I am sorry if I sound like a stuck record, but, to my mind, there is nothing as good as South Indian non-vegetarian fare. The vegetarian food of the South, of course, is fantastic, but the flavours of the fish and meat dishes are unforgettable, too. Within the South, the cuisine of Kerala never fails to give me pleasure. A friend, who was pondering order-in options, had told us last week that Mahabelly — a Kerala restaurant in south Delhi — was delivering across town. I had eaten at Mahabelly when it opened and loved their food. So I did some surfing, had a look at the delivery menu and placed my order.
We asked for gunpowder idli (₹220), pork fry (₹440), vegetable stew with appams (₹225), Alleppey fish curry with appams (₹495), prawn mango curry (₹565), parottas (₹65 each) and extra appams (₹65 each). We paid ₹3,300 or so (with taxes, packing charges) for the food, and it was enough for three meals: lunch, dinner and breakfast.
Needless to say, I loved the pork the most. The dish consisted of fatty chunks that had been roasted with grated coconut, spices, and chillies. The pork was juicy and soft, and the spices, including crispy curry leaves, added to the taste. The prawn-mango curry was much loved at home, and I enjoyed it, too — the sauce was mildly sweet and deliciously tart (with little pieces of mango in it), and the prawns in the gravy were crispy from the outside and tender within. I had the pork and the prawns with a flaky, layered Malabari parotta, and enjoyed the meal thoroughly.
We had the idli for breakfast the next day. It came with a coconut and a tomato-onion chutney. The idlis were, as I expected, smeared with a spicy podi, but I didn’t think they’d be fried. I would have preferred them steamed, for the fried pieces were a little too toasty.
Lunch, again, was a delight. The vegetable stew was a mix of vegetables (beans, carrots et al) cooked in a light coconut milk, and went well with the soft and fluffy appams. The Allepey fish was in a coconut-based gravy, too, but had a different taste altogether. The fish — Mahabelly usually uses seer fish — came in a superb sauce made colourful and tangy with kokum, and then lightened with coconut milk. The gravy was prepared with fried shallots, a ginger-garlic paste, curry leaves, rice powder, Kashmiri chillies, turmeric, ground coriander and fenugreek. We had this with home-cooked joha rice, a small and fragrant Assamese variety.
The delivery menu includes Thalassery chicken biryani (₹350), mackerel (aila) fish (₹445), chicken 65 (Rs 385) and gobhi 65 (Rs 299). There are small meals, too, such as Amrit’s Dal Khichdi with pickle and pappadam (₹199), three chapattis with potato curry (₹199), two parottas with tomato fry (₹199) and two appams with chicken stew (₹250).
I am glad Mahabelly is delivering (and all the way to East Delhi, too) for that’s the only way food businesses can survive in these difficult times. The restaurant is run by a group of young men who are passionate about food (they have an outlet in Saket and Gurugram) and I hope they do well.
The writer is a seasoned food critic