Veggie buffet highlights flavours of India

A customer showing her selection from the India-themed lunch buffet at Temple of Fine Arts Penang. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

MYRIAD delectable dishes of the various states of India have become a hit among diners at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) Penang’s restaurant Annalakshmi.

The outlet offers at least 12 Indian dishes for its Friday vegetarian buffet lunch, with recipes rotating among Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, the Chettinad region, Punjab and even Sri Lanka.

In-house chef P. Sekar, 49, said he was told to feature cuisine from different states in India every Friday.

He took up the challenge with ease, having been attached to TFA in India, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and now in Penang for the past 27 years.

“We chose cuisine that span from the south to the north of India.

“We reduced the spiciness to cater to the Malaysian palate. Otherwise, all the dishes are authentic.

A full Chettinad  meal plated from  the buffet line.A full Chettinad meal plated from the buffet line.

“Some of the dishes usually have chicken or fish in them but since we serve only vegetarian food, we replace them with potatoes or tofu instead.

“We usually serve 12 to 13 dishes buffet style, including a dessert specific to the state we are featuring, ” he said when met at TFA along Babington Avenue.

Sekar said that for example, the Chettinad buffet would include mushroom and potato pepper curry which would usually be cooked with chicken in India, drumstick (the fruit of the moringa) sambar plus okra and brinjal stir-fried with onions, peanut powder and coconut.

Other items are curd rice, briyani rice, papadam and rasam which is a chickpea, mango and coconut dish cooked with mustard seeds and dried chillies.

Dessert will be a mango and sago payasam.

Sekar said he would alternate between different dishes to make sure the menu looks “attractive”.

“There are many different dishes that we can choose from a particular state, ” he said.

Annalakshmi’s person-in-charge M. Vasanthi said the response to the Friday buffet was excellent with many diners enquiring about the coming themes.

“Many people have now been exposed to food native to some of the states in India, ” she said.

“On other days, we have a mix of north and south Indian dishes for lunch and a la carte menu for dinner apart from a snack menu.”

TFA is a non-profit organisation originating from India.

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