Mainly Malayalee

Servings of traditional Malayalee vegetarian and
non-vegetarian dishes at Pavietra
Looking back to his childhood in Kota Tinggi, Sankuny Kunjan better known as SK, fondly recalls the home-cooked dishes that his four aunts used to prepare using fresh spices that were pounded in the traditional mortar and pestle or ground by an old-fashioned batu giling stone roller-grinder.  With a hobby in food, SK still cooks these family favourites for his daughters, aged 5 and 14, in traditional recipes on weekends.  To share the unique flavours in Malayalee cuisine with others, SK opened Pavietra Family Restaurant that serves mainly Malayalee favourites in his family recipes.

Facade of Pavietra Family Restaurant along
Jalan Wong Ah Fook
“Our food is 100% MSG free,” said SK, clarifying that different flavours are created with the clever use of various spices.  “We grind our own spices from family recipes to cook our signature fish-head curry,” he added.  This fish-head curry, made with Red Snapper fish, is served with vegetables like ladies fingers and brinjals in a claypot. 

Another popular signature dish is the Claypot Briyani Set in a choice of meats like chicken, mutton, fish, prawn or vegetarian.  The Maharajah Chicken Claypot Briyani is a hot favourite served in a portion of delicious long-grain Basmathi rice that can be shared by two small eaters.  The secret is in the marinated meat, slow-cooked in the claypot and served in the claypot to retain its warmth while diners can savour the meal at leisure.

SK serving their signature claypot
fish head curry
Like any good South Indian restaurant, Pavietra serves traditional Indian breakfast favourites in a variety of breads or roti as well as Hi-Tea snacks in a menu that includes Indian Rojak, tosai, capati, puri and various types of vadai.  For lunch, rice is served with a range of freshly-cooked mouth-watering dishes like Sura Puttu, fish with shredded coconut, Chicken Balado and Fish Balado, fried chicken and a variety of vegetables.

One of the experiences to enjoy here must be a vegetarian Malayalee meal served in a thali, a stainless steel tray with condiments served separately in a row of 11 small steel bowls.  To the uninitiated, this may seem confusing but there is a traditional way to eat from a thali.  SK demonstrated this by first removing the small bowls from the tray and arranging them around the tray in the order in which it was served before starting to eat from the appetizer and working his way through the savouries to end with the sweet!

A serving of Maharajah Claypot Chicken Briyani
The condiments may vary from day to day but you can expect a range that may include resam (spicy soup), sothi (yoghurt with coconut), vegetable curry, sambar (lentil curry), dried chillies, gongguru (salted preserved vegetable), potato peretal, chopped long-beans with beancurd, avaruklea vegetables, chopped bitter gourd and payasam.  There is no right or wrong way to eat the thali set but it makes sense to start with the appetizers and work our way in an orderly fashion to savour eleven varieties of sweet, savoury and spicy dishes with white rice, puri and papadam crisp.

A range of freshly-cooked Malayalee homecooked favourites

A serving of vegetarian food on a thali at Pavietra

The way to eat from a thali is to start with the savoury and end with the sweet!

Diners enjoying a meal at Pavietra Family Restaurant
Pavietra Family Restaurant has separate vegetarian and non-vegetarian Halal kitchens and is located in the heart of the city, at No. 90 Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Johor Baru, just a stone’s throw away from Johor Baru City Square.  Open daily from 7am to 10pm.  For reservations and catering enquiries, Tel: 607 – 221 6488, Fax: 607 – 221 7488.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 17 September 2012

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