Thursday, February 24, 2011

Heritage India Cuisine

3201 South Main (US 90-A eastbound) at Ave. B, Stafford


The Stafford-Missouri City area seems to be the center of the expat community from Kerala in the Houston area. There is Kerala Kitchen, a caterer on FM 1092; both the Indian grocery stores in Stafford feature foods from Kerala with many at Discount Grocers imported by Grace Supply of Missouri City. There is an Indian Christian Church on 5th Street, a denomination that was founded in Kerala in the first century and has it’s headquarters there, and there is this restaurant. Kerala is a state on the SW coast of India and the foods are quite different from those of Northern India which most people are familiar with or my favs, the vegetarian dishes of Southern India.

Wheat breads are not as common as in the rest of India; although chapathi and porota are served there is no naan on the menu. Fermented rice pancakes made with coconut and a little sugar and known as palappam are the staple bread (and are delicious). They look like smallish pieces of Ethiopian injera and are thicker and slightly spongy in the center, thin and lacy and a little crispy on the edges which are typically curled up a little due to the utensil they’re cooked in. Kappa, translated as tapioca and referring to yuca/cassava/manioc, is a staple starch along with rice. There are very wet curries, broths more than gravies, and very dry curries, thought to have inspired the dry curries of Malaysia. Coconut oil is used rather than ghee.

The word Malayali or Malayalee does not appear on the menu, nor does Keralan, but I am advised by an Indian correspondent that that term would be preferred over Keralan as a name for this cuisine. The word comes from the common language spoken by the peoples of the region. So far as I know this is the only restaurant in this area serving some of these dishes and there are very few restaurants offering this specialty anywhere in the US it appears.

I’ve had the Kerala style thali, a bargain at $9 with nine katoris plus papadum and rice. In order from the top sambhar, payasam, fish curry (kingfish), achar, avial and thoran (vegetable dishes, the latter being a dry vegetable dish briefly cooked), steak fry (a choice of steak fry or pork fry is offered on the thali, the former being a dry curry) and chammanthi, a coconut chutney, plus kacheyamoor, a spicy butermilk curry that was presented separately since there wasn’t room for it on the tray. I had just put some new batteries in my camera, something I haven’t had to do in months, and forgot I needed to reset the resolution so I apologize that picture is below par. You’re seeing mostly the reflection of the achar or pickle and the chutney.

I’ve also had the Sunday Home Style Kerala buffet ($11) where there was papadum, palappam, rice, kappa, fish curry, pork fry, duck curry, chicken wings, avial, thoran (a different recipe), payasam, kacheyamoor, chemmendi (a mango chutney, I think), fresh fruit and a couple of other items I didn’t try or get the name of. I don’t know if the chicken wings were tandoori as I didn’t try them because I just didn’t have room but they looked very much like they were. Payasam is the South Indian version of Kheer; invented in Kerala and popular all over South India, it is made with vermicelli instead of rice and includes pistachios, almonds and raisins as served here.

Al la carte I’ve also had the Kappa Fish Curry, a typical Kerala meal with a big bowl of stewed yuca/tapioca served with the Fish curry. The palappam (extra) are great for sopping up the broth of the fish curry and contrasted nicely with the slightly tart, tamarind based broth. As I was having that one of the owners asked if it was too spicy. I assured him as a Native Texan I was having no problems and he said they really tone it down from how it would be served in India so of course I asked if they would serve it that way on request and he indicated they would so if you go, remember that if ordering a dish off the menu.

Continue reading the report here.


Analog Girl said...

It's been a while since we've visited, but we've especially enjoyed the duck curry (lots of bone pieces though) and parappam. The raita was wonderful too...don't recall other dishes tried but you reminded me we must return soon!

zorra said...

We finally made it over there for the Sunday buffet (and found some acquaintances from the Kerala area enjoying their lunch when we walked in). I really liked the duck curry, pork stir fry, and fish dishes. Worth a second visit.

Anonymous said...

After reading this review i went to try the Kerala food that Bob wrote about and being for southern India(Not from kerala). I am really Not happy with this visit, It turned out to be a worst resturant trip (Travelled 30+miles form Woodlands)I had. The food in the buffee was really cold and the staff did not care about it after told about 4 times. then some people in the group ordered from Menu The Dosas ordered came with potato curry which smelled like it was made last week. out of eight people went in, No one was happy about any item other that raita.