There’s Indian, in all its resplendent, curried glory. And then there’s Malabar.
Malabar, a spice-scented stretch of fish-loving coast along the southwest border of the Indian peninsula, is the lesser-known cousin to the rest of the subcontinent—at least as far as exposure to the cuisine in this part of the world goes.
It’s an oversight a Toronto restaurant called Maroli Restaurant seeks to address with the (third annual) Malabar Food Festival this weekend.
Malabar, back in its day, was a prominent seaport for explorers making the New World run. As such, its seafood-heavy, delicately flavoured cuisine is inspired by Dutch, British, French, Portuguese and Arab influences.
As for Maroli, a Mirvish Village staple for the past six years, it’s the only Malabari restaurant in Toronto and, enthuses owner Naveen Polapady, quite possibly the country.
For $30, guests get a beverage and an opportunity to sample endlessly from the tastes of Malabar, noted for its abundant use of coconut (meat, oil and milk), mustard seeds and curry leaves. The world’s finest black pepper comes from this northern part of Kerala province.
But fish, really, is where it’s at for Maroli and its self-contained little festival. Try the greenish-yellow seafood curry, meen moilee; or mathi fry, a pan-fried sardine that, says native Malabari Polapady, “is quite unlike anything you’ve eaten before.”
Maroli is at 630 Bloor St. W., and the Malabar Food Festival runs from noon to 10pm on May 1 and May 2.