Coastal cuisine at Samudra

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If you're on the way to the airport, chances are that you've seen the entrance to the Trident Hotel Chennai at Meenambakkam. The property on GST Road is low slung as compared to other five star hotels in Chennai because of its proximity to the airport. A brand of the Oberoi group, while the hotel has been operational for the last 30 years, the interiors have a timeless elegance about them, belying its age.



Indian Coastal cuisine is served at Samudra, one of the two restaurants at the Trident. While the name is a reference to the sea, the sea theme is very subtly played out in the decor with beautiful shells enclosed in niches and playful fish which swim about in their large tanks.

The restaurant is open only in the evenings but they will serve you a meal in the afternoon if you are entertaining a group of friends and want to do it in a charming setting.


Beautiful setting for a meal

Two things grab your attention as you walk in further - a rectangular glass chandelier that hangs in the centre of the ceiling and large glass windows that look out onto the lush, beautifully manicured lawns. A paved walkway leads to the spa and a little beyond is the pool. The muted colours of the furnishings get a boost from the red table runners. Very charming yet very sophisticated.

Executive Chef Indranil Nag

Executive Chef Indranil wields a fine ladle here. Invited for the last day of the Kerala food festival, I did think I was lucky to dine in such a setting. The food was a bonus. Joined by some of the staff from the sales and F&B teams, we spent an interesting afternoon talking about everything under the sun and one of the things I learnt was that the hotel and the Trident brand gets its name from the Trisulam hills in the area.

Papad and homemade pickles to start. The smaller platter is for vegetarians

Aatukul soup

The deep red aatukal soup made with lamb trotters was divine. Every bit of flavour must have been extracted during the long, slow cooking process because it was all there in that ambrosial broth. The flavour of caramelised onions and pepper added to the perfection and despite its colour, it was not pungent. Bits of tender meat from the bone were there for texture.

Tapioca fingers with chammanthi

Pepper fried mushrooms

Appetiser selection of kozhi porichathu (fried chicken), koonthal (squid) coconut roast & fish fry


Meen pollichathu

This festival covered the different cuisines of Kerala and the tapioca finger chips were a novelty for me. Pepper fried mushrooms were also an interesting dish. Shallots, pepper and coconut oil were the base flavours and the flavours were repeated in the koonthal coconut roast, kozhi porichathu and fried fish. Each of the proteins was cooked to perfection, crusty exterior yielding to softness within, the use of coconut oil pointing to the provenance of the recipes. The fish pollichathu was the only dish that didn't quite reach the standard set by the other meats - only a karimeen (pearl spot) is suited to this kind of preparation I think. 

Appam & parotta

Selection of gravies - vegetable stew, Nilgiri curry, prawn mappas, aadu varutharacha curry

The red and yellow gravy was what I was most interested in. Prawn mappas and it was stunning. The gravy was creamy, coco-nutty and tangy, the prawns, so easy to overcook, were juicy and perfect. The vegetable stew was equally delicious. Both appam and flaky Kerala parotta were perfect accompaniments.

Colours of Kerala

Lamb biryani

There was lamb biryani to end the meal with. Made with kaima rice and studded with cashewnuts, it was delicious, the grains of rice carried the flavour of everything that had gone into the pot but held on to their pearl-like shape.

Coconut rolls and tender coconut payasam

Dessert was what I planned to skip but the warm coconut-stuffed rolls were irresistible. The covering looked deceptively thick but was soft, the coconut inside had been sweetened with jaggery. The pièce de résistance was definitely the tender coconut payasam. Served in a martini glass, it was sweet and extremely addictive with bits of tender coconut and the merest hint of cardamom. It was, most certainly, a blissful end to the meal.

Samudra is a gem of a restaurant, a hidden one, no doubt. I can just imagine what it must be like to dine there in the evening, sitting beside those large windows, sipping on a glass of wine and enjoying the best of coastal cuisine. The only sound one would probably hear is the tinkle of glassware and muted conversations.

A meal for 2 at Samudra is approximately 3000/++. Prior reservation is highly recommended.

Samudra, Trident Chennai
1/24 GST Road Chennai 600027.
91 44 2234 4747.


The A - Z of baking supplies & where to find them

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If you are a home baker in Chennai, you would have made several visits to NS Mani Distributors on Walltax Road by now. From cooking chocolate to canned and dried fruits, butter paper to wafer paper, fondant and fondant tools and even stand mixers, there's very little that a baker will not find on the shelves of this store.

The old address of NSMD

But first, a little history. 80 years ago, on December 1st, 1938, Mr. NS Mani set up a store selling "carbonic acid gas" (soda water in local parlance), imported synthetic food materials to make syrups, essences and ice creams, citric acid and saccharine. "Cool drinks" were popular thirst quenchers for the tropical heat of the city and business was good.

Sprinkles and seasonal decor

Around the 1990s, the soft drink segment was dominated by two cola manufacturers and the synthetic drinks market took a nosedive. Distributors like NS Mani diversified into the bakery business; they started catering (pun intended) to bakeries and cafes, supplying them with ingredients like margarine, cocoa powder and icing sugar. This was the time when many foreign companies set up shop in Chennai, expats took up residence in the city and there was huge demand for pasta and passata, black bean and hoisin sauces and of course breads.

Quite a range of sauces

NS Mani took up distributorship for Calpro bread mixes and soon enough, bakeries, both standalone and those attached to starred hotels were churning out specialty breads. Those were exciting times when mass-produced breads became less popular and words like ciabatta and focaccia rolled off everyone's tongues and everyone's shopping basket was filled with multigrain, Italian herb, seed breads and baguettes. Instant yeast and gluten became available and we could finally get around to experimenting on a variety of homemade bread. 

Glazes and cake decor

By 2005, the firm started stocking cooking chocolate, chocolate chips and home bakers started frequenting the store. The year 2013 saw dairy products like butter and cream cheese being added to the inventory. Also around this time, cake decorating tools from China flooded the market; you no longer had to bug friends and relatives going abroad to get you the much coveted fondant modelling tools, chocolate moulds or flower cutters - they were all there in the store!



Local & imported nuts and berries

Over the years, the variety of products kept increasing, keeping in tune with emerging market trends and while essences are still the mainstay of the business, the growing bakery and confectionery market saw newer products line the shelves.  It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, recording a 16% growth, the benchmark being standards in Europe and Turkey.

Squashes, syrups & chocolate

Today, NS Mani's original shop has been converted into a supermarket model where customers choose items displayed on the shelves and have them billed at the counter. Quite different from the old days when one stood behind the counter and yelled out the shopping list to one of the harried staff.

Modelling tools and cutters


Food colours


From a shop selling essences and synthetic syrups, today, it's a treasure trove for any home baker looking for the Chefmaster range of food colours, sliced almonds and almost the complete range of products from Bakersville. You can even get edible photo prints done at the store.

Helpful staff

On a friend's recommendation, I first visited the store in the mid-1990s to pick up cake boxes, got sidetracked by the essences sold in 500 ml bottles (never seen such large bottles of essence). Soon, my shopping list at NS Mani Distributors grew longer and Mr. Mahesh, the present owner and grandson of Mr. NS Mani, would give me catalogues of the new products he was stocking. The store was a veritable Aladdin's cave and buying stuff at wholesale rates was an added incentive to shop there. If something was not stocked in the shop, they would make the customer wait while someone ran to the "godown" nearby to fetch it. Today, the godown has been converted into an office-cum-store from where larger orders to commercial establishments are dispatched.

Cupcake liners

Apart from starred hotels, cafes and restaurants located within the city, NS Mani Distributors, being a direct importer and distributor, has customers from Thoothukudi, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari, Pollachi and even the Andaman and Nicobar Islands! One of his oldest customers is Vijaylakshmi Bakers and Sweets from the Island.

Meeting the demand for essences

While many restaurants and businesses have opened and then shut shop for lack of patronage, it's good to see a store that has survived 80 years. Anticipating and meeting the needs of customers is the key here.

Reach N.S. Mani Distributors at
145 Walltax Road
Park Town
Chennai 600003.

9600057149
9600057150

 
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