Tamarind: Beyond Idlis and Dosas

Tamarind: Beyond Idlis and Dosas

Whenever we think of South Indian food, Idli and Dosa come to mind. The more enlightened think of Upma, Pongal et al. Ask any South Indian friend and they proudly tell you that these dishes are merely breakfast items, the tip of an iceberg. To experience the entire gamut of Deccan delicacies, South Indian IRS batchmates of mine posted at Kolkata swear by 'Tamarind'.

'Tamarind', serving an array of exotic cuisines ranging from Chettinad, Malabar, Andhra, Hyderabad, Udipi to Coorg specialties, is a hidden gem on Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata.


Chicken 65 (Rs 280), Vegetable Stew (Rs 275), Appam (Rs 75), Nellore Fish Curry (Rs 400), Lemon Rice (Rs 180), Malabar Prawn Curry (Rs 450), Malabar Paratha (Rs 80) and Double Ka Meetha (complimentary).


The food was neatly packed in white plastic containers wrapped in cling film keeping the food hot. At many eateries, the food is literally thrown into containers for takeaway but here, it was well garnished and almost looked like restaurant dining. I was glad to have received a complimentary dessert. Lockdown ordering incentive indeed!


I ordered Chicken 65 for starters. This dish is said to have originated from the Hotel Buhari in Chennai and I loved eating it there on a holiday. The original dish is a spicy dry preparation in which succulent chicken pieces are marinated in a spicy ginger garlic paste with lot of red chilies and then deep fried. The Tamarind version was lacking the spicy punch and was not quite near the original. Unlike the Buhari version, it was served with a garnish of fried grated coconut, whole chillies and curry leaves, accompanied by a tangy tomato chutney, tempered with urad dal and mustard seeds. The chutney complimented the starter well but if you have tried authentic Chicken 65, you may not like this at all.

For the main course, I paired three combinations: Vegetable Stew with Appam, Nellore Chepala Curry with lemon rice and Malabar Prawn curry with Malabar Paratha.

Vegetable Stew adorned with carrots, beans, cauliflowers, peas and potatoes in a mild coconut milk-based gravy was a flavour bomb. The Appam, a thin pancake, made from ground rice, was fluffy and soft. The Appam beautifully soaked in all the essence of the vegetable stew, especially the heat of whole black pepper and the sweetness of coconut. Highly recommended Malayali combination!

Nellore Chepala Curry is a super spicy, tangy fish curry from Andhra Pradesh. The boneless fish pieces first fried in a chickpea flour batter, subsequently simmered in a strong tamarind-based curry with whole garlic, curry leaves, mustard seeds, spices and lot of chillies, is not for the weak-hearted. On the side, the lemon rice sprinkled with fried urad dal and peanuts beautifully balanced the pungent fish curry. However, if you do choose to have lemon rice with a milder gravy, it does not live up to its name with a disappointingly weak lemon flavour.

Malabar prawn Curry is to Kerala what Chingri Malai Curry is to Bengal. The coconut based thick prawn curry with chunks of garlic, onion and curry leaves tasted decent, but it lacked the slight tartness which one usually finds at the Malabar coast. In the accompaniment, the Malabar Paratha was sweet, flaky and pretty authentic. It is quite like a sweeter 'maida' variant of the Punjabi Lachha Paratha.

The food was accompanied by complimentary fried papadam, sliced salad and a dessert.

The dessert of Double ka Meetha had two round fried bread pieces dipped in saffron infused sugar syrup with a filling of copious cream custard in between and all over, bejeweled with sliced almonds and pistachios. Although not a South Indian dessert, it was a sweet ending to a mélange of spicy Deccan flavours.


I found the Stew and Appam divine and this combination is highly recommended. The Fish Curry was fine, but too spicy for a neutral palate. The Malabar Prawn Curry was satiating. All in all, all dishes had their unique identity and taste.


'Tamarind' has a great variety of South Indian delicacies. Personally, I found their Tamil food not very authentic. However, the Kerala and Telugu preparations of the place were outstanding. Overall, a highly recommended fine dine experience. So next time, think beyond Idlis and Dosas and order from Tamarind.

(The columnist is a food connoisseur who loves experimenting with culinary delights and a career bureaucrat in the IRS Income Tax)

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