This recipe for Thiele (tiny shrimp stir fry) comes from our friend Chef Manoj Nair. He is Executive Chef and GM at CGH Earth’s Brunton Boatyard Heritage Hotel, Kochi.
We first met him on our research trip in 2016 and then again when we returned with one of Karen’s cuisine and culture tours in 2018. He has a warmth that radiates and a competency that keeps him cool. We wanted to learn more about him and, in getting to know him better, we also hoped he might share a favourite recipe.
More about Chef Nair
Chef Nair attended culinary school in Bangalore in 2001. He worked in Dubai for three years followed by eight years in the United Kingdom. The U.K. had its benefits but, in the end, the lure of his lush homeland drew him back. He loves Kochi and living on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
After four years cooking at The Malabar House, one of India’s few Relais et Chateaux properties and another of our Kochi favourites, he was hired by the CGH Earth Experience Hotels (CGH). His favourite thing about CGH is “they implement the concepts they conceive.”
The hotel group goes to great lengths to grow or source organic ingredients and chef is very happy to have found a local pesticide-free grower, Aroma Fresh. Other CGH hotels have their own organic gardens. Nair envies them that but in the meantime, he supports Aroma Fresh and also makes regular field trips to the Swaminathan Research Institute in Wayanad. “It’s an NGO that does research on spices and supports farmers. This is the way forward.”
Chef Manoj Nair’s recipe for Thiele
When we asked chef his favourite Indian food he smiled and gave a resounding thumbs up to Pork Vindaloo. “It’s from Goa and was a recipe invented for sailors. The mustard in it stabilized the meat in transit and the flavour of the spices reigns supreme.”
And finally, yes! When we asked chef for a quick and easy recipe he would make for his wife on a day off, he shared this shrimp recipe called Thiele (pronounced TEAL). It comes together so quickly, all you need is a great bread vehicle like appams, naan, or paratha to deliver it to your mouth.
Note: We realize cooks outside of Kerala may not be able to find the exact tiny shrimp that chef Nair uses. We suggest using the smallest ones you can find. As with most Indian dishes, it’s the flavour of the spices that’s the star of the dish.
Thanks to the KTM Society and Travel XS for sponsoring our travel throughout South India in 2016. Thanks to CGH Brunton Boatyard for their gracious hospitality during our Faces, Places and Plates stay in Kochi in 2016. And special thanks to chef Nair for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us and share a recipe.
All words and photos are our own and were not shared with the sponsors before publication.