No simile can define the perfect circle that the Kerala porotta of Ezhuthanikada is. Then, to add spice comes a very heartening, piping hot mutton curry. Even the rustic 'vettu' cake, a common evening snack of Malabar, is as tasty as it gets.
The restaurant, which retains its old-world charm, was founded by Meeran Sahib, a veteran of the Second World War. Meeran Sahib fought as part of the Madras Regiment. He started the restaurant after the country got independence, says Meeran Sahib's son Abdul Rahim, who runs the restaurant now along with his elder brother Abdul Salam.
Dosa, puttu, potato curry, and sambar comprised the main course in olden days when Meeran started and ran the restaurant. "After my father's death, we made porotta and mutton curry speciality dishes," Abdul Rahim said.
The restaurant is almost always abuzz with customers even though there is no name board or signage. The location of the restaurant is 8 km from Kollam Railway Station, at Keralapuram. Ask anyone, and they direct you to the 'old' Ezhuthanikada. The shop does not have a rolling shutter. Nirappalakas or flat wooden planks that are tightly set on a wedge are used still. This 'door' was quite prevalent in Kerala till recently.
In the Ezhuthanikada kitchen, the 'single ball' parotta-making is resorted to. The fluffy ball of maida is pounded for tone before being pulled out into smaller balls to make parottas. The deft hands weave a ring and the dough, in a perfect circle, is smashed on to the large, heated up pan known as 'kallu.' The perfectly cooked mutton curry forms the apt side dish. Ezhuthanikada serves 'pappadam' along with parotta and mutton curry.
"Onion, shallots, ginger, and green chilly are seasoned well in a low flame first. Then, the mutton, in small pieces, is introduced. After this, we add masala and the curry is given a gentle stir till the gravy assumes a thicker form." Abdul Rahim says.
During Meeran Sahib's days, Puttu and pappadam were served. Later, Puttu had to be stopped but pappadam stayed. Ezhuthanikada is ready to serve the adventurous ones a dash of mutton to go with Vettu cake. The cake is made of maida, duck eggs, and cardamom. It is fried in sunflower oil. Abdul Rahim says the spice of the mutton gravy and the sweetness of the cake go well and it is worth a try.
Also, he says, people seem to like the twang of it as pappadam is served with hot parottas and steaming mutton curry.
The mutton curry comes at Rs 140; tea Rs 8; Appam Rs 6; and parotta, Rs 7. "The work starts at 6 am and the morning dishes are ready by 8:30 am. The vegetarian items include potato curry, 'kadala' curry (chickpea), and sambar. Parotta and mutton curry is served till closure time, 9:30 pm," Abdul Rahim says.
Ezhuthanikada holds on to its old ways and charms - Badaruddin, who joined Merran Sahib at a very young age as a supplier is still with them at 72. The teamaker, Pradeep, is a veteran of 18 years. Badaruddin dismissed a photo request with a curt 'no publicity' remark. Abdul Salam, too, turned down the request with a smile. Probably, these old-world methods of taste could be the thing that drives people to the nondescript, no-board Ezhuthanikada even to this day.