It has been for some years now, the popular paani poori and bhelpuri of North India have been spreading their aroma and taste on the streets of Kerala. The Malayali tongues used to the traditional dishes like vada and dosha are relishing the taste of North Indian snacks in their break time. Their gastronomic instinct has at least advanced to a stage where they can identify the taste of the savoury, the moment they hear the names of their traditional North Indian counterparts.
The traditional meals on banana leaves have given way to Gujarati or Punjabi meals for a change. When thirst quenchers like lime and fruit juices lost their appeal, they switched over to lassi. It suffices to say that the 'Taste Revolution' that has been brought by the North Indians is continuing unabated even now.
Can authentic taste of Gujarat be available in Kerala? The quest ends at Annapurna Restaurant on Kaloor-Kadavantara road. Sev puri, paani poori, bhelpuri, dahi puri, masala puri, sukha puri, aloo puri - there is an endless list on a white board. It is clear that Gujarati menu offers a variety of spicy sweet dishes, all pure vegetarian; not even traces of eggs can be found in them.
Dhokla is a steamed, delicately spiced sweetened dish made of gram flour, rice flour and curd and meant strictly to be eaten at breakfast time. Other dishes are of fried variety like paani poori, bhelpuri, and so on. The chaat is a combination of some or all of these items. Kacchori chaat, aloo tikki and samosa chaat - the combinations are many. With more items like paav bhaji, dahi samosa, dahi kacchori, dahi paapdi, vada paav, samosa paav -you are spoiled for choice!
The overflowing serving plate, heaped with the ubiquitous samosa that we get here is topped with chick peas and spices and attractively garnished with pomegranate seeds and diced vegetables. The taste of chilly along with sweet and sour toppings gives an entirely new experience.
Will Malayalis who are used to eating a lot of spicy, sour and sweet dishes relish the subtle taste of Gujarati cuisine? It was with a tinge of speculation the first shop was opened at Mattanjeri. Inborn talent and oodles of luck helped the entrepreneurs to sell their products on a large scale. As Ankit proudly proclaimed 'not compromising on quality as well as taste is the secret of our success."
Milan Joshi and Ankit are looking after the shop. When its popularity soared and customers rushed in, the eatery was shifted to Kalur- Kadavanthara Road. Through the betel red lips of Manu Bhai, the history of Annapurna revealed. To add interest to the narration, plateful of kachoris was spread on the table. One can have them like crunchy rice murukku.
One of the indispensable items in Gujarat spread is burger bun. It forms the paav in vada paav, paav bhaji, and dabeli - all the three have potato as the main ingredient.
Dabeli ,the main food of the Kutch folk of Gujarat is filled with boiled and mashed potatoes along with special dabeli masaala and tangy chutney, and garnished with pomegranates and roasted peanuts. It is a subtly spiced dish served with green pea masala curry. Another popular dish, aloo tikki, is also mainly made with mashed potato.
The masala tea made of dry ginger, pepper and cardamom powder is another highlight of the sweet shop.
Those who have sweet tooth would particularly relish the sweet dishes at the store. Gulab jamun, kaala jamun, rasgulla, rasmalai, jalebi... the endless is the list of sweets adorned the counter. Try to keep your hands off tantalising plate of kaala jamun floating in syrup and decorated with dry fruits. A little piece in the mouth, and the taste buds explod even as the flavour dances in tiny bubbles all through the mouth.
When the hot jalebis plead with us to taste their golden glory, how can one turn our faces against them? Cashew nuts, almonds, pista and hot milk are the right combination with these sweets. When tongues become numb with the sweetness, ask for a glass of water and they'll offer you lassi. Sweet and sour tastes mixed in perfect proportion makes the drink something out of the world.
The pick of Gujarati food is gathiya, a deep-fried snack, and jalebi. The main ingredient of gathiya is gram flour. The white flour used for jalebi and the ingredients for the rest of the dishes are all prepared in the restaurant itself.
"Our place is Mandwa near Kuchch in Gujarat. My grandfather opened this shop in 1953. When he passed away, I took over the responsibility and have been managing the shop for the last 30 years", says Narendra, the owner of the place
A delicious fill of the dishes served by Annapurna and at Shantilaal Mitthaiwalah, even the ones who claim to dislike sweets will fall for these mouth-watering items served at these two joints
One should taste these yummy flavours at least once in lifetime, which have no comparison in the world of tastes. But for that, you don't have to go to Gujarat. Just grab a ticket to Kochi!