You are on page 1of 2

12/11/2015

ThespicesistersTheHindu

CHETTINADMILESTONEMeyyammaiMurugappanandVisalakshiRamaswamy,
(below)thespreadatDakshin.Photo:R.Ravindran

TOPICS

TheHindu

OnthewomenbehindTheChettinadCookbook,andasumptuous
mealatDakshin

Thesistersgiggle.Asthephotographerliftshiscamera,oneofthemquicklyhands
mehersilkeneveningbag.Canyouholdthisformeplease?Theotherones
foodanddining
eyeslightup.Ohgoodidea.Shehandsmeherbagnext.Thenapassingguest
(general)
haltstheproceedings.Again.Wait.Yoursarisneedtobeadjusted.Twoother
womenjoinher,andtheyfussoverthesmilingsisters,straighteningtheirheavysilksaris.Another
guest,surveyingthescenewithamusement,chuckles:Areyoumodellingthebookorthesaris?Ohyes.
Thebook.Wequicklygrabacopyfromthesalescounterandhandittothem.Finally.Werereadyto
shoot.
lifestyleandleisure

MeyyammaiMurugappanandVisalakshiRamaswamysbooklaunchattheSheratonParkHoteland
Towersissignificantforvariousreasons.Forstartersbothwomenhavemadenotablecontributionsto
Chennai.Secondly,itsacelebrationofthetraditionsoftheChettiars,creditedwithbringingart,spices
andideasfromacrossSouthEastAsiatothiscityviatrade.Finally,TheChettinadCookbookisa
milestoneinthecountrysculinaryheritage.Tenyearsinthemaking,itisameticulousrecordofthe
foodofoneofSouthIndiasmostinfluentialcommunities.
Inabig,fatIndianweddinglikeatmosphere,brightwithkanjeevaramsandscentedwiththearomaof
freshlygroundfiltercoffee,thesisterstalkaboutwhytheywrotethisbook.Butfirstsomebackground.
MeyyammaiwasPresidentoftheNationalAssociationfortheBlind,besidesservingontheboardfor
threehospitals.VisalakshifoundedtheM.Rm.Rm.CulturalFoundation,coauthoredTheChettiar
HeritageandisanexecutiveCommitteeMemberoftheCraftsCouncilofIndia.Botharegiftedcooks.

http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/chettinadcookbookthespicesisters/article6291547.ece

1/2

12/11/2015

ThespicesistersTheHindu

Foodisevocativeofhome,saysVisalakshi,talkingofgrowingupinajointfamilywheremealsbrought
everyonetogether.Socookingwaslargescale,andtheaachiswereexcellentatbothcooking,and
preservingfood.
Chettinadisadry,aridregioninsouthernTamilNadu,comprisingaclusterof75villagesfilledwith
stately19thand20thcenturymansions.ViaChettiartraders,everydaymenuswereinfluencedbythe
foodofthecountriestheyvisitedhenceRangoonputtu,dessertsmadefromBurmeseblackriceand
recipesfeaturingspicesliketheChinesestaranise.Asthebookdeclares,thisisacuisinethatissteeped
intraditionbutnotafraidofaccommodatingandacceptingvarioustastes.Visalakshisays,Thebookis
atributetotheworkingkitchensandstoreroomsofChettinadhomes,totheservicesoftheChettinad
mastercookswhokeptitalive.Andthecommunity,whichreturnshomeforeverybigoccasiontogive
thesemasterchefspatronage.Sheadds,Itsanattempttopreserveandrecordaculinarytraditionof
over100years.
Explaininghowthecuisinehasalwaysbeenadaptable,Meyyammaitalksofhowsimpleadjustments
yieldnewflavours.Itcouldbeapinchofmustardorahandfulofcurryleaves.Theunderlyingsecret,
shegrinsiskaimanam,apopularwordusedtodenotecookswithgiftedhands.Reassuringtheless
gifted,however,shesaysthatitsamisconceptionthatChettinadfoodisalwayselaborate,time
consuminganddifficult.Weliveinachangingworldofnuclearfamiliesandfastfood,shesays,
adding,thisbookcaterstoeveryone.
Tounderlinethisfact,popularYouTubechefSanjayThumma,whodeclareshestheworldsmost
watchedcheflaunchesTheChettinadCookbook.ThummaisespeciallypopularamongyoungIndian
expatriates,whofollowhiseasydeconstructedrecipestorecreatetheflavoursofhome.Man,these
recipesinspireme,heexclaims,Ivebeenwantingtoexploreregionalfood.SoIaskedGodforone
spicesisterandlookhegavemetwo.Headds,Everycuisinerequiresresearch,documentation
andrevival.Ipromisetotakeontherevivalnow.
Laterthatweek,IheadtoDakshin,fortheirChettinadChroniclesFoodFestivalfeaturingrecipesfrom
thebook.ExecutiveChefPraveenAnand,arecipehistorian,andtheDakshinchefHarishKandahave
painstakinglyfollowedthesisterscookingtechniquestogetthathomestyleflavour.IwishIhadthis
bookinthe90swhenItrieddoingaChettinadfestivalatDakshin,saysChefPraveen,aswesamplea
plateofcrispbeetrootdumplingsandtenderlambchops.Headds,Thoughmanyrestaurantscall
themselvesChettinad,whattheyserveisutterbosh!Ifyoueatinthehousesofthecommunity,youcan
tellthedifferenceinstantly.
ThefoodatDakshindemonstratesthedifference.Spicesaremuted,usedonlytoenhanceflavours.
Vegetablesarecleverlypresented.Andmeatistasty,butneveroverwhelminglyspiced.Wetryan
intricatelyflavouredkeeraimandi,featuringspinachcookedwithstarchyricewater,shallotsand
coconutmilk.Thechickensimmeredwithshallotsandpoppyseedsisdelicious,asisthetangycumin
scentedfishcurry.Ourmealendswithlentilandjaggerypudding,sweetenedwithcrushedpalmcandy
andkhuskhushalwa.IcalledMrs.MurugappanwhenIwasmakingthekhuskhushalwa.Ihadbeen
stirringitforaverylongtimeandmyarmswerehurting.Iwantedtofindoutiftherewasaneasier
way,sayschefHarish,addingwithalaugh,shesaid,No.Keepstirring.
TheDakshinfestivalisontillAugust10forlunchanddinner.Deatils:42992008

http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/chettinadcookbookthespicesisters/article6291547.ece

2/2