The Cuisine of Kerala
Kerala is often affectionately referred to as “God’s Own Country”, and this moniker is well deserved. This enchanting Indian state sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats of India, is a paradise of pristine beaches and overwhelmingly lush greenery. You only need to glance at a satellite map of India to see that it is by far the greenest part of the country! Just one visit to this beautiful land plunges you into a utopia so vivid and fascinating that you will keep coming back for more.
Many think idli-sambhar-dosa is the only food available here. My, how they are mistaken! The traditional Malayali cuisine of Kerala is a blend of indigenous dishes and foreign tastes: it represents an exquisite convergence of European, Arab and Malabar culture, and is an undeniable treat for you palette. There is a plethora of mouthwatering dishes to try, which you will not find anywhere else. A meal or sadya is traditionally served on a banana leaf and eaten with your fingers, and this in itself is quite an experience–slightly messy, very liberating and a whole lot of fun!
If you are a foodie and want to experience the typical local food, stop by at a “thatakudda” (street vendor) or a “kallu shop” (toddy shop). They serve some of the most delectable food. Some of their recipes are an embodiment of the rich history of their communities, handed down from generation to generation.
Here are some of the traditional Kerala dishes that we recommend you try:
- Thalassery Biryani:
This is one of the most popular dishes in the state. Biryani is a traditionally Mughlai dish: an exotic blend of slow-cooked rice and spices. The version you will find in Kerala comes from the quaint fishing town of Thalassery, and has a strong Malabar influence. It is not made using Basmati rice, instead a short-grained and thin variety of rice called Jeerakasala is used which adds to its distinct texture. The right blend of spices adds to the heady aroma. The main ingredients used to cook this fragrant dish are rice, chicken, onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and a generous amount of ghee (traditional Indian clarified butter). But with the right, calculated addition of coconut, cinnamon, cloves or saffron, Thalassery Biryani will definitely leave you salivating for more.
A parotta is a form of layered flat bread made of maida flour. They are different from the typical North-Indian parathas, but comparable to a lachcha paratha. A malabar parotta is an ineluctable dish for Malayalis and goes especially well with a beef fry or chicken curry. The parottas from roadside shops taste way better than what you get at high-end restaurants!
This is a popular breakfast dish in Kerala made of rice flour and coconut. The ground rice flour is layered with grated coconut, rolled into a cylindrical shape, and then steamed. It is usually served with chickpea curry or bananas (the small, yellow kind indigenous to the state). Puttu is one of the tastiest breakfast dishes in Kerala.
- Nadan chilli beef:
This is a meat-lover’s delight, with its spicy, piquant flavour. It is truly finger-licking good. The beef is cooked in freshly ground spices, sautéed onions and coconut. This dish is hot, spicy and full of flavour!
- Kappa and Fish curry:
For a long time kappa (tapioca) used to be the staple diet of the poor in Kerala. Now, it is a favourite delicacy for many. The traditional Kappa preparation, with its unique blend of spices and simple preparation, is a comfort food. Its flavour and taste is only magnified when it is served with authentic Kerala style fish curry.