Eating With Our Hands From Banana Leaves At Kerala Kitchen
So you’ve done the hotel brunch, popular family café and much talked about burger joint – but there’s so much more to Dubai’s culinary scene that’s as diverse and multicultural as the city itself. Our superstar foodie contributor Fiona Archibold coaxed us to join her brood and try a family lunch in Karama – the promise of authentic, delicious and very affordable food too irresistible to turn down – we jumped on the metro (much better than getting stuck in traffic plus for the kids the adventure started the minute we stepped foot into the air-conditioned station) and had a wonderfully memorable experience and a yummy lunch too. Our chosen lunch spot? Kerala Kitchen – a truly authentic representation of the fragrant spiced food of the South Indian state, served on banana leaves – yes mamas this was one time that the kids were actually encouraged to get stuck in with their fingers!
What’s On The Menu?
We had a very quick look at the menu (having already made up our minds about trying the Kerala Kitchen Special Ela Sadhya (available only on Fridays and Saturdays – a selection of traditional Keralan dishes served on a banana leaf) and noticed an assortment of Keralan, Indian and Chinese dishes from traditionally baked breads to Biryani, curry to fried rice and a mix of seafood, chicken, mutton and vegetarian options . With 4 adults and 5 children (aged 5 and under) at the table, we ordered 5 of the specials plus chicken noodles for the kids just in case they weren’t quite as enthusiastic about the authentic stuff as we were.
Within minutes of ordering banana leaves were placed in front of us all (much to the amusement of the kids who couldn’t quite work out whether this ‘yes you eat with your hands off a leaf’ thing was another of mamas weird windups. The waiter sensed that the littles were getting fidgety and brought over a heap of poppadums to crunch into while waiting which kept them very happy until huge pots of curry, rice, dhal and other sadhya dishes were brought around and served directly onto each leaf, creating a sort of artists easel of colours and flavours. The main dish is rice (red or white) around which pickles, curries and yoghurt dishes are placed in a very specific order.
The kiddos chicken noodles were also served onto their leaves – and the feast began – all of us scooping food with our right hands into our mouths as gracefully as we could (with the littles clearly much better at it given their usual aversion to cutlery). Each little taster on the leaf was bursting with flavor, from delicately spiced dhal to pineapple and coconut curry, yoghurt with cucumber, tamarind chutney and a spicier pickle with raw mango, lemon and ginger (which my 16 month old got her little hand into before I had tested the spice, causing a few tears and the need for a few more poppadums!) The dishes came round over and over again so if there was anything that needed topping up (and there was still room in the tum), the waiters did so with a huge smile. After mains, a sweet dish made with coconut milk, sugar and rice – similar to a rice pudding – was served up in cups and devoured by all the kids.
Everything we had the pleasure of tasting was utterly scrummy and wonderfully presented on bright green leaves. Portions are really decent too so there’s no chance of going hungry – and there wasn’t endless waiting around as all of the dishes are pre-prepared and ready to be served as the weekend special – a huge bonus when eating out with kids. Don’t expect bells and whistles here, the interior is simple but clean and totally packed to the rafters with all sorts of people from families to students enjoying a good meal out – the simplicity of the restaurant is part of its charm and what it lacks in gorgeous furniture it makes up for with atmosphere and experience.
Huge thumbs up too for the restaurant staff who were smiley and helpful and totally patient when the children decided to explore (raid the poppadum stash) and when the youngest had her mini melt-down (quite literally after shoveling spicy pickle into her mouth). It was fab also to show the kids a completely different side to Dubai and not the usual kids menu food in our regular haunts – plus an unforgettable experience and so much fun to all tuck in with our hands.
Kerala Kitchen really does what it says on the tin – authentic Keralan food (slight shame that there were a few Western dishes on the menu but then I guess that’s just a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of our city). The metro is about a 15 minute walk (with slow kids) so we did get hot en route and the traffic can be a complete nightmare so driving isn’t always a better option.
Yes, the space if fairly small but they’re very happy for mamas to come in with pushchairs and will help you find space at the front to park your buggy in. Being on street level means its super easy to wheel in and out.
Yes – comfy old school ones with trays – on which a banana leaf was promptly placed!
No but there’s plenty that kids can eat (even teenies or the unadventurous could have rice with a little dhal or the chicken noodles that ours tried).
Cheap, cheap, cheap!! Our bill (for 4 adults and 5 children) came to just over AED 140. Yes, you read that right mamas!
11am – 11.55pm daily (traditional Keralan Sadhya only available on Fridays and Saturdays)
Opposite Zabeel Park, between Sana Fashion and Lulu Hypermarket in Karama
Tel: (+971) (0)800 557 (800 KKR)