Kuzhimanthi, the Arabian delicacy, has conquered the taste buds and the hearts of Keralites pretty quickly. Those who flew to the Gulf didn’t just bring back wealth and good fortune, but the unique flavours of the dessert too. Kuzhimanthi is a popular Arabic dish that is loaded with flavours and is served with big chunks of meat.
Pulliserry Muhammadali, a native of Aalinchuvadu in Malappuram deserves the credit for introducing Kuzhimanthi to many in Kerala. He is lovingly called ‘Manthi kakka’ by everyone. Muhammad claims that it was he who introduced Kuzhimanthi to Malabar around fifteen years ago.
“The manthi dishes were first served by me at the Delicia Hotel in Malappuram, around fifteen years ago. At that time, the dish was called just ‘manthi’. The traditional manthi can only be cooked in a pit that is dug in the ground. Later it became popular and hotels started to sell this dish with the name kuzhi manthi. Soon, the name clicked,” says Muhammadali.
Muhammadali says that the origin of Kuzhimanthi could be traced to Yemen. He understood the unique preparation of this dish when he was working as a cook in a military camp in Saudi Arabia. The chief cook at that camp was Yemeni national. Muhammadali soon learned the nuances of making the perfect kuzhimanthi from him. Later, when he returned home, Muhammadali introduced this dish to the people of his hometown. Kuzhimanthi is a dish that has to be prepared carefully. The pit in which the dish is cooked is built using a special technique.
Muhammadali has arranged the facilities for making kuzhimanthi at more than 180 hotels in all the districts in Kerala. From building the kuzhi or the pit to training the cooks, Muhammadali’s services last for at least ten days. The masala is prepared using unique ingredients that are imported from Yemen. However, Muhammadali hasn’t revealed the secret ingredients in this special masala to anyone else. Meanwhile, the veteran cook is all set to start a catering unit at his house.