There was a time when Onam in Kerala not only awaited spring, harvest and the bloom, but also the famous ‘Onathinidakku puttukachavadam’casettes which were full of whacky humour of the Dileep-Nadirsha duo. So it wasn’t surprising to find that the name of their (in partnership with three others) restaurant is ‘Dhe Puttu’. If you take a second, and say it slow, it’ll sound just like something Dileep would come up with!
‘Dhe Puttu’, simply put, is a ‘puttu’ store! No, don’t be hasty about coming to a conclusion; there aren’t just a few kinds of ‘puttu’ when it comes to them. The restaurant opens up to a beautiful room, with toned down decor, and comfortable seating. On your table-top you’ll find a paper mat that describes ‘puttu’, and traces down the evolution of this wonderful steamed delicacy from southern India. I’d say, ‘puttu’ is that little warming chat that the steamer has with rice powder and coconut, about the power of staying together! First things first, a look at the kinds of puttu they have—the white rice puttu, chemba (red rice) puttu, wheat puttu, ragi puttu, cholam (corn) puttu, and finally the marble puttu, which is a layered combination of all the above!
They usually come in the traditional cylindrical shape, but the puttu ‘cakes’ assert their places in the list too! This is just a humble beginning. What follows is truly a tribute to this dish that has for decades owned the palates of Keralites.
The menu at ‘Dhe Puttu’ looks nothing less than a Dileep movie. It’s got humour, character, catches your fancy and makes you smile. To start with, they have a wide array of non-vegetarian puttu curries and ‘specials of the day’ that change every day. Mr Santhosh S, operating manager at ‘Dhe puttu’ took me through the menu. Each curry stands out and has its own identity, he said. They have, among the 'always available' list, the fish biryani puttu, chemmen (prawn) puttu, egg puttu and many others. The vegetarians can do with vegetable biryani puttu, payar (green gram) puttu, Spanish vegetable puttu, and oats puttu.
The 'special of the day' caught my fancy—kappa puttu with ayala curry (Mackerel curry). Steamed to a soft perfection, it’s only fair that one can’t get enough of kappa (Tapioca) combined with the hot, steamy puttu. Other specials keen on snatching your attention are—Neimeen pollichathu (Seer fish fry, in plantain leaf wrap), Kada fry (Quail fry) chicken coconut fry and a few others.
Then comes the ‘Dhe Puttu’ special list that pays tribute to Dileep— the chefs have rechristened their varieties of ‘puttu’ with some of the actor’s movies! The entrants are, ‘Meesamadhavan’, (Pounded meat sautéed with shallots, crushed chilli in wheat puttu), ‘Runway’ puttu (Rice and brown rice, with prawns, beef and keema), and many more like ‘Joker’, ‘Rasikan puttu’, ‘Nadodimannan’ and so on! These puttu have different layers of rice/wheat/corn/ragi/brown rice with differently treated meat stuffed carefully in the centre. This set of interesting varieties of puttu, not only shows off the creativity of the chefs, but is also a telling example of how keen the restaurant is in upping the entertainment factor. They even have the budget puttu (proving a point there!). Their assorted puttu range from Rs 50-250.
For those who have children to please, there is the star attraction—the chocolate puttu! I’m not saying I didn’t echo your surprise, but it was actually quite delicious. It even looks like a chocolate cake, with a cherry adorned at the top, and what I loved was that the chocolate did blend well with puttu. Again, for those with the sweet tooth, there is more: Cashew and dates puttu, mixed fruit puttu, pineapple puttu and roasted banana puttu that are simply irresistible! And for those of you who like the freebies like I do, their chef-special herb-sulaimani tea would wow you.
The restaurant is open from 12 noon to 12 midnight. Even though, puttu for lunch seems a big concern for the typical Keralite, people seem to have begun to take to the idea. The number of seats that were occupied that day said it out loud too. To spice things up further, there is puttu thaali (veg and non veg), which is a brainwave, to say the least! Another surprise package is the fusion food section on the menu. Ever wondered how we’d counter the Italian/Mexican/Thai/European foods that have taken over our taste buds? Fuse them with ours! Chicken chop suey puttu, veg chop suey puttu, and puttu and hot garlic sauce! What say—let’s give it a try? Right after the puttu treat, if you still have time and space to spare, you can go for the fine array of ice-creams, shakes and juices/desserts.
The best thing about the restaurant, Mr Santhosh says, is its reception to customer feedback, and the speed with which they’re implemented. He is all for good quality, hygienic food and guarantees his customers just that.
Although ‘Dhe puttu’ can capitalize on brand Dileep, they like to keep it low key, preferring word-of-mouth promotion. Their endeavour is to take ethnic foods to international platforms, and they would be constantly trying out new ways to make that a success. A brand new edition of ‘Dhe Puttu’ will soon open in Kozhikode.
So the next time someone you know isn’t quite on the favourable side of this superbly adaptive cuisine, drag them to ‘Dhe puttu’ and take all the credit!