A few months ago, my friend renowned Chef Osama Jalali released a short video on this place- Tenali The Andhra Kitchen. It got me interested and then he also urged me to go and try the food there. I did resolve to go but it somehow got lingering on. Finally, I landed there for lunch on the 31st, just in time before the year ended. What followed was a wonderful encounter with a riot of colours, myriad flavours, temperatures and textures. The whole experience was quite enjoyable and satisfying. If you also love Andhra Food, must go and I am sure, you would enjoy it.
Tenali, relatively a newbie in the town, is nested in the main market of Green Park, almost next door to Evergreen Sweets. The interiors and the dress of the staff will give you the feel of the southern state.
We were greeted with Rasam for my vegetarian colleague and Mutton Rasam or Mutton Shorba for me. Rasam had a slightly bright colour with a tangy taste. The Mutton version was spicy, the broth had rich and flavourful body and chunks of Meat along with Ginger, Garlic and other spices. This set the tone for what to expect.
Next came Chilli Idli. Chunks of Steamed Idli coated in a dark masala interspersed with curry leaves and green chilies. The first piece in the mouth and it was crunchy outside, had a coating of flavourful spices and fluffy inside. We could not stop at just one or rather just few. We had to control ourselves to have space for the mains. Was a real delight.
Next was Hyderabadi Haleem. Goldenish Brown concoction garnished with crisp fried onions gave an aroma of royalty. First spoonful and it was divine. A fine paste which had flavours of meat and lentils. A hint of that typical mughalai masala completed the experience and hit the right spot. A few drops of lime juice and you are transported into a different world. This was amongst the best Haleem it would have tasted. Much better than what you get those branded ones there in Hyderbad.
By now, our taste buds were fully aroused and were ready to welcome the Thali. And it arrived, in style.
The Vegetarian version had Rasam, Cabbage Pachadi, a dry subzi Bhindi with nuts, Aloo Curry, Dal Pappu, Sambar, Lemon Rice, Curd and Sweet Sewaiyan (Vermicelli).
The Non Veg version had Rasam, Cabbage Pachadi, Dry Bhindi, Dhania Chicken, Mutton Masala, Sambar, Lemon Rice, Curd and Sweet Sewaiyan.
The accompaniments included Papad, Four Pooris and Steamed Rice. There were Pickles and Chutneys on the table along with Ghee and Dal Masala or the Gun Powder.
Quite an elaborate fare and we were more than ready for the tasteful encounter. With the word go, we didn’t look here and there and for the next twenty minutes or so we were absolutely busy in our own world of flavours.
To start with, I washed down the starters with a gulp of Rasam. Having aroused the taste buds, I tried Poori with Dry Bhindi. A very balanced concoction of spices coated the bhindi which retained its original taste. The dish had a lavish amount of onions, curry leaves, flavours of grated coconut with chopped carrots.
I used a bit of Cabbage Pichadi (Chutney) as accompaniment to this combo. This nutty-tangy-flavourful Chutney made with Cabbage and Dal as a base, provided a delightful taste. The beginning was perfect.
Now was time to enjoy other delicacies, one by one. A couple of spoons of rice were scooped out of the serving bowl and placed in the centre of the green leaf (this process I repeated with all the curries, Sambar and Pappu Dal in a sequence).
Firstly, a few spoons of Ghee (clarified butter) was poured over that mini mound of rice followed by a generous sprinkle of Gun Powder / Dal Masala. It provided a great sight and an arousing aroma. Wasting no time, I mixed all the three (I used hands for eating). Go ahead and ditch the spoons / forks, you would love it. The first bit into my mouth told me it was heavenly. The aromatic rice, coated with Ghee and a crunchy texture with the masala was a delight. Simply great and very enjoyable.
Now, I tried the fresh lot of rice with Pappu Dal first (borrowed a bit from my vegetarian friend). I love this Tangy Dal. Arhar done in tomatoes and tamarind with spices and curry leaves is again a flavourful dish which goes very well with rice. This combo was followed by trying the rice with the amazing Sambar. I am fond of veggies in the Sambar and they were plenty. The first taste of Sambar told me it was spicy, tangy, had the right flavours (rather one of the best Sambar in the city) and the veggies with their juices had flavoured the concoction while retaining their identity.
Then I turned towards, the Non Veg Curries. First was greenish Dhania Chicken Curry. It had a smooth thick gravy which coated the meat pieces. The spices and the coriander paste in the curry were so well balanced that it did not over power the curry, rather complemented each other. The meat was tender and succulent with flavours seeping deep inside. The meat inside gave a pinkish look indicating the quality of the meat and the patient process of cooking. Enjoyed thoroughly with rice.
Then came in the Mutton Masala Curry. A slightly runny gravy (as compared to the Dhania Chicken) yet full of flavours. The taste was slightly sharper than the chicken but yet very balanced. Meat again was succulent and came off the bones without any effort. Again a perfect combo with the aromatic rice.
If you enjoy your non veg, then these two dishes, I am sure, would steal your heart. I was not able to decide, which of the two was better.
Suddenly, I remembered there were Lemon Rice too. Quickly 2-3 spoons were transferred in my Thali. First spoonful told me the rice were perfect. Tangy and yet not overtly tangy. The soft rice done with Gram Dal, Mustard Seeds, Peanuts and Curry Leaves was a refreshing whiff. I didn’t need anything to go along with it. Eating this on its own itself was quite good.
Finally, the last round was completed by adding that thick and silky Dahi with the Rice (Curd Rice) to soothe the palate and the tummy. This was wrapped up by polishing off the dessert of Sweet Sewaiyan, a mildly sweet preparation.
I was sure that they would be serving a great Filter Coffee. So, how could one leave without having one. And I wasn’t wrong. Perfect colour and aroma which hit the right spot. A superb culmination to a flavourful experience.
I plan to go at least a couple of times more. If you also love your South Indian cuisine, you must go and enjoy. Do share your experience with me. Till then…
My other stories in South Indian Delights could be read here :
Bon Appetite !!