It was past noon when we reached Vijayatilakan Vaidyar's place. Vaidyar, which in Malayalam means a doctor, was busy, not prescribing medicines, but 'treating' foodies to a delicious meal.
A connoisseur of good food, Vaidyar started Hotel Smitha (named after his daughter), at Kayikkara Junction in Muhamma town of Alappuzha district, decades ago. Vaidyar, entrusted his business to his staff; but it incurred huge losses. And he decided that it was time he found a 'remedy' to bring life back into his 'sick' enterprise and took control of it. This was some 35 years ago. His career as a medical professional took a back seat. (Vaidyar is an alumnus of Thripunithura Ayurveda College). But, Vaidyar has no regrets, for the smile on the faces of his customers leaving the hotel after relishing the mouth-watering dishes is his reward.
Foodies keep Vaidyar busy throughout the day. To handle peak hour rush, food is served even at the courtyard of his house. Fish is the main attraction in Hotel Smitha. Steamed tapioca with fish curry, a popular combination, sells in no time. Long queue of vehicles parked in front of the hotel since morning is proof of the yummy dishes served here.
There are many takers for the appam, puttu, chapathi and porotta here. By noon, demand for meals with variety fish goes up. Crabs and prawns are all-time favourites. The fragrance of fried fish like tuna (choora), bluefin trevally (vatta), knife fish (vaala), green chromide (karimeen), mullet (kanambu), besides clam meat roast (kakka irachi) tickles the taste buds of any food aficionado that they get spoilt for choice. A speciality preparation with fish head as main ingredient is equally popular.
While enjoying the lunch we met Sumathichechi, Vaidyar's wife, the woman behind the success of his enterprise. 'Fortune smiled on me after getting married to Sumathi,' Vaidyar gives credit to his wife. It is the magic of her recipes that made the hotel popular and the heavy rush for lunch stands testimony to that. There is no dearth of helpers who know her heart and taste, but Sumathi still supervises the preparation herself. Not just that, she serves food with a dash of love!
Sumathi shares the recipe of crab fry, a popular delicacy of Smitha Hotel, with Onmanorama:
Crab: 1 Kg
Shallots: 100 gm
Ginger: One small piece
Green chilli: 3
Garlic: 10-12 pods
Pepper: 2 tsp
Coconut (grated): Half piece
Coriander powder: 2 tsp
Chilli powder: 2-3 tsp
Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
Fennel seeds: ¼ tsp
Salt: To taste
Curry leaves: Handful
Coconut oil: 3-4 tsp
Kokum: Size of a small lemon
Special Masala: (Slightly roast and powder the following items)
Cinnamon: One small piece
Nutmeg: One small
Cut the crab into small pieces, wash thoroughly and drain it. Crush shallots, ginger, garlic, green chillies, pepper, grated coconut, fennel seeds and curry leaves and add it to the crab and mix well. Marinate it with coriander powder, turmeric and chilli powder and the special masala. Mix it with salt and coconut oil before keeping it on flame. Remember, no need to add water. For gravy, add kokum syrup. Prepare on low flame, stirring occasionally till it gets cooked properly. Serve hot.
If you love cooking there are a lot of yummy dishes you can whip up from our Food section.