Grand Lexis Port Dickson,
Batu 2, Jalan Seremban,
71000 Port Dickson.
Operating hours: Noon to 2.30pm (lunch)
6.30 to 9.30 pm (dinner)
For reservations, contact 06-653 2000 extension 3350.

The platter meal is an experience for the senses.

I LOVE a good curry. Whether it is the flaming flavours of southern India or the creamy sauces of the north, curries are the hallmark of Indian cuisine.

Here in Malaysia, the southern Indian-style banana leaf meal, with its lure of free curry top-ups, is the clear favourite when it comes to eating out Indian.

But Indian cuisine is not just about all-you-can-eat banana leaf meals.

Indian food differs according to region and food options are seemingly endless.

Take, for example, the thali (top pic). A one-plate meal comprising starters, mains and dessert.

The thali is a common feature in southern Indian fare where rice is a staple, but variants with roti as the main carbohydrate are also found in other parts of the country.

I recently had the pleasure of sampling the southern Indian version of the thali at Grand Lexis Port Dickson, where hotel sous chef Karthigayan Krishnan has introduced a thali set menu as part of the hotel’s Spices of India food promotion.

Karthigayan, who has been cooking for over three decades, said the thali meals prepared by his team were designed to tease the palate and pique the senses.

“The sensory experience begins with the way the dishes are presented.

Chef Karthigayan Krishnan with his thali set.

Chef Karthigayan Krishnan with his thali set.

In a thali, all the components of the meal are served at the same time, either in a stainless steel plate with different compartments or in small steel bowls arranged on a platter,” he said.

At the Grand Lexis, the accompanying dishes are served in dainty stainless steel bowls, all neatly arranged within a stainless steel platter and around a steaming mound of rice.

Just the fragrances wafting from the thali, with its herb and spice-infused curries are enough to make one crave for the dishes even more.

Our thali meal included crab rasam, a belly-warming crab leg soup liberally spiced with black peppercorns, cumin, coriander, mustard and fennel seeds and infused with tamarind. The rasam, with its perfect balance of spicy and sour served as the appetiser.

In the centre of our platter was a heap of jeera rice – steamed rice flecked with cumin seeds and accompanied with a crisp papadom and lemon pickle.

In addition to the rasam, the array of accompanying dishes comprised attu garam masala (mutton cooked with masala spices), koli metthi (chicken with fenugreek leaves), eraal parettal (prawns cooked in a dry curry), fish cutlets, podalangai kootu(stirfried snake gourd), parangikai parettal (pumpkin curry), dhal tadka (lentils), ince pulle (sweet and sour ginger pickle) and pistachio nut kesari (Indian cake made with semolina).

The fish cutlets were one of the highlights of the thali meal, with the right amount of crunch coating the juicy fish and potato patties.

“We use mackerel for our fish cutlets and to bind the patties – mashed potatoes and crushed cream crackers. The patties are then coated with egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried,” he said.

The attu garam masala, succulent cuts of Australian mutton marinated in a secret blend of spices was another winning dish, having been slow-cooked to perfection for three hours. The koli metthi, an aromatic chicken dish flavoured with fenugreek leaves, chillies, turmeric and cumin was equally good.

While the set meal came with mutton, chicken and prawns, the accompanying vegetable dishes were not to be outdone.

Liberally spiced, the sweet, tender morsels of pumpkin complemented the meat and seafood while the stir-fried snake gourd added a delicate bite.

A slice of pistachio-studded kesari, a personal favourite, was the perfect end to the sumptuous meal.

Karthigayan said the thali set meal was an ideal option for diners who wanted to sample several curries at one go.

“The flavours of the accompanying dishes go together well and are a perfect combination,” he said.

The Spices of India promotion will be available at the hotel’s Duyung Restaurant from Nov 1 to 30 and is priced at RM55 nett per adult and RM30 nett for children (aged four to 12).

This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by Star Metro.

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