You haven’t tasted even half of authentic Kerala food yet

Of tapioca jackfruit and chilli Three Malayalis re-create Keralas flavours away from Gods Own Country
Flix Bakery Friday, June 03, 2016 - 13:51

If aapams, parottas and biriyani meant Kerala food in your palate, then you haven’t tasted even half of authentic Kerala food yet.

Kappa Chakka Kandhari (KaChaKa), an ethnic food venture by three Chennai-based Malayalis aims to take Kerala’s cuisines beyond God’s Own Country.

Standing for tapioca, jackfruit, chilli, Kappa Chakka Kandhari was born when Augustine Kurian and John Paul decided they had suffered enough without food from home and felt that they should do something about it so that other Malayalis like them do not get homesick for Kerala’s flavours and aromas.

“We missed home-cooked food terribly; there is no authenticity in restaurant food. We wanted to set up something that would help people out of Kerala get food that resembles home-made food,” Augustine told The News Minute.

While the two are self-confessed foodies, they needed someone who understood gastronimcs first-hand. Enter Chef Regi Mathew. Having worked with Oriental cuisines previously, and managed ‘Ente Keralam’ and ‘Benjarong’, Regi was a perfect fit.

The trio traveled across the length and breadth of Kerala, tasting food from over 100 kitchens. “Kerala’s cuisine varies from place to place. Northern Kerala is famous for food from Muslim households. Brahmins cook their food in a special style, with different flavours. Thrissur is known for its pork delicacies, and so on,” says Augustine.

Armed with the idea of they wanted, handpicked eight cooks from shortlist of around 30 applicants. “Even if we did have the recipes, we cannot master the cut of final finesse, which these cooks have. Anyway, our aim was never to take the recipes and make money from it,” says Augustine.

KaChaKa was to have its first commercial event in Chennai sometime in early January, when the floods played spoilsport.  “We immediately shifted base to Bengaluru for the first event. The response was massive. We even had Nandan Nilekani walk in,” says Augustine. The food festival saw close to 7,500 people.”

KaChaka has had five trial events in Chennai and one commercial exhibition in the city earlier last month. Although a ticketed event, the exhibition saw a close knit circle of 150 people, including actor Jayaram.

“Trial events helped us decide what worked and what didn’t. We would call a couple of our friends and have them taste the food and get reviews,” says Augustine.

Of all the stalls at the food festival, the one on ‘Toddy shop memories’ attracts the maximum visitors every time. “It is hands-down the most sought-after stall; even by families. Toddy shops have a typical style of cooking- with spices one notch higher than rest of the palate,” says Augustine, busting the myth about these shops only serving the ever-famous toddy. 

Beef masala and pork dishes are the other hits among people. 

Among the desserts is one specialty that has had customers bowled over – the Kandhari (bird’s eye chilli) ice cream.

Investing almost a crore in the venture, the trio is now looking to break-even. “What initially started as a passion has now turned into a business venture. We never expected such an overwhelming response for KaChaKa,” says Augustine. They are now looking to open up restaurants across Chennai, Bangalore and also take the venture to Dubai with aid from some investors.

However, the team is steadfast on their resolve to retain the authenticity of the flavours. “We understand that commercialization brings in loss of authenticity, but we cannot compromise on that. We cannot lose the authenticity of natural cooking,” says Augustine. 

Kappa Chaka Kandhari is hosting their second commercial event in Bengaluru in on July 16-17 with a live band performance led by MG Sreekumar.

Images sourced from Chakka Kandhari