Close your eyes and imagine Kerala. What do you see? Simple, welcoming people, swaying coconut palms, strong sun, lazy backwaters, Chinese fishing nets, rubber plantations, elephant sanctuaries, and even tea gardens. Kerala as they like to say, is God’s own country. It’s cuisine, then, should logically follow that narrative. Like any cuisine, it is influenced heavily by its geography, history and demography. From the Malabari Thalassery Biryani perfect by the Malabari muslim community in the north, to the beef stews that the Syrian Christians in central Kerala excel in, the heavy influence of Tamilian cooking in the Palakkad region and the special vegan cuisine of the Kerala Brahmins, the Kerala cuisine is an interesting amalgamation of flavours, spices and cooking styles. For travelers and foodies, it translates into a lot of unique food to try, so make a list and tick it off!
A banana leaf meal served during festivals such as Onam and Vishu, the Kerala Sadya is a vegetarian meal of multiple courses complete with condiments and dessert. A typical sadya includes sambhar, parippu, aviyal, kaalan, pachadi, thoran, olan, puliinji, papad, more, pickle, banana and paayasam. Phew!
Soft, fluffy appams with mildly flavoured vegetable or chicken/mutton stew or sweetened coconut milk is a favourite Malayali breakfast. We, of course, can have it for any course in any meal.
Fine, noodle-like idiyappam is a breakfast item made of steamed rice flour, and typically eaten with sweetened coconut milk or a spicy, hot curry.
4.Puttu and Kadala Curry
Puttu is steamed cylindrical rice cake occasionally filled with grated coconut. Kadala curry made of black chickpeas is what puttu should be eaten with.
Originating in the northern part of the state, this Malabari version of Biryani has a distinct mughlai-arab influence. Made with a shorter kaima rice grain, it uses the dum method of cooking and can be made with either chicken or mutton.
6.Kappa and Fish Curry
Tapoica or Kappa, abundant in Kerala, is boiled, smashed and spiced and usually served with red hot fish curry. Totally must-have if fish is on your mind.
7.Cochin Fish Curry
We like it when cities come up with their own versions of dishes – Cochin’s version of fish curry made with coconut milk and spices is a must-have. Team this thick gravy with boiled rice or roti.
Kappa Biryani is a delicious combination of Kappa (Yuca or tapioca) and Erachi (Beef). Kottayam Style Kappayerachi is especially popular. Cooked Tapioca and beef are simmered in a paste of fried coconut and spices to make the Kappa biryani a versatile dish – have it as an entire Meal or a Side Dish or an evening Snack.
Fish is covered with spices, coconut cream and wrapped in a plantain leaf before being steamed to make Meen Pollichatu a unique fish preparation from Kerala.
When teamed with Kerala Parotas, this spicy beef starter, is almost like every non-veg eating Malayali’s comfort food. Beef pieces are cooked in freshly ground spices and sauteed with onions and coconut slices to impart a rich, aromatic flavour. This is what they call Thattukada, Kerela’s version of street-side fast food.
A Malabari snack prepared by deep frying stuffed mussels with rice flour and spices. Seafood for the snacking soul!
Wafer thin sliced, deep-fried bananas – these are almost symbolic of food from Kerala. Crispy and slightly salted, the problem with them is that you can rarely stop munching them.
13.Jack Fruit Chips
These Keralites love their chips. Another variation is made with with finely sliced, mildly salted jackfruit that is deep fried in coconut oil.
Known by different names like Pazham Pori, Ettakka Appam, this is an evening snack prepared by deep frying batter-coated ripe bananas. Did we say they use banana in all forms and ways?
Dessert from Kerala looks like this – white rice dough stuffed with a sweet mix of coconut and jaggery, placed in a plantain leaf and steamed to perfection.
Roasted rice powder mixed with cumin seeds and jaggery. Sometimes moulded into fine balls or eaten as such. A perfectly healthy tea time snack.
Payasam is an important item in the Kerala sadya. It is a versatile dessert which can be made with different ingredients and flavours. The common base is rice, sugar and milk but it can include dal, vermicelli, jaggery and cardamom. Usually served with dry fruits such as cashews, raisins and almonds. A bit like the north-indian kheer.
Unnakaya is a dessert made by stuffing sweetened coconut, raisins, cardamom into steamed and smashed banana, and then deep frying this creation in ghee. A common Malabari dessert.
Cochin’s own recipe to beat the heat – a refreshing drink made by shaking lime, ice cubes, basil seeds and nannari syrup together. Carts serving Kuluki sarbath are a common sight in the city.
Kerala’s version of the iced gola, perfect for beach bums. Grated ice mixed with pickle, peanuts, dry fruits and chana dal. A sweetened option is also available. When on the Kerala beaches, do as the Mallus do!