh ourselves at the Murphy’s, we headed there for lunch. On reaching there we got to know that they are running a special menu from the “Kallu Shaap”s of Kerala.
In Kerala Kallu Shaaps fish/ meat is cooked in earthen pots in slow flames for long hours, thereby allowing the it to imbibe all the masalas in to the flesh. The result is an explosion of flavors in your mouth, the memories of which remain with one forever. At Vembanad, they adopt the same method in all their Kallu Shaap preparations.
They place was decorated to recreate the Toddy house or Kallu Shaap charm. The moment we entered the place, we could not help looking at the Malayalam movie posters, the shack like atmosphere. So much so that even the plastic glasses have been chosen accordingly. The chairs reminded me of the yester years at home. In case it tore or came off, there were a set of artisans who would come & repair them. The light was slightly dim but served the purpose here, to recreate the charm. We sat there talking for hours and polishing off the plates.
Here are some of the dishes we tried:
Netholi meen Peera: Anchovies cooked to perfection, tossed in freshly grated coconut.
Kallu Shaap Fish Curry: This is the Kallu Shaap version of Kerala Meen Curry – tangier, spicier ,redder and tastier.This goes very well accompanied with tapioca.
Beef Kizhi & Chemmeen (Prawns) Kizhi: A village preparation of meat and seafood where meat/ seafood is mixed with spices, wrapped in plantain leaves and cooked to perfection.
Chemmeen (Prawn) vattichathu : Prawns in thick, spicy gravy, slow cooked in Kerala spices and tangy kokum.
Beef Ularthiyathu: Beef cubes sauteed with coconut chunks and sliced onion and tossed with Kerala spices.
For accompaniments there was red rice, appam and kerala paratha.We also tried a few different type of pickles and pappadams.
For desert we had the Chefs Special Payasam which is Payasam with tender coconut pieces.
Overall an amazing experience.After living in the south of India for so many years my Bengali tongue adores these delicacies with lots of coconut, spices and rice dishes.
The restaurant derives its name from a lake in kerala. Vembanad is the longest lake in India, and the largest lake in the state of Kerala. Spanning several districts in the state of Kerala, it is known as Vembanadu Lake in Kottayam Punnamada Lake in Kuttanad, Kochi Lake in Kochi.