From the breakfast pit stop On the Highway to Kongunadu, we drove deeper into Kongu land passing by Salem of Steel fame and Erode the textile heartland. A few shops and educational institutes showed up on the side with Kongu appended to their name. Our destination was a modest home hotel UBM Namma Veetu Saappadu on Konnathur Road in Perendurai which has found its unique spot on the Food Map of India. They serve 20 non vegetarian dishes true to its name Namma (our) Veetu (home) Saappaadu (multi course meal) prepared in their home kitchen by the owners.
After a nearly missed turn from the highway, Google Maps safely guided us to the doorstep of UBM. It is a modest home in the countryside off a not so wide state highway. The slow and peaceful pace of life in the area seems to come alive in the afternoons when swanky cars and bikes from far flung areas head to UBM. The food is prepared and served in the house of Karunaivel and Swarnalakshmi an amiable couple who appear to be on the other side of 50. They have been running a canteen for years in a local saw mill until they decided to start off a eatery at their own place. With about 50 guests on weekdays to 100+ on weekends their hands are full. While Karunaivel personally supervises the ingredients; Swarnalakshmi takes charge of the cooking from their modest kitchen.
The lunch was supposed to be special with 20 different items of meat and poultry but what made it extra special was that it was being prepared by the couple who do not eat what they cook since they are strict vegetarians. I was curious, I was intrigued !!
The banana leaves were laid out on the cement tables with a smooth finish. 2 large leaves that covered the entire table was to serve 4 people. The food was served by the couple and rice was clearly like a side dish in the melee of it all. I shared my table with Anjali and her 2 grown up kids who I was meeting for the first time in the foodie meet. After a while, the banana leaf lost most of its colour to the variety of items and turned out to be how earth would appear from space :). We dived into our meal trying our best to demarcate our areas and servings but gravies like rivers seldom care for borders and boundaries 🙂
The lone vegetarian curry – beetroot fry with coconut was served first followed by a plethora or curries made from chicken, mutton, turkey, pigeon, fish. The mutton appeared in different forms right from on the bone pieces to liver, kidney et al.
This was the first time I was having pigeon and the curry made with chunks of fresh coconut was a mouth watering delight. Everything was prepared fresh and had the raw aroma of ground spices and low in oil content. The home styled biryani had all the ingredients of mace and star aniseed but cooked in local small grained rice it was pretty close to the Dindigul style. After a while, I seriously lost track of what I was having except that everything tasted soft, well cooked and yum. The preparation of the dishes were quite distinctly Kongunadu as I have discussed earlier with fried shallots, ginger and chilly ground to a paste and combined with pepper, sesame, coconut and roasted turmeric to name a few.
Somewhere in the middle of it all they served Fish fry and deep fried chicken legs. The owner came around with a large bowl to serve chicken legs and insisted on personally feeding it to some of the guests with some hilarious moments of course.
After all the spice the sweet gulkhand was more than welcome. Surprisingly curd was served right after the gulkhand and we were encouraged to have it together. The lunch is rounded up with a serving of rasam after which the leaves are carefully folded into newspapers and thrown into a pit within their premises.
The lady of the house Swarnalakshmi dressed impeccably in her starched cotton saree, kindly posed for me and also mentioned that UBM is the initial of her 3 kids Uma, Bhubaneshwar, Maheshwar and she is proud and happy to do this everyday; it is their form of service. Anything cooked and served with a broad smile will always be tasty !!
Priced at 550/- this meal is an unique experience; which every foodie must experience at least once if presented with the opportunity. I love to have my meal slow and steady, allowing the aromas to immerse into my senses; devouring every morsel. Given the crowd, this was a slightly rushed meal but nevertheless an experience that I will relish in the years to come. Thanks to Girish Ramanathan and Devesh Agarwal of Foodies in Bangalore2 who organized this exceptional foodie journey into the heartland of Kongunadu (Western Tamilnadu – Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Tiruppur and surrounding areas)