Kuttanadan serves some of the best Indian food in Queens and Long Island

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Manhattan’s big-ticket openings like Dhamaka and Sona have been gaining attention lately, and indeed, these places are very good at revealing aspects of Indian cuisine that the city has never seen before. But a more obscure restaurant opened during the pandemic that’s just as good and just as unique. Named after a coastal region known for its rivers, rice paddies and monsoons, Kuttanadan focuses on the food of the state of Kerala, located in the far southwest of the country.

The interior of Kuttandan is covered with posters of the Malabar Coast.

There were at least three previous restaurants featuring Kerala dishes, but not so comprehensively, on the border of eastern Queens and Long Island: Taste of Cochin, Five Star Indian Cuisine, and Kerala Kitchen. Last July, Kuttanadan appeared on the Bellerose, Long Island, on the Jericho Turnpike side near 248th Street, while across the street is the Queens area of ​​Floral Park.

Once known as the legendary Malabar Coast – an Arabic name for a major destination in the spice trade for centuries – Kerala’s food shows Portuguese influences, as evidenced by sardine fry ($ 10). I had never seen sardines in an Indian restaurant before. These are fresh like an ocean breeze, cut off the sides, flame grilled into a crispy char, and presented six per plate in all their impeccable simplicity – an incredible seafood offering anywhere in New York. York.

Six small fish cut on the sides and blackened by the flame.

A plate of grilled sardines

Indeed, a large portion of Kuttanadan’s menu is devoted to fresh seafood, most of which is presented simply, including grilled mackerel, king fish curry, prawn fry, fish peea (pieces of fish mixed with grated coconut) and mango and mackerel curry (in a chili-laced coconut and fruit paste). The use of seafood might not come as a surprise in a seaside region, but the menu’s large portions devoted to pork and beef, two meats missing from many Indian restaurants, are an unexpected revelation.

The reason for this ban is the combined influences of Hinduism, for which the cow is considered sacred, and Islam, which avoids pork in diets. But the influence of traders and colonialists in the Middle East and Europe made the consumption of these meats a long established practice. Additionally, an 18% Christian minority has traditionally been allowed these meats, and there was once a Sephardic Jewish population that could eat beef but not pork. A recent cattle slaughter ban has met with pro-beef protests in the state.

A round aluminum container filled with pork and coconut.

Coconut croissants accentuate the dish called roast pork

A plastic container filled with beef and black pepper.

Beef brisket devil flaunts its crushed black pepper, a spice native to Kerala

But beef and pork still have starring roles at Keralan restaurants in Queens and Long Island. The four pork dishes range from dry-cooked to “lots of gravy,” as our server told us. Dragging a friend whose family is from Karnataka, just north of Kerala, we chose a roast pork ($ 17), a dish that falls halfway on the sauce scale in terms of the amount of sauce. . It contained generous chunks of meat and fat in a chewy sauce swimming in oil, similar to how Sichuan food displays its chili-infused oil. We were impressed to find chewy coconut croissants and the dish had a pleasant ginger flavor.

Other dishes unique to Indian cuisine in New York were in store. My friend and I are both from Texas and we were delighted when the quaintly named Beef Devil ($ 25) turned out to be sliced ​​brisket, and plenty of it. Owner Feban Simon warned us that it is super spicy and burns our tongues, but with black pepper rather than chilies. Black peppercorns are native to the Malabar coast, and according to KT Achaya in Indian cuisine: a historical companion, black pepper was commonly used in a wide variety of recipes to produce a burning sensation in the mouth before the introduction of South American chili peppers to India in the 15th century, possibly by Vasco de Gama.

There are seven entrees involving beef, including beef ularth ($ 20), a stir-fry flavored with green peppers, coconut, and curry leaf. Chef Aneesh Alleppy also offers a Deep South version of biryani with a choice of main ingredients including shrimp, yuca, hard-boiled eggs, lamb and beef, but we chose goat biryani, which is accompanied by rice painted in multiple shades of brown, yellow, and red, sprinkled with yellow raisins and toasted cashews. This was quite one of the best goat biryanis we have ever tasted, and we have tasted a lot.

Goat biryani Kuttanadan Floral Park Keralan

The goat biryani is sprinkled with marrowbones

An amorphous flatbread cradled in aluminum foil.

Fresh Parotta Malabar

There were a lot of other things we didn’t try as there were only two of us: an egg burji (scrambled with garlic, ginger and spices); a sheep vindaloo; an intriguing sounding element identified only as a vegetable stew; and a selection of Indochinese dishes, like fresh gobi, which have become a feature of almost every Indian menu in the city.

And don’t miss the region’s signature bread, called Malabar fresh paratha ($ 2). It had several layers of butter like a croissant, was large in size, and proved to be better than basmati rice as an accompaniment to dishes sometimes without Kuttanadan sauce. But whether you eat beef and pork – or avoid them altogether – there’s a lot to love about Kuttanadan’s chicken, seafood, and vegetarian options.

Note: Due to the pandemic, Kuttanadan currently only allows take out and delivery.


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