Oota, a Week-long Promotion of Mangalorean Cuisine, is Now on at Fort Kochi

(16 November 2019)
Shriya Shetty calls the second course of her curated sit down dinner, a pop-up, ‘Seven Courses Are Too Little’, leaving diners wondering why. The 25-year-old chef who is hosting ‘Oota’, a week-long promotion of Mangalorean cuisine at Xandari Harbour in Fort Kochi, says, “If I had a free hand I would host a 30 course dinner.”

Shriya was invited to the city by Guestronomy, co-founded in Januaray 2019 by experience curators, Sareeka John and Payal Bafna. Her menu is a showcase of her research and modernisation of traditional food. She and partner Varun Shetty were guided by food writer Antoine Lewis to prepare a questionnaire and collect data as they went about ferreting recipes from homes in the villages around Mangalore. “I contemporise regional recipes but use traditional ingredients — lost veggies, old grains, for example jackfruit seeds. I elevate it to a level where it is presentable in a modern restaurant. But the flavours remain the same.”

The idea behind Shriya’s singular culinary route is to promote underrated and unexposed Mangalorean food. “I am trying to discover the cuisines of the different communities of the region. All coastal cuisines use coconut but it is used very differently in each.” Shriya began her research with Bunt cuisine, which is rich and luxurious and moved onto Konkani, Jain and Catholic food. “The food of the Maghuveera, a fishing community is vastly different, as it is all about highlighting seafood, ”she says.

An example of her style of cooking is the Tamboli, a cold coconut curry in Udipi cuisine. Her version is served as a soup featuring prawns smoked with lavancha (vetiver) roots. “Vetiver is infused in drinking water in Udipi homes in the villages for fragrance and cooling,” she says. She gives tender coconut water a twist prepping it up with fizzy soda and serves it as coconut Spritzer.

“Mangalorean food is a backyard cuisine. It is about all what is grown in the kitchen garden and farms of homes. The cuisine does not use tomatoes or fancy vegetables. It is about leaves and roots, gourds, pumpkins and millets. Primarily the food is non-vegetarian but in a 10-12 course meal you will find 60 % of it is vegetarian.

Shriya plans to expand her research to three regions of Karnataka — Coastal, Malnad or hilly cuisine of Coorg, Sirsi and Jog Falls. She also wants to explore the cuisine of the North Karnataka plateau — Badami and Hampi. “Malnad is known for its wild meat recipes – goose, quail and wild boar, while akki roti, rice bhakri and jowar roti, dry chutneys are from North Karnataka .”

Shriya credits her cooking style to her time at Ellipsis, an American restaurant in Mumbai which focussed on free style cooking. Though she trained with Gaggan Anand, she says she found it “ultra modern and too scientific” for her liking.

“Food is about comfort. I want people to eat my food on a daily basis. I modernise it to an extent. Indian food is about generosity and flavour, so it can have a degree of fine dine setting. At my pop ups I encourage people to eat with their fingers,” she says.


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