TN Farms to NYC, Chef Takes Rural Cuisine to Only South Indian Michelin Star Restaurant

Semma receives michelin star

Semma in New York City has received a Michelin Star this year. Run by hospitality group Unapologetic Foods' Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya, it is known for its regional south Indian cuisine.

Semma, which is a colloquial Tamil word for awesome or superb, probably best describes the mood in this New York City restaurant that received its first Michelin star this week. Situated in the West Village, Semma is currently the only Michelin-starred South Indian restaurant in the city, as per Bon Appetit. 

The Michelin guide announced the list for 2022 on October 6. The year-old restaurant is run by hospitality group Unapologetic Foods Roni Mazumdar and chef Chintan Pandya. It is headed by Chef Vijay Kumar, who specialises in regional, rural South Indian cuisine.  

 Semma celebrates South Indian cuisine with delicacies like kudal varuval (goat intestines), meen pollichathu (fish), nandu masala (crab), nathai pirattal (snail), and of course, Dindigul biryani, dosas and pesarattu.

These dishes are something that Kumar grew up eating in Natham, Dindigul. It also uses Ponni rice, which is grown in Tamil Nadu.

The Nathai pirattal is a tribute to Kumar’s grandmother.

“We have a lot of rice farms [back home]. We would visit her during the holidays in her village (near Madurai) and would go hunting or foraging for snails in the fields — that was our entertainment. My grandmother used to make such an amazing gravy out of snails. That was a unique dish,” said Kumar to Mint. 

Speaking about his restaurant venture abroad, Kumar told the New York Times, “We are completely focusing on true southern Indian food, exactly how we grew up eating it back home.”

They aim to truly represent Indian cuisine.

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“Though there have been some good Indian restaurants here, there is nothing that is truly representative of our cuisine’s regionality and depth. We are here to tell the real story of India. A lot of these recipes are being forgotten, even in India,” said Roni to the Hindu.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

Sources
‘This ls the Full List of NYC Restaurants That Kept, Earned, or Lost Michelin Stars in 2022’ by Nico Avalle for Bon Appetit, Published on 06 October 2022
‘South Indian Food That Goes Back to Its Roots, at Semma’ by Pete Wells for The New York Times, Published on 10 January 2022
‘Manhattan tastes rural Tamil cuisine’ by Shonali Muthalaly for The Hindu, Published on 10 November 2021
‘How a South Indian restaurant in New York honours its roots’ by Preeti Zachariah for Mint Lounge, Published on 31 January 2022

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