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Last Updated Friday October 20 2017 12:21 PM IST

Umami in the land of Kumarakom

Philip C. Jacob
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Kumarakom

When in Rome doing as the Romans may be all kosher, but when in Kumarakom aping the Kumarakomite will gift you dysentery. For, hitting the nearest toddy ‘shaap’ (shop) and downing copious amounts of matured toddy and chasing it down with molten lava like spiced food is not what an average person’s stomach is built for. Moreover, you are missing out on some pretty decent food that is available on the western banks of the Vembanad Lake.

So here is my take on the better food that is available around Kumarakom.

Dubai Hotel

Dubai Hotel

Living up to the Malayali's fetish of everything ‘Gelf’ aka Gulf, the aptly named Dubai Hotel stands as the gateway to Kumarakom. (If you are coming in from Kottayam side that is). And, living up to tag of most road side hotels, they serve an eclectic spread of food, ranging from Chilli Chicken to Chemmeen Olathiathu (Prawn/Shrimp Roast). Skip all of that and just head for two dishes that will make you happy that Dubai is in Kumarakom and not in the Middle East. The Beef Dry Fry (BDF) of Dubai Hotel is internationally acclaimed in parts of Kumarakom and rightfully so. The dish comprises wafer thin beef strips pounded and fried not once, but twice to a crisp consistency, which makes it a rather fetching starter or touching (spicy starters that accompanies your drink) as we say around in these parts.

Beef Dry Fry

Once you've had your fill, without any further ado, order the soft shell crab masala. I’ve not had better crab masala outside of a fine dining restaurant, than the one prepared at Dubai Hotel. The masala is just right and the sweetness of the crab meat shines through brilliantly. Sadly this dish is not a regular option on their menu, and the same preparation with the bigger mud crabs just doesn’t make the cut.

Opposite Attamangalam Church

Kumarakom P.O.

Tel no. 0481 2525821

Vembanad at Kumarakom Lake Resort

Kumarakom Lake Resort

Vembanad, the sea food restaurant of Kumarakom Lake Resort, sets the bench mark for the ideal fish curry-rice in these parts. Their fish curry stands out from the de rigueur Kerala fish curry, since it is cooked in coconut milk. This results in the chilli and pot tamarind flavours being subdued just enough for the flavour of the fish to shine through; something you completely miss out in the standard Kerala fish curry. Similarly the Meen Pollichathu (fish roasted in banana leaf) is a more finished and refined dish than the ones you are served in most toddy shops in and around Kottayam. And, I think the trick lies in the fact that that masala is pureed before it goes on the fish. Here again, the spices are restrained, making the fish the hero of the dish.

Karimeen Pollichathu

Kumarakom North P. O.

Tel no. 0481 2524900

Tharavadu Toddy Shop

Duck Roast

There are duck roasts and then there are duck roasts. Perhaps there are duck roasts with better flavour, or umami or whatever you call it. But, there are very few toddy shops in Kerala that manage to cook that duck to perfection, and Tharavadu is one of them. The meat just peels off the bone and almost melts in your mouth. A far cry from the rubbery under cooked or over ripe meat you have to settle with in other places.

Next to Kavanattinkara Bridge

Kumarakom

Tel no. 0481 2525896

Hotel Ashadom

Tharavadu

If it’s a Kerala meals you are after, then look no further than Ashadom. Both their vegetarian meals and fish curry meals are quite popular. (the fish curry meals usually get over by 1:30 pm or so.) The food is always fresh and plentiful, although the service is a bit on the lazy side. The extras like Fish Fry, Prawn Masala and Beef Fry are good accompaniments to go along with the meals. And while you savour your lunch, you can perhaps ponder on why, pan Kerala malayalis refer to a single meal in plural!

Kavanattinkkara

Chepungal

Kumarakom – 626563

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