With the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan, a mini Arabia starts to unfold on the roads from Thayatheru in Kannur. The nights are a leaf out of the Arabian Nights, with folks walking around merrily, getting ready to break the day’s fast.
Walk down Thayatheru and what hits you head on is the whiff of chicken being roasted, broasted, broiled, grilled and kebabed, where all the spices of Arabia meet and marinate. The cityscape itself changes when the streets get decked up with a million lights and the stalls come alive with sizzling dishes of crackling chicken melting in their fat.
You are not dealing with just a couple of recipes here. It’s a cauldron of tastes, flavours and recipes you’ve got to dig into. Here’s your pick from kebab, grill, Mughlai, Al Faham, Shawai and spring. The list of recipes is endless.
It was 12 years ago that a kebab stall first came up on the streets of Thayatheru during the holy month of Ramadan. In its wake came boatloads of men and spices from across the Persian seas to set up shops on this side of Kannur. From then, it was a contest between chefs and spices, all from the Gulf, brought down to Thayatheru, to vie with each other in serving the most authentic Arabian cuisine.
Foodies who jam-pack the stalls are least aware of the nuances in taste. No two dishes are similar in flavour. The kebab, though not exactly grilled chicken, is a close cousin. Chicken that’s placed over a grill or below, often exposed to dry, direct heat, and also cooked with charcoal, is the true type of grilled stuff. Usually, kebabs are done with dry masalas and spices.
Even though Al Faham chicken and kebabs are done almost the same way, Al Faham uses more of pure Arabian masalas. As for Mughlai, the yen is for the raw and fresh taste of ginger, garlic and pepper combining to make the chicken.
The Shawai too is another variety of grilled chicken where the pieces are marinated in original Arabian spices for at least eight hours and then readied. By then, the pieces would have absorbed the rich flavour of the masalas. The Tandoori is another dish to relish. Baked in a special tandoor oven, it’s another chicken special to break the fast with. The takers are aplenty for barbecue chicken, made crisp and covered with special ingredients and sauces.
Not to be left behind is the chicken Tikka. The Tikka involves cooking with boneless chicken, its highlight being the zero use of oil.
The Thayatheru stalls are stuffed with chicken, beef and mutton, baked, grilled or barbecued to suit every palate. You can have your pick from kuboos, to nice pathiri, to butter naan, appam and puttu varieties to go with the chicken dishes.
The streets are also a venue for much camaraderie when families come out to dine at the stalls which double up as mini restaurants. There’s a lot to pick up from the traditional too with kilikoodu, pazham nirachathu and kunjappathallu on the list. There’s a choice of rice too, including the popular kuzhimanthi. After the main meal, get set for a treat of scraped ice or truly spicy pickle.
There was a time when Thayetheru’s food business had fallen into a brief period of lull. But today, there’s a surge in business as well as fondness for food, says Nissar, who’s been running the Chamber Hotel here for decades. Kebab stalls are a plenty in front of the hotel where food and folks liven up the streets well past midnight.