For me a traditional South Indian rasam is always flavoured with a pinch of that intensely aromatic spice , asafoetida .If someone were to tell me that it did not originate in India I would have found it very hard to believe . But that’s just what happened one cool evening at the newly renovated “Dvara” resort on Siruvani road. It was an evening where food and music came together in the most unusually delightful way. The guests were treated to a duet of sorts with the talented Anil Srinivasan on the piano and the multi faceted Rakesh Ragunathanan to accompany him on the vocals. In between treating us to melodious tunes the duo also entertained us with, what I like to call , ‘food tales’ . Rakesh is known for his work as not only as the host of his own cookery show on TV but also for the travel and food blogs on his website puliyogaretravels.com . What I found most interesting was that he spoke not only about the food that he came across on his trips but also the origins of many of them. It was one of those performances where the audience and the artistes enjoyed each other’s company a great deal. As they relaxed into their routine ,we invitees too sat back to soak it all in and it seemed as if the wind in the leaves behind enjoyed the show just as much as we did !
Getting back to our perungayam , I was amazed to hear that it is not really a part of the traditional Indian kitchen but actually travelled to our sub-continent all the way from Persia. Yet, interestingly it finds scant mention in the Persian cuisine of today. It remains an ingredient that the rest of the world find quite overpowering. At our home,we still systematically go through the process of buying the purest blocks of asafoetida before sun drying and powdering before it’s ready for storage. It’s an essential item in the instant mango pickle that we make every summer.
It was an evening which gave plenty of food for thought about how our cuisines have evolved to what they are to us at the present day. Rakesh says that if we want to explore the cuisine for what it originally was then we need to look no further than our temple prasadams. They are still cooked the way they have been for centuries and there is rarely a deviation from the traditional recipe. Another example he sites is the use of spice in flavouring. Black peppercorns were what grew in this area and got used in most recipes , be it the ullunthu vadai , venn pongal etc . The habit of using dried red chillies or fresh green chillies came much later and was a result of the Portugese influence on our diet.
It was soon apparent from the way they spoke about akkaravadisal that both musicians shared a common passion for food. They regaled us with stories of how the cutlet which actually was a specific dish that was served on British trains ,soon came to share space on the banana leaf alongside our pongals and poriyals . Rice grains too were many and diverse in nature in comparison to the polished white rice that we partake of now. The sambhar and idli that we all think to be specific to our region is actually not.
We barely registered the time passing as we were being thoroughly entertained. If not for the wafting aromas from the dinner being served ,I for one was not in a great hurry to be anyplace else.
The place has beautifully furnished cottage like rooms fitted with ornate wooden doorways, beautiful tiles , water bodies as well as modern amenities. To have a space like this to rejuvenate the senses so close to Coimbatore is just fabulous ! The river flows by silently with the mountains adding the perfect backdrop. It’s the ideal getaway to indulge in when you have the weekend or at the very least even a few hours to spare.
As we tucked into an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes ,we were reminded to retain some of our appetite for sampling the cold jigarthanda . Needless to say it was the perfect end to a fabulous evening and one that I will not forget in a hurry.
Dvara resorts will open on the 15th of October for breakfast , lunch and dinner where they will serve a mix of traditional South Indian food along with some continental fare.
For details contact : Resort Manager Jesvanth Rodrigues at 9894611958