Mallu Cafe is the kind of international nook many Northeast residents likely drive by often without ever taking notice.

Marked by a nondescript sign, it's wedged into an awkwardly angled strip mall with hardly any parking between an Indian market and a bank.

Even if you peek inside this humble little room, you might wonder what's going on. There are just a dozen seats, but there's a wall of warming boxes to accommodate the brisk take-out business that occupies most of the kitchen's efforts. For those searching for genuine Indian flavors, and especially the distinctive cuisine of Kerala in South India, this is a key address to know.

Kerala, home to India's largest Christian population, is one of the few places where beef plays a prominent role. And the beef ulathiyathu, also known as "beef fry," is a must-order dish - the meat cooked in a moderately spiced dry gravy aromatic with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and so many dried coconut chips the coconut literally dissolves into shreds that cloak the cubes of tender flesh.

Order some amazingly flaky and layered porotta flatbread on the side, perfect for wrapping that beef (and chunks of delicious, coconut-stewed chicken Varutharacha curry) into irresistible pita-style bites.

- Craig LaBan
Beef ulathiyathu, $9.99, and Kerala porotta, $1.99, Mallu Cafe, 10181 Verree Rd., 215-673-6732;