Food festivals are exciting if the creators are giving you insights during the meal. When a fellow blogger, who unlike me does significantly more cooking and cooking workshops, is at the helm and I know I can get some inside secrets, I was more than looking forward. But the inside secret came not from Sara Koshy, but from her cousin, who said that in their family, they eat pickle for dessert. More on that later. The Syrian Christian food festival at Hyatt Regency is ticking all the right boxes.
When it comes to Kerala cuisine, I need to taste three things. Aapam with stew, Idiyappam with gravy and parota with beef fry. Puttu and other things are secondary to these. What sets apart the cuisine of Kerala from the cuisine of the Christians in kerala? A simple tempering that I promised not to reveal. There is a very subtle difference in flavour that I was able to appreciate, thanks to Sara.
The appams (hoppers) were buttery smooth. Crisp outside with soft centres, these just soak up the stew with ease. And melt in your mouth with even more ease. And the idiyappam (string hopper) has some bite, so it goes great with the fish mapas, a nice thick coconut based gravy. And finally we transition to the dish with the most bite to it, the Parota served with beef fry, a loved staple in Kerala.
Now to the title. Pickle for dessert? I've always felt that Rice Payasam was a tad sweet, but dismissed it as the flavour of the region. Sara's cousin, let me into a family secret. Cut the sweetness of the payasam with lemon pickle. And she told me this almost three minutes into my meal, so I was waiting for dessert. I (hopefully) gave you the same feeling of waiting. So, it didn't cut the sweetness of the rice payasam. But, and that is a big but, it balanced it beautifully, by staying distinct. So my tongue could taste two distinct flavours, the sweet payasam and the sourness of pickle and that balanced it. Now that I've tasted it, I don't know how I lived so long without having it this way. It was a surreal tasting.
The festival is on for another week and it comes with cooking classes with Sara herself.