Saturday, November 22, 2008

Chettinad Buffet at Karaikudi

Oak Tree Road in Edison is the Indian hub of New Jersey...Indian restaurants, grocery stores, malls selling Indian sweets, clothes and gold jewelry...even Indian attorneys and tax accountants. When you enter this chaotic street, your nose is assailed by a variety of strong and beckoning smells...just follow the smell that attracts you the most to the restaurant of your choice. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I can assure you when you pull into the parking lot of any one of the several Indian specialty restaurants on Oak Tree Road, the aroma of Indian food slams your nostrils hard and makes your mouth water involuntarily.

Recently, there have been a few new South Indian additions to the restaurants, diners and drive-thrus that already exist on Oak Tree Road. South Indian cuisine generally does not attract a large American clientele. Where I grew up, the taste of a dish is determined not just by the perfect blend of flavors but also by the degree of spiciness (is that a word?)...perhaps that is the reason?

Chettinad is one of the spiciest, oiliest and most aromatic of Indian cusines. When Karaikudi Chettinad Restaurant opened on Oak Tree Road a few weeks ago, I lured our friend Kitty into visiting us in NJ, using Chettinad food as bait. Kitty lives in Philadelphia. We went to school together. Like me, she is a food aficionado; like me, she is not averse to experimenting with different kinds of food; and like me, the mention of authentic South Indian food brings a sparkle to her eyes.
DH, Kitty and I had buffet lunch at Karaikudi today, to the accompaniment of melodious Tamil music. It was quite a spread. The buffet table groaned under the weight of the dishes.
Appetizer: aatu kaal soup (mutton soup...bones included), rasam (soup made of pepper corn, cumin seed and tamarind pulp), onion pakoda (onions dipped in besan flour and deep fried)

Entree: Idli (steamed rice and lentil cake), coconut chutney (dipping sauce made of coconut), parotta (flat bread), Chicken chettinad (chicken fry), karaikudi chicken curry, mutton masala, meen kozhambu (fish curry), chicken biryani (chicken, marinated in spices and cooked with basmati rice)

Dessert: gulab jamun (sweet dish made of a dough milk solids dipped in a sugar syrup) and semiya kesari (sweet flavored vermicelli).

There were a few vegetarian dishes, but if you are a connoisseur of Chettinad cuisine, you gravitate toward the non-vegetarian dishes and pretend the vegetarian dishes do not exist...which is what we did. Most of the dishes were super spicy. We tucked in, eyes watering and noses dripping.
Here is a sample of what we ate:
Aatu kaal Soup (thumbs down)

Chicken biryani, parotta, Chicken chettinad and mutton masala (thumbs up)


Idli, meen kozhambu, coconut chutney (two thumbs up)

OK, I warned you! Kitty was a bit creeped out by the gaping eye, but it all went down well, with some mango lassi.



BeachRunner said...

That looks and sounds delicious.

Anonymous said...

The food sounds good, especially the dessert. Sounds like there was a lot to choose from.

Anonymous said...


lauren said...

mango lassi is my favorite thing in the world.

Radhika said...

where is this on oak-tree road