Saturday, July 21, 2012
Pink Saturday - Kerala pink
The little restaurant on Stoke Newington Church Street is the flagship restaurant of the Rasa restaurant chain, and its facade is painted the bright pink that Vreeland admired - in America we'd call it Barbie Pink.
Stoke Newington is a neighborhood in North London known for its multicultural, immigrant population and a politically left, artsy bent that's becoming increasingly gentrified. It's not too far from where our son is working. He brought us to Rasa for dinner on a rainy night.
The Rasa chain was founded by Das Sreedharan, a chef who grew up in a small village near Cochin, Kerala, on the lush, spice-rich south west tip of India. He opened this place in 1994, offering vegetarian South Indian cuisine.
We were first served as basket of what the menu calls "Pre-meal snacks" - crunchy fried tidbits, spicy with cumin and other spices, along with an assortment of pickles and chutneys to dip them in. The large ornate one that looks like a fancy waffle is achappam, made of rice flour and coconut.
We ordered an assortment of dishes to share. One standout was the beet cheera pachadi - beets and spinach pureed together with yogurt, spiced with black mustard seeds and coconut. It's a beautiful pink color - the low light in the room made my photos turn out a little murky.
Shredded cabbage with potatoes and lentils, garnished with onions and more coconut, was also fantastic.
They were served with lemon rice, and two more dishes whose names I don't remember. There was also a delicious bread called paratha - wheat dough coiled and cooked on a griddle - it was warm and delicious to pull apart and dunk into dal or creamy curry. We asked the waiter to take our picture - I look kind of silly here, but it shows the food nicely.
Paratha above and dal and a creamy dish of mangoes and bananas.
We've tried South Indian food here in Southern California, but this was extraordinary - the flavors were bright and intense.
It just goes to show you it's easy to eat well without eating meat!