Kuzhi mandi made its 'delicious' entry into the cuisine of northern Kerala where biryani remains the undisputed champion of taste and flavour. The foodies of Malabar, who aren't hesitant to try out new dishes, were quick to add mandi to their list of favourite dishes. The dish which has its origins in the Arab region is less greasy than the biryani. With its amazing flavour and unique way of cooking, it didn't take too long for kuzhi mandi to become extremely popular across Kerala.
What's in the name?
Kuzhi mandi got its name as it is cooked in specially made underground stove of circular shape, made with mud bricks. The wood of the tamarind tree is excellent to make the fire in this underground stove. The rice could be half cooked in a separate stove by the time the wood in the underground stove is burned into charcoal. Cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom and shallots are added to make the rice fragrant and flavoursome. Long grained basmati rice is ideal to make the delicious kuzhi mandi.
When the charcoal is hot and ready, a chembu (huge vessel) full of half cooked rice is inserted into the underground stove. The marinated chicken is then cooked on grille which is placed over the rice in the chembu. The stove is then closed tightly with an iron lid. It takes a good two hours for the rice and the chicken to get cooked properly. The chicken gets tender and its juices drip into the rice, turning it flavoursome and delicious.
Other than the cooking juices of the chicken which drip into the perfectly cooked rice, extra fat, oil or ghee isn't added into it. When the rice and the chicken are cooked, four people need to raise the grille first and then the huge vessel is pulled up by attaching iron rods to the hooks on the sides of it. The rice needs to be mixed well, so that the flavour of the chicken juices is equally distributed. Rice is spread on a serving dish and the chicken is placed in the centre. Chicken is preferable served whole.
Kuzhi mandi doesn't have an overpowering flavour of spices; neither is it too greasy or oily. The subtle flavours and the unique texture of the dish unravel an extraordinary culinary delight on our pallets. Spicy tomato chutney and creamy mayonnaise are the perfect accompaniments for a plate of piping hot kuzhi mandi. Since it doesn't contain too much oil or ghee and the chicken is grilled, kuzhi mandi is healthier than lots of other Arabic dishes.