Mostly, whenever we hear that a certain food is on the spicier side, we always think that the culprit is the chilli or the chilli powder.
But in the kitchens of emperors of Cholas, Vijayanagar, Sethupati and Kakatiya dynasties, the heat came only from peppers. No one ever used red and green chillies in the meal. In fact, there weren’t much use of onions and tomatoes either back then.
In order to celebrate the cuisines and different time period, Sri Bala, a chartered accountant-turned-chef from Chennai, put up a five-course meal at ITC Windsor a few weeks ago.
Dakshin celebrated its 30-year anniversary with Rajoupacharam, a royal repast under the Kitchens of India initiative.
It brought together dishes from these dynasties, especially the much-forgotten ones.
Sri Bala has been researching the evolution of food from 300 AD onwards. She is also currently pursuing her PhD in Ancient Cuisines and Evolution of Food from Sangam Times to now. She learnt that the royal kitchens used only three types of pepper — black, white and pippali.
The meals had six dimensions of taste, five elements of nature and seven chakras of the body.
In a chat with Metrolife, she said, “It was actually the Dutch who brought in chilli to our country. We didn’t even know such an ingredient existed before that and we only used pepper for everything.” In fact, rice was a royal item. Rice was a staple even during the Sangam time. However, it was mostly the kings who ate rice and the commoners had millets.
Each of the dishes that was offered as part of the menu were different in taste. Be it the ‘Iddalige’, urad idly encased in a puri, or ‘kothina kari’, minced mutton with spiced urad crumble, it was a delicious culinary journey.
Who would have thought ‘banana dosa’ and ‘sarva pindi’ was a dish from the past?
The ‘Mossuru bhutti’, curd rice dumpling with spicy green chutney, was made in paniyaram moulds which gave it a unique avatar.
Prawns tossed in black pepper, ‘Eral Varai’, was fresh and a slight hint of spice from the pepper was wonderful. If a beer was a popular drink back in the day, the royals would have loved to enjoy the peppery quail dish aka ‘Kaadai Milagu Piratal’.
The thali brought together more dishes that are different for vegetarians, non-vegetarians and pescatarians.
The royal meal also introduced ‘Golichina Mamsam’ which is from Telangana. The mutton dish had a fiery flavour to it which was a good combination with the rice.
The dessert also saw unique ones were ‘Paruthipal pongal’ and ‘Akki Hesurubele Payasam’ were served. The cottonseed milk Pongal with palm jaggery was subtle in flavour and made for a perfect way to end the meal. It was lovely to see the sweetness graduating from jaggery to refined sugar when it came to the desserts.