THERE ISN'T A PALETTE MORE DIVERSE THAN AN INDIAN ONE. AND YOU'D BE HARD PRESSED TO FIND THAT KIND OF VARIETY FROM JUST A SINGLE SECTION OF THE COUNTRY ANYWHERE ELSE.
One of the earnest ideas behind The Permit Room is to introduce people to the sheer variety of traditional South Indian cuisine, but with a modern-day take on it. Essentially it's recipes from your ajji's (Kannada for grandma) kitchen, but served in a rather modern, and also cocktail-friendly form. Your ajji may or may not approve.
Thindi Tales is an attempt to take you one step deeper, the equivalent of getting you to eat meals with your fingers, and hopefully help you appreciate South-Indian cuisine in all its gastronomic glory.
A community that definitely merits a mention, as a noteworthy influencer of South-Indian cuisine, is the Anglo-Indian community.
And while they're easily some of the most colourful people you'll meet in the lower part of the sub-continent, we've picked one of their simplest and most versatile dishes—the Mollagatawny.
A Little History
Straight off the bat, the first thing that probably catches your attention is the name of this dish. It sounds vaguely familiar but also not, right?
That’s probably because the word ‘mollagatawny’ is an anglicised version of two words originally from the Tamil language—‘molugu’ meaning pepper and ‘tanni’ meaning water. So, literally, pepper water.
(There's one slang definition of 'tanni' also, which our bartender will be more than happy to explain. But more on that later.)
Mollagatawny soup is essentially an Anglo-Indian dish, which was originally prepared with peppers and well, water, among other things, and hence the name.
It was served to the British troops stationed in Tamilnadu as a stew, who then improvised and added meat to this soup, along with other ingredients, over time.
And that’s probably the beginning of the many, many variations it’s gone through since.
So much so, that it’s hard to say what its exact original form might have been.
Regardless though, it became quite the rage amongst the British colonisers, and when the bloody buggers went packing, they made sure they took this recipe back home. And sent some to Australia too!
The many revisions of the Mollagatawny saw some rather interesting additions.
Everything from chicken stock to mutton stock has been used, along with chicken pieces, onion, bacon(!), some fruits even, and to seal the meal-deal, some rice on the side. (Because, of course. Anything that claims to have some association with Tamilnadu must, without fail, link back to steamed rice in some way.)
The broth-like texture might have first been achieved with the use of coconut milk. Although today, apart from stock, people use yogurt for the same consistency too.
At The Permit Room
It’s the perfect dish really. You can consume it like a thick soup or throw some rice in and have the definition of comfort food on a plate. It works in any form.
And even though there were so many versions of the dish to go with, we decided to keep it simple and classy—a mildly curried chicken lentil soup in twice reduced chicken stock. Because good for the soul, child.
Our Chef Says
“The Mollagatawny is one of those gorgeous culinary history lessons in a bowl. It’s such a simple dish, yet so versatile. You can consume it in any form that suits you really, as a soup or even as a curry with some steamed rice. Few dishes are such a great representation of cultural amalgamation as this one, and that's kind of what makes it so much more fun to make.”