|Goat curry ala Kerala.|
What is Uttapam, I asked the friendly guy attending to us at Adithya, a rather unique restaurant in Wollongong serving traditional food from Kerala. I see onion, cheese and mixed fillings for the Uttapam here. He smilingly tells me that Uttapams are pancakes which are thicker than the rather thin batter of Dosas (which I am more familiar with). The fillings are also mixed into the batter before being cooked, in contrast to Dosas, which have fillings separately placed inside the thinner pancakes. Initially I get the impression that Uttapams look like an Indian version of pizzas.
What are Vadas? They look to me like doughnuts, but dunked in coconut chutney or hot Sambar!
Kerala is well known for its cuisine, especially with its rather special culinary ways with seafood. Here at Adithya, there are not only fish cutlets, curry fish and fish fry, but also prawn and fish delights from the adjoining Malabar coast. In addition, Adithya also makes available the Keralan twists on beef and chicken curries.
The Kerala coast lies in a strategic corner of south-west India, not far from Sri Lanka, with a historical experience of interacting with the Middle East and European powers, harnessing both the benefits and challenges of the monsoon winds, seafaring traders, colonisers and adventurers. It has been a multi-cultural place even before the term was coined. Culinary traditions have branched off for Christian converts, especially up further north in Goa, colonised by the Portuguese a few centuries ago and now a significant holiday destination.
Perhaps the coconut, poultry, curry leaves, mustard seeds, fish, tamarind and banana leaves have defined the underlying base for Keralan cuisine, which can be noticeably different from other parts of sub-continental India. The rustic countryside with canals and serendipity also factor in with religion and culture to produce the primary Sadhya vegetarian tradition.
The authentic and traditional banquet of Sadhya mainly is made up of rice served on banana leaves with a seelction of sdie dishes, each gauranteed to be appetising and yummy - for example like Sambar, Rasam and buttermilk. No meats.
Sambar can be made with a combination of vegetables - Daikon, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, shallots, carrots, tomatoes, tamarind and Brinjal or eggplants - or just with one of them. Its taste is uplifted by a powder made from coriander seeds, curry leaves, red chillies, Fenugreek seeds, cumin, mustard seeds, black pepper, cinnamon, grated coconut, Asafoetida and other spices. Asafoetida is a spice from the giant Fennel family of plants.
Rasam is a soup, usually served with cooked rice, that has a primary tamarind juice flavour but have seasonings of cumin, pepper, tomato and chillies.
In my childhood, I was fortunate to get to enjoy snacks like Appam, Puttu and Dosa. I had neighbours and family friends who hailed from southern India in heritage and there were also street vendors those days in George Town, Penang, making such delicacies.
Appam is made with coconut milk and back then , with a kind of moon shine called Toddy (or Tadi in Hindi), to help as a substitute for fermented yeast. It is usually served as a popular breakfast favourite with vegetable Korma, chickpea curry or coconut chutney.
Puttu is a ground rice plus grated coconut steamed cake, also taken at breakfast time, and is served with black chickpea curry - the Kadala.
Dosas at the Adithya come in various fillings - ghee, masala, egg, onions, plain, cheese and Nadan (with Urad Dhal, cooked rice and Fenugreek).
Interesting enough, you can also try fried rice Kerala style but I am happy they also have Briyani.
|Prawn curry Malabar style.|
Alas, there was no serving of the Thali on banana leaf the evening the three of us dined. I reckon I do miss using banana leaves as a natural and organic plate - and then to practice using my hands to eat, instead of forks and knives! The Thali echoes the importance food offerings play in religious customs, festivals and ceremony.
The menu at Adithya does cater for mainstream Australian tastes. There is the whole host of curries, breads, vegetables, desserts and snacks. I spot a duck curry but it is so different from the Thai version. Kerala cuisine back home does place importance on vegetarian cuisine but here in the Adithya we get a wider spectrum in the menu.
The restaurant is not big, in just one shop front, so dining tables are packed rather tightly to each other. We saw many take aways whilst we were eating there. I waved to the young guy working in the kitchen, he seemed to be in a good mood but I reckon quintessentially he retained the engaging spirit like back in the Motherland.
|Dosa - light and easy with a potato filling and four choices of condiments. Dosa comes with several options - Ghee, plain, Masala, onions, egg, cheese and Nadan.|
Adithya Kerala Restaurant visited is located at Shop 4, 166 Keira Street, Wollongong NSW, beside another Indian restaurant near the corner with Market Street.
Opening hours are from 5pm to 10pm on Mondays and from 12 noon to 10pm every other day.
Contact +61 2 4244 1537
$7 lunch specials are available on inquiry.
My impressions of the Adithya Kerala Restaurant in Wollongong NSW:
Ambiance: 3 out of 5