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This Kerala restaurant serves up traditional curry steamed in banana leaves | CBC News

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Food columnist Suresh Doss spoke to CBC Metro Morning host Ismaila about Kerala Curry House in Mississauga.

Suresh Doss: I actually stumbled across this place while I was in Mississauga on a research eating tour. I went to a place I really love called Taste of Malayalees. This is a fantastic South Indian takeout spot, opened by a gentleman named Tomy Kokkat. It’s a bit of an institution in Mississauga, it brings in people from all backgrounds and they do really good biryani. 

So I walked back recently looking for their biryani dish and the gentleman at the counter said that they don’t have it on the menu anymore and it’s at the other place.

Ismaila Alfa: The other place? 

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Suresh Doss: Yes, he said, drive behind the building, pass the loading docks and then go to the other Plaza and you’ll see Kerala Curry house.

Ismaila Alfa: And of course you followed the trail?

Suresh Doss: Come on, I have to get my biryani. I totally followed the trail. I drove around and I found Kerala Curry house in this U-shaped plaza on Dixie Rd with dozens of restaurants. This new place felt very different right away. You walk in and it’s not a takeout spot but this beautifully designed restaurant. 

Ismaila Alfa: So how was the biryani? 

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Kizhi biryani is bone-in chicken, cooked in myriad spices and covered with fluffy rice, which is then then steamed in a banana leaf. (Suresh Doss)

Suresh Doss: Tomy’s new restaurant still focuses on the cuisine of Kerala, but it gets a bit more regional. There are dishes that I’ve rarely seen outside of home kitchens, like the Kizhi biryani. I want you to picture this: bone-in chicken, cooked in a myriad of spices and then it’s kind of set on a banana leaf.

It’s covered with a layer of rice, already cooked about three-quarters of the way through. Then the entire thing is wrapped in this banana leaf and then steamed to finish cooking. You are presented with this green parcel. You take it home, you unwrap the banana leaf, and these aromas just fill the room. 

Ismaila Alfa: That sounds amazing. But, the taste?

Suresh Doss: So you open this thing and you see the white fluffy rice. It’s really delicate at first, and you only see the rice at first but when you dig in, you get to this cooked chicken with pops of spice and the chicken is just supremely tender.

The adivasi chicken, small pieces of chicken fried with chili and onions, is a standout appetizer. (Suresh Doss)

Ismaila Alfa: I love a dish that comes with a surprise. Are all the dishes cooked in banana leaf at Kerala Curry House?

Suresh Doss: There are a good number of dishes cooked in banana leaf.  There is another dish called Kizhi parotta. Imagine a flatbread cooked on a griddle, topped with curry beef cooked down until liquid evaporates and the meat is dark and brown and caramelized.

That is covered with another parotta and then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. This also travels really well. When you take it home you have this flatbread that is soaked in spiced and curry. You can eat it like Trinidadian doubles; you take the first layer off, tear off a piece of flatbread and scoop up the meat with it. 

Ismaila Alfa: That description I feel in my soul, my friend. Is there anything else I need to try other than the Kizhi biryani and Kizhi parotta? 

Tomy Kokkat has carved out a loyal following at his restaurant, Kerala Curry House, despite opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Suresh Doss)

Suresh Doss: There are lots of other dishes. They have dosas, they have rice and curry, there are plenty of vegetarian dishes. The mango curry is wonderful. 

There is also a really good number of appetizers. A standout is something called the Adivasi chicken which is basically small pieces of chicken fried with chili and onions. Sometimes it’s called a chicken roast, and it’s enjoyed with a really cold Pilsner or Lager. 

Ismaila Alfa: How is business doing, considering they opened during a pandemic? 

A large mural adorns the wall of Kerala Curry House. It was commissioned from an artist in Kerala, and depicts some of the local monuments. (Suresh Doss)

Suresh Doss: They have quickly found a following in the Kerala community, which I understand has grown a lot in the past five years. It’s a bit sad to see such a beautiful restaurant with nobody in it. There’s this beautiful, large mural on the wall, commissioned by an artist in Kerala, depicting some of the national monuments from town to town. It would’ve been great to see this restaurant open pre-COVID, because it would have been exciting and new. But that day will come.

For now, we have biryani. 

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