As my culinary extravaganza comes to an end we took one final day trip to the city of Pondicherry which is located 3 hours south of Chennai. It is a costal town known for its beautiful beaches that attract visitors from around the world. France ruled Pondicherry (the name for the region) on and off from 1674, alternating with the Dutch and English due to political disputes, until 1816 when it started its last rule that ended in 1954 when Pondicherry became part of India, seven years after the country was formed. 

 

I noticed the French influence right away in the architecture of many of the old buildings. In the downtown section near the beach, the buildings run continuously down the block with high garden walls and elaborate wrought iron gates, balconies with iron brackets, white painted columns built into the walls and wooden shutters. Many of these buildings have been restored and painted with bright colors while others appear to be waiting their turn for facelifts.
 

Street scene in Pondicherry that shows a definite French influence.

Street scene in Pondicherry that shows a definite French influence.

 

We toured the Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community that attracts people from around the world. The facility is beautiful and serene with the most beautiful gardens in the courtyard. Built in the 1920s, Sri Aurobindo led the ashram until his death; Mirra Alfassa continued in his footsteps. Very close to the city is an experimental town, Auroville, built in the 1960s by Mirra Alfassa (called “Mother”) with the mission to be a place where all people could live in harmony.
 

Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry is a popular tourist attraction.

Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry is a popular tourist attraction.

 

We had a lovely lunch sitting under the awning in the courtyard dining area at Le Club, the first French restaurant in Pondicherry. The menu includes Indian, French and Italian entrees. I don’t know why but we ordered Indian items: Pondicherry fish cutlets, Hyderabad Chicken Curry and Chicken Pulao. This restaurant caters to tourists who want international cuisine and offers a good, filling meal.
 

Entrance to Le Club, a French and international cuisine restaurant, in Pondicherry.

Entrance to Le Club, a French and international cuisine restaurant, in Pondicherry.

 

This was a very nice trip. I would like to go back sometime to spend more time.

 

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Pondicherry (a city in Tamil Nadu, India) cuisine is a fascinating blend of Indian spices and French techniques. I encountered it when I visited the area earlier this year. Since the food was absolutely delicious and unique I decided that featuring a recipe based on Pondicherry cuisine would be a wise decision for my recipe of the month. So, the recipe for August is my version of Pouillabaisse the Pondicherry version of Bouillabaisse.

 

Pondicherry cuisine makes Pouillabaisse a delicious Indian fusion recipe.

Pondicherry cuisine makes Pouillabaisse a delicious Indian fusion recipe.

 

My recipe is a combination of the traditional Bouillabaisse from Marsailles, France and one from Pondicherry. I found the two interestingly similar and different at the same time. In the French version, one creates a rich broth and then adds the seafood before serving. In the Pondicherry version the seasonings and seafood are cooked first before water is added to make the broth. The French version has very few vegetables in the final product whereas many vegetables are added with the seafood. In both cases, they are very delicately and richly seasoned for a delicious meal.

 

I hope you enjoy my recipe for Pondicherry Pouillabaisse.

 

How did Pondicherry cuisine come about?

You might ask how Pondicherry cuisine became fused with French techniques. Since Pondicherry had been conquered by many different nations in its long and colorful history, it is not surprising that some of the dominating cultures remained after the colonists left. Since France ruled for off and on for centuries until Pondicherry became part of India in 1954, it had the opportunity to become deeply engrained.

 

Unfortunately this cuisine is not very well known outside of this city as it has been passed down through generations of local Pondicherry families and restaurants.

 

What makes Pondicherry cuisine unique?

The most distinctive feature is in the sauce. They are prepared in a French way over low heat with herbs as well as Indian spices often using cream. The flavors are well matched and refined in contrast to a traditional curry. Pondicherry cuisine also employs cooking techniques that are not often used in Indian cooking like baking and grilling.

 

Other features include the frequent use of fresh seafood in the recipes due to its location right on the Bay of Bengal. Not only is seafood used but it is used in combination, such as shrimp and fish, to give unique tastes in each bite. Potatoes are found not only in various dishes but are served alone as French fries and mashed potatoes.

 

If you enjoy my recipe for Pouillabaisse, I strongly recommend you purchase The Pondicherry Kitchen by Lourdes Tirouvanziam-Louis in which she documented traditional Pondicherry recipes from her family and others.
 

Don’t forget to try my Pondicherry Pouillabaisse recipe!


 Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

 

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Pondicherry cuisine at first glance looks very similar to that of its neighboring South Indian states, however, the techniques, ingredients and spices brought to this region when it was a French colony have fused with the local approach to create an entirely unique Indian fusion cuisine.

 

In researching Pondicherry recipes, I noticed that many of them have the same names as many of my family’s recipes. The difference lies in the ingredients and some of the steps. The resulting taste is different and, perhaps, a bit more subtle and refined. Other recipes appear to be French in origin but have integrated Indian spices. A third group includes those that have incorporated signature French components into them. The simplest way to explain Pondicherry cuisine is to say it is Indian food with a French twist.

 

Some of the key differences from South Indian cuisine include:
 

  • Curries seem more like sauces in which the ingredients are finely integrated into the overall taste. Some curries have a creamier texture and include more herbs and traditional French ingredients (wine, cream, mustard, etc.)
  • Fish and seafood play a major role in this cuisine and are often used together. Fish is often cooked in the French style with Indian flavors.
  • Coconut is widely used, whereas tomato and cardamom are not often used.
  • French baguettes are often served with curries instead of rice.

Cookbooks on Pondicherry cuisine include recipes that originated in other regions of India or were influence by other countries. I found a version of Dodol, from Goa (influenced by the Portuguese), as well as Malabar Fish Curry, from Kerala.

 

Overall I think the food in Pondicherry, like other regions of India, has benefitted by the fusion of local and foreign influences. It provides a broader range of culinary options for our taste buds.

 

My Recipe of the Month for August will feature a Pondicherry specialty…..

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.