Robust meals and rich flavours abound at Tenali-The Andhra Kitchen




The Veg Thali
Mashi, who looks after Bono at home in my absence is from a village in Howrah. When she first came into our house six years ago, I noticed she liked her food spicy. Owning a palette that couldn’t take much heat, I kept asking her how she was digesting the red chillies with such ease. “Habit!” she reasoned, adding, “Without the red chillies I feel the food isn’t tasty.”
Despite she imploring us to try her cooking, we were wary. Because somehow, I felt that the heat of chillies would mar the delicacy of the other spices. But yesterday, I realised that it takes a deft hand to balance things out. As I tucked into the expansive vegetarian thali (Rs 350) at Tenali – The Andhra Kitchen yesterday afternoon, I will admit that my nose resembled a little spring from the mountains but my tongue was happy with the strong flavours and spices. And of course, I had the curd and the Sabudana Payasam to temper things down.
Ginger fried chicken wings
Tenali Kitchen is not your fancy fine diner. It offers a humble ambience, with vignettes from an Andhra village painted on the walls, the ever-smiling staff ready to help you choose and most importantly, you will get freshly made home-style Andhra food. Lots of variety and that familiar smell that wafted out of your mom’s kitchen. The ghee and gunpowder are ever-present on the tables, getting company from the home-made pickles.
What I loved about Tenali is the wholesome food. This is not the place for molecular hogwash. Where the sambar comes to the table as foam with some liquid nitrogen emanating from the container. This is robust Andhra cuisine that fills you up and makes you happy. At a throwaway price for that matter. The veg thali is for Rs 350 and the non-veg thali is Rs 500. The thali menu rotates throughout the week so we actually found repeat customers in the restaurant. But I felt there is another reason for that. Because, this is the place where snooty airs don’t abound. It’s a pleasant place serving absolutely fabulous food at extremely reasonable prices. I’ve eaten at Andhra Bhavan earlier but what I ate yesterday was definitely much better. Yes.
Our Veg thali was large. Sighing at how we would finish it all, we started off with the steamed rice, ghee and gunpowder, just like how they eat at home in Andhra. There was a Dosakaya Pappu (dal with chunks of cucumber) to go with the Rice and Poppadum. If that was the thicker dal, the thali also included a Tomato Rasam and a Sambar, which were lighter in consistency. All three stuffed with flavour though. To go with the freshly fried (all food is prepared in Sunflower or groundnut oil) puris, we had Gutta Vankaya (eggplant is a spicy gravy) in which I could feel the ground spices coming on to my tongue. But before you reach there, make sure you eat the Kakarkaya (Karela fry) with the ghee laden rice. It reminded me of how we eat Karela at Bengali homes. This is incredible India. Where you will find similarities in cuisines and cultures. The slight differences actually make it worth exploring the same vegetable in so many different avatars. Right here in the same country.
If you are an East Bengali, you will find the Beerkaya chutney your thing. It’s ground from the leaves and stems of Torai (a kind of gourd) and mixed with spices to form a paste. It is delicate and fiery at the same time. At home we eat a lot of pastes like that with our rice. We could grind shrimps or leaves, but the rice mixed with that fine paste is utter bliss.
Mutton Korma
I loved the Pudina rice because the mint aftertaste was pretty prominent. We ate it with the ginger fried chicken wings that were sweet and spicy. Try the soul fry is you like fish and the Potato 65 to whet your potato cravings. The mutton korma was interestingly rich, flavourful but not extremely hot. May be that’s why it was glorious.
While we were digging into this heavenly meal prepared with a lot of love, we overheard someone asking for a filter coffee with almond milk. Let me warm you, Tenali Kitchen is not for those who swear by health food. At what it is popularly passed off as today. Though nothing made at the kitchen there will make you doubt the quality. This place is unpretentious. So, quell all doubts before you go. Roll up your sleeves and dig in. After the meal you will sigh with satisfaction. We can vouch for that!
 
P.S. Make sure you round things off with the homemade guava icercream sprinkled with red chilli powder. Every spoonful will remind you of those childhood years when afternoons were filled with chunks of juicy guavas, pinches of red chilli salt and strains of yesteryear Hindi film songs from grandfather’s old radio.

At: S – 31, Green Park Main Market, 2nd Floor, New Delhi



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