Okay, I confess right at the start that I have a soft corner for Keralan food. So when I was at Palakkad for a short stint earlier this year, I told myself, and everybody else, that I had to indulge in the local cuisine. All throughout I could only think of spicy beef fry, seer fish cooked in banana leaf, biryani and Sulaimani chai. Luckily, a friend of mine knew the perfect place, and soon we made our way through the village town to have our lunch at Palakkad’s famous eatery – Noor Jehan.
From what I heard, Noor Jehan has been serving scrumptious food in Palakkad for many years now. And such is its popularity that with time, it has opened more branches in the town. We decided to go to the original eatery, which unlike our expectations of sporting a worn out look (as most food institutions in India do), was at par with any basic modern day restaurant. Spread across two floors, the first level had a better ambience, thanks to the gush of natural light through the glass walls that livened up the space in comparison to the ground level that was air conditioned no doubt, but also dingy. We found ourselves a table in the dingy den only because the top level was insanely crowded, and it was also a hot afternoon.
And thus began the feasting. First up was two variations of masala fish cooked in banana leaves – seer fish and pearl spot fish. I preferred the seer fish more for its firmer meat, which didn’t let too much of the spicy, tomato-based masala paste to overpower its taste.
This was followed by Rava Fish Fry with Malabar spices, and again I opted for seer fish. The crunch from the rava coating and the punch for curry leaves made it an enjoyable appetiser.
A friend teamed the fish fry with a traditional South Indian Thali, wherein each dish was cooked home-style. It had a portion of rice, two chapatis, dal, sambar, rasam, curd, pickle, vegetable stew, beans thoran, koottu curry and murukku.
Then came my all-time favourite South Indian version of Chicken Biryani. And as I was hoping, it was made with fragrant jeera samba rice, and the chicken was cooked in ghee along with mild spices that made it a treat to spoon into.
The Malabar Beef Fry lived up to its hype, and though it was fiery, it was irresistible because of the masala coating obtained from slow cooking.
What’s a south Indian lunch without fish curry and rice? So of course we had to try the Malabar fish curry, which was a light and tangy fish curry that was thoroughly enjoyed with the rice.
For a fitting finish, a few of us shared a sinful falooda, while others opted for the Sulaimani chai. It turned out to be a flavour-packed lunch indeed!