Though rare in New York, the bright, tropical flavors of India's Kerala state have surfaced at Kerala Masala Hut on the city's eastern edge. Keralan native charleyabraham reports on Chowhound that the food is true to its roots, "tasty and hot and very much like it was prepared at home." Newcomers to this southern coastal cuisine shouldn't expect tandoor-cooked meats and breads or other northern Indian specialties. In Kerala, charleyabraham says, "everything is rice, rice crêpes, rice dumplings, and coconut derivatives, fired up with a broad range of chiles and spices."
He recommends the Masala Hut Meal (at $10, it's the priciest item on the lunch menu); the dozen or so choices might include fiery fish curry with tamarind, thoran (vegetable sauté), aviyal (vegetable stew with coconut), or fried chicken-potato cutlets. Kachiya moru (yogurt seasoned with chile, garlic, coconut, and mustard) is a Keralan staple (pictured, at the center of the photo). So are pickles; charleyabraham liked the kadumaanga (unripe mango in chile paste) and inchi curry (spicy pickled ginger), which both had "a delightful and uncompromising bite." Traditionally any of these dishes would be rolled into a ball with rice and crumbled pappadam (lentil crisps), then eaten with the hands.
Kerala Masala Hut is a hole in the wall, more catering business than sit-down restaurant. missmasala found much of the menu unavailable on her visit, though what she had was tasty, especially those pickles. She recommends calling ahead to see what's being offered that day.
Kerala Masala Hut [Bellerose]
246-01 Jericho Turnpike (at 246th Street), Bellerose, Queens
Photo by charleyabraham