Tuck into cuisine from Kerala that has a generous helping of nostalgia
The Founders of KCK (Kappa, Chakka, Kandhari) are busy getting ready for their guests in the New Year. And with their second restaurant all set to launch in Bengaluru, there’s some palpable excitement in the air? What is different about their restaurant? What do these founders do to chill out? Here’s how we got up close and personal with the trio from Kerala who can make every meal in their restaurant special….
Can anything be quite as nice as a home-cooked meal?
This is the premise of KCK (acronym of Kappa, Chakka, Kandhari), the restaurant launched by three hospitality professionals who work with the concept of ‘nostalgia’. So, whether you are a Keralite who is away from home or a person who loves the cuisine of God’s Own Country, KCK has a special formula to get you the food you love: they call on ‘mothers’ to rustle up a meal for you.
Where it began
With the sole objective of serving up nostalgia or catering to the ‘neo’stalgic gourmet as they call it, Chef Regi Mathew, Event Manager Augustine Kurian and Interior Designer John Paul brainstormed about this venture on a rainy evening in Chennai, over tea and pazhampori (banana fritters).
Thus evolved ‘Kappa Chakka Kandhari’, a concept that brings the ethnicity of Kerala on a plate, but with a contemporary twist. They have organised a number of food fests in Bengaluru, Chennai and in the Gulf countries where people spent the entire day relishing the delicious dishes that they had to offer.
It is not easy to set up a Kerala restaurant in and around Nungambakkam, Chennai, where eateries are many and the competition is fierce. However, what sets KCK apart is the Kerala cuisine that you will not find in any other menu.
The restaurant offers an assortment of recipes, created by mothers in Kerala. The trio has travelled around the state to more than 250 homes to garner the recipes for their kitchen.
The nostalgia makers
Chef Regi has been passionate about food ever since his childhood days. He has launched over 100 restaurants and has his own company called Tranquil Gourmet Solutions for restaurant concept development, food designing and gastronomic consulting. He is also a gourmet consultant for MTR foods.
The second partner, Augustine, has his own event management company called Geo & Nobi that has been a player in the industry for 25 years. They have organised numerous events for renowned companies like Warner Bros. Pictures, Coca-Cola, Airtel, Volkswagen and Reynolds, among many others. As for John, the third partner, he is an interior designer and owner of Woodsmith Interiors.
The magic of moms
The three friends, who have known each other for more than 15 years, set out on a journey to Kerala one day to rediscover the memories of their childhood. They went from house to house across the state to trace the dishes they had relished during their childhood.
According to Regi, even today, some of the tastiest foods you get in Kerala are in the tiny eateries and toddy shops.
“I remember enjoying the food at a certain toddy shop and asking the main chef to join us,” says Regi. “He works with us now at KCK and brings out the best of those toddy shop memories.”
The three friends decided that the KCK restaurants were not going to be ordinary in any way. They were going to be different from any other restaurant in the country.
“We wanted to dedicate this restaurant to our mothers who have given us a lifetime of ‘food-memories’. We wanted to recreate this nostalgia in our menus. Half the dishes on our menu are not the ones you see in a regular Kerala-style restaurant,” explains Regi.
Chefs for every dish
The magic of KCK isn’t performed by professionals, but by mothers who have come all the way from Kerala with their best recipes. Each mother brings a special recipe along with her, and along with the classic recipes of the Regi’s own mother, they piece together the real taste of Kerala.
“One of these mothers, for instance, is 75 years old and she can make the best fish curry in the country,” says Regi. “Each recipe on the menu is made by a different chef so that the authenticity of the dish is retained.”
How did they find these ‘mom-cooks’? “We travelled across Kerala to find these home chefs and offered them a job at KCK,” he replies.
Flavour and style
The flavours of the dishes at KCK are unique as they use spices sourced from the native regions of their origin.
“We use high quality peppercorns from Malabar, cardamom from Idukki, cinnamon from Kannur, Aleppey Turmeric, Coconut oil from Irinjalakuda and Ginger from the Wayanad hills. We use the best spices to bring out the best in our dishes,” says Regi.
For the love of Kerala
Kappa (tapioca), Chakka (jackfruit) and Kandhari (red chillies) – are the key foods that the people of Kerala love, and this is where the company found its name. But unlike other restaurants serving Kerala cuisine, KCK flaunts a menu that is unheard of by many people, including the residents of the state.
“We serve ‘touchings’ (or bar snacks) that are usually enjoyed with toddy in a classic kallu shaap (toddy shop),” says Regi. “Items like mutton coconut fry, Koonthal Fry (fried Calamari rings) and Kappa Vada are most popular.”
The ‘Amma’s Special’ list has a variety of puttus (steamed rice hoppers) and classics like idiyappam and pathiri.
The ‘Fish Market’ dishes are an assortment of seafood delicacies featuring Karimeen Fry (pearlspot fry), Njandu Roast (crab roast) and others.
‘Amma’s Special Staples’ offers a list of dishes like the Pidi Kozhi Curry (rice dumplings with chicken gravy) and Pazham Kanji (rice fermented in water overnight). A peculiar dish from the suburbs of Kochi is the Pazham Pori with Poth Irachi Curry, which is Banana Fritters with a gravy made with buffalo’s meat. Though it seems like a strange combination, it is a must-try at KCK, the founders add.
The best gravies that are featured in ‘Amma’s Curry Chatti’ are the Mutta Roast (Egg Roast), Mutton Chops and the Tharavu Mapas (duck curry) among many other delicious creations.
The Palaharam sweets are the best way to end a scrumptious meal. One of the most popular desserts is ice-cream with a hint of spice. This is the Kandhari ice-cream, which is made with full-cream milk and fiery chillies. The Tender Coconut Pudding is also quite popular and is always running out of stock.
Some weekend pursuits
While leisure is not on their schedule, Regi and his friends do try to make time for themselves. While they are not working they love to travel. They love to take impromptu trips to other countries whenever possible. And while they’re visiting these countries, they love to check out the local cuisine too.
“Kappa Chakka Kandhari isn’t a business that runs behind profits,” says Regi. “We want to give people a taste of good food. When the love for Western luncheons and dinners lose their appeal, we’ll always be there for you, with a platter of home-cooked food, sourced from the heartland of Kerala.”