Is there a film about Lord Shiva
Eat like Lord Shiva in France: Le Dupleix in Pondicherry
After visiting Pondicherry during my #YouWanderWePay adventure, I received even more diet ads on Facebook than usual - thanks to the numerous posts with photos of culinary delicacies. In fact, my French co-blogger Ami and I spent a good part of our three days in the former capital of French India eating. Finally, one of our missions was to find out to what extent the cuisine in Pondicherry is influenced by the legacy of the French colonial rulers and whether there is any real French-Indian fusion cuisine. Anyone who has read my article on India Someday's blog knows the result.
Pondicherry and especially the French quarter with its stately colonial buildings and pretty little cafes wrapped me around my little finger so much that I had to come back again. I spent a whole week in Pondicherry this time. And I have to revise my statement. I actually found it after all, a French-Indian cuisine that deserves the “Fusion Food” label. Thanks to an invitation to the restaurant of the colonial hotel “Le Dupleix” and the insights that Prabhu Dhananjayam, the chef de la cuisine, gave me into the kitchen of the traditional house.
Le Dupleix - colonial architecture mixed with Indian architecture
Before I can convince myself of Prabhu’s cooking skills, I get a tour of the hotel. The Le Dupleix is not only one of the oldest hotels in Pondicherry - it is now one of the top addresses for everyone who likes stylish boutique hotels with atmosphere. The 190 year old building breathes history on every corner. Even when you step through the old wooden gate into the beautiful inner courtyard, you can easily imagine how the French governor Dupleix, after whom the hotel is named, and his generals spend the evening with a cigar and red wine after a feudal meal with Coq au Vin have let the end.
The renovation of the house was inspired by the building skills of the Tamil craftsmen of the 18th century and great importance was attached to preserving as much of the original as possible. This includes not only the “Chettinad Egg Plaster”, a paste made from egg white, yogurt and lime juice that was used to plaster the walls, but also the many woodwork. For example, many of the wood carvings come from the governor's residence on Nehru Street, a five-minute walk from Le Dupleix - a prime example of Franco-Indian wood art. The rooms are a dream - I would love to spend the night in one of the four-poster beds and in the morning sip my tea on one of the chaise longues on the veranda and greet the new day.
Pondicherry Fusion Food - French recipes, Indian spices
But now it's time to eat first. And before that, take a look at the Governor’s Lounge and the well-stocked bar. It's nice and cool here, but as a fresh air fanatic I prefer to sit outside even when it's humid 32 degrees. And the governor didn't have air conditioning back then either! Le Dupleix's restaurant is best known for its Friday lobster special. The red animals with the long legs primarily attract local tourists who come to Pondicherry over the weekend from Chennai with a lot of money in their pockets and have a good time here.
After an excellent starter plate with refined mushrooms coated in cornflakes and shrimps wrapped in ham, I choose seafood. After all, we're at the sea. Prabhu, the Chef de la Cuisine, recommends the “Le Dupleix House Grill”, a platter with Masala Tawa Squid, Cajun Prawn, Chutney Wale Snapper, with butter rice and Missi Roti. An excellent choice - everything tender, fresh and juicy at the same time, maybe a touch too much flavor for western palates. Even after six weeks in India, the masala tingles on the tongue. A nice drop of Chilean red wine - I feel like God in France. Or should I rather say like Lord Shiva in France? The Hindu god is more fond of mind-expanding ganja, but I could imagine he would also enjoy the excellent food at Le Dupleix.
I would like to know from Prabhu what makes the kitchen at Le Dupleix so special. When creating his dishes, Prabhu always has one maxim: preserve the local taste of Pondicherry, its freshness, its spices, and combine this with French recipes and preparation methods. There are classic French dishes on the menu, such as Coq au Vin, but most of the dishes are an extravagant mix of French cuisine with Indian spices and ingredients. 80 percent of the dishes are French. The others have melodious names such as Razam aux crevettes, Fried Nethili, Poricha Kozhi, for example, turn out to be fried fish with mashed potatoes, but "à l’india", with lots of Indian spices. The recipes all bear Prabhu’s signature. Every morning he goes to the wholesale market himself. Freshness is the be-all and end-all of his purchases, not just with fish, but also with vegetables and herbs. You can taste it, unfortunately I'm already fed up with the delicious starter, so I struggle a little with the large portion of my grill plate. But of course there is still room for dessert. I choose a fresh, fruity lemon sorbet, although the crème caramel of my companion also laughs at me.
My conclusion: Excellent French cuisine with Indian flavor in a colonial flair
Should I end up in Pondicherry again, which I think is quite likely, I will definitely pay another visit to Le Dupleix. There is still a lot to try on the menu, which, by the way, is recreated every four months to take into account seasonal features. And head chef Prabhu knows his stuff. He has been cooking his way around the world for over 17 years. He got to know western cuisine as a cook on a cruise ship in the Caribbean and refined it in London. Maybe next time I'll try the “Brandy Infused Chicken Skewer” or the “Signature Smoked Chicken”, which is marinated in tea before grilling. Or maybe the Methi Malai Jinga Kebab with Mint Chutney? Too many options, as is so often the case in India ...
* Many thanks to Le Dupleix for the invitation. The text reflects my own opinion.
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