The humble abodes of home cooks are being flocked by diners in search of authenticity.
While some home chefs are offering lesser accessible cuisines like Bengali, Sindhi, etc., a few others are sticking to Tamil food that brings back memories of eating grandmother’s food. City-based baker and home chef Smitha Kuttayya, who hails from the Kodava community of Kodagu in Karnataka, has been living in Chennai for nearly 20 years. With not many restaurants offering Kodava food in the city, she has turned into a go-to source for the cuisine.
“I have been hosting diners at my home since 2006. Most often, they like to cook the meal along with me and learn the way we pound our masalas and make our dishes. They are also interested in the history of each of the dishes and are keen to share their food stories. Most of the guests I host often do their research on the food, so there is a healthy exchange of stories and knowledge over a meal,” Smitha tells DT Next.
Through these meals, she has also managed to show the diners that Kodava cuisine is so much more than just a pandi curry (pork curry). “There are a lot of Tamils around who have been to Coorg and would have loved the food there. They often visit to try the food they’ve liked and to explore new dishes. I have also hosted vegetarians who wanted to eat food cooked in Kodava style. Kodavas are known to be great hosts, and our food is simple without much oil or spices. I also help the diners with quick cooking ways while we make the meal,” she adds.
Fifty-five-year-old home cook Sundari Krishnamurthy has taken it upon herself to offer a bite of home-style Tamil food to all the international travellers visiting our city, as well as to Tamils who are keen on learning to cook. Apart from the cozy dining setting she offers at her Adyar home, her ‘Cook With SundariKrishna’ classes have become a way for many foreign tourists to be introduced to Tamil food. “I host diners at my home almost every day, who visit either as a group of friends or family members. For many foreigners, dining at my home is also informative as I tell them how to relish and appreciate Indian food. When they visit my home for a meal, they don’t just want to eat, but are also keen to learn cooking along with me, when they discuss spices and their usage, which they can’t do at restaurants. Dining at home also provides the comfort and feel of a local house and offers them an insight into our culture,” says Sundari.
She also advises her guests on how they can recreate Tamil food at home with simple ingredients available in their hometowns. “Among the Chennaiites that visit my home for a meal, many visit when they are missing their mother’s or grandmother’s dishes, while a few others are keen to eat and learn to create authentic age-old Tamil recipes, which aren’t seen around in the present day,” she adds.