By Ramya Manoj
Brightly coloured former house near Calicut beach, now a restaurant is home to one of the authentic Mappila (Keralan Muslim) dishes you can get in town.
If you are expecting an air conditioned restaurant with charming tableware and classy interiors you’ll probably be a bit disappointed, but I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed by the food! Calicut is nicely placed in the central region of Malabar. The food in the region has greatly been influenced by Arab traders and Mappila dishes are a great example of this.
This restaurant is run by Zainabi, or Zainathatha as she is fondly known, and her husband Noor Mohammed. What started as a small home business by the enterprising Zainabi has been up and running for more than two decades; the main helpers being her husband and daughter. It has become so popular that she has had to hire staff in the recent years, whom she has trained. Now she supervises them in the preparation of the dishes. In a place like Calicut where there is an eatery in every nook and cranny it’s hard to be competitive, but a woman has found her niche and has been very successful indeed!
You would be surprised to see that there is no menu card in the restaurant, whatever snacks are prepared are displayed in a glass cabinet from which you can choose. There is lunch and dinner service for which you can choose Biriyani- the best in town, Ghee rice, Nice pathiri (very thin rice flatbreads), chicken masala, fish dishes, chicken/mutton stew etc.
Zains’ specialities are their snacks:
Unnakaya (boiled and mashed banana stuffed with eggs, sugar and grated coconut and then fried), erachi pathiri (fried rice flat bread stuffed with meat), koyiada (savoury stuffed meat/chicken pockets), pazham nirachathu (whole banana filled with grated coconut, sugar and slow cooked on the griddle), arikadukka (fried stuffed mussels), kozhi nirachathu (deep fried whole chicken stuffed with eggs and onion masala), chatti pathiri (a sweet dish made of sugar, flour and eggs layers with raisins & cashew nuts) , kilikoodu (multi layered snack similar to scotch egg), meen pathiri( steamed rice pancakes filled with fish), muttamala (dessert made of egg yolk and sugar), samosa( fried dish filled with meat/veg), cutlet (croquette made of meat/fish/veg), the list goes on…
Holy month of Ramzan (Ramadan) is a special time for the restaurant as they offer over 35 varieties of dishes for people who come to open the fast. There is even a prayer room if anybody wants to use the facility.
Bear in mind that it can get very busy during the evenings and in order to avoid disappointment be there early. On street parking is available but limited.
Next time you are in Calicut make sure you visit Zain’s for an authentic flavour of Malabar Mappila food.
Zain’s Hotel, Convent Cross Road, Near Fire Station, Calicut 673032. Phone: 0495 2366311
Zain’s have opened a branch in Dubai. Below is the address.
42 Kuwait Street, Dubai Phone: 00971 4335 7171