A trip to Kerala can be more than what one can expect as its recipes take travel to a whole new level. Tasting the local cuisine is an important part of any holiday, and to celebrate the rich heritage of Malayalee fare, include culinary experiences in your holiday package.
Known as the “Land of Spices”, Kerala’s unique cultural and natural heritage of its society, history and topography, evolves its culinary style to be ‘Spicy’. Kerala’s diversity in cuisine can be credited to its openness in absorbing foreign influences and merging it with native dishes. With the ocean, rivers, streams, lakes providing an unending bounty, seafood is a divine specialty. Everything from sardines and mackerel to prawns, squid and mussels are popular along the coast. The food is generally fresh, aromatic and flavoured. Keralites are mostly fish-and-rice eating people. Regions and community distinctions are well observed in the preparation of chicken, mutton, fish or pork. In Kerala, food must be relished with all the senses. Almost every dish prepared in Kerala characterizes coconut in various forms and spices flavored with chilies, curry leaf, mustard seed, and asafetida; which may be heightened with the use of tamarind. The coconut gives the cuisine its richness, absorbing some of the pepper-hot flavors. Coconut milk is used to make the gravies and its oil is mainly used for cooking. Alternatively vegetable oil may be used.
The heart and soul of Kerala is in its regional areas shining brightest in its coastal backwaters. Explore India’s largest freshwater lake Vembanad and the Kuttanad region of Alleppey, Kumarakom & Mararikulam savoring Kerala’s delectable backwater cuisine. The more exotic varieties of sea food are available in the backwaters and famous among them is the ‘Pearl spot’ or ‘Karimeen’ and its popular preparation, ‘Karimeen Pollichathu’ where the marinated fish is wrapped in a banana leaf and broiled has become the signature dish of the backwaters. “Karimeen” fried is a popular dish as is fish curry called “Fish Moilee.” Other specialities includekozhi (chicken) pepper fry and Kerala parathas (bread).
A visit to the local bar serving kappa-meen (tapioca fish) is mind blowing, could quite be an experience. The culinary team works in tandem to serve the fish curry that is very spicy and toddy that fuels its flames! The typical Kerala tangy fish curry is made with gamboge or Malabar tamarind, mistaken by most as kokum(Garcinia). The yellowish fruit is deseeded, rubbed with coconut oil and salt, sun-dried and smoked in kitchen chimneys to acquire its unique taste. It is typical to central Kerala where it is used as a souring agent in fish dishes.
Freshly prepared scrumptious breakfast heralds seasonal menus and specials prioritizing farm fresh ingredients. Some of them are Puttu Kadala, Appam and chicken stew, Idiyappam and vegetable stew. Puttu is made out of rice flour and coconut. Appams are soft rice flour pancakes made with coconut milk. Idiayappams are noodle like rice hoppers served with sweet coconut milk or stew.
Another speciality is the Sadya served on a plantain leaf with over 40 varieties of vegetable dishes mainly served for festivals or marriages. Sadya incorporates all the flavor prescribed by Ayurveda- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent, thus balancing the cosmic forces within the body . Rice is the centre of a Malayali’s culinary universe and all other sides dishes are permuted in various combinations. Backwater Buffet meals offer a great introduction to the little known flavours of Kuttanad that are otherwise difficult to source in town. Perfection lay on the banana leaf. Starting with an appetizer – raw jackfruit mash (an interesting variation of tapioca) in combination with fish curry and fish fry, you move to wholesome meal of red rice with duck roast, beef fry, prawn masala, fish fry, mango kalan, beetroot pachadi, papad and pickles. For dessert we can try managing a bowl of ada pradaman and banana!
In the afternoon, the local tea vendors at Chai Kada (tea stall) rolls out their carts for a hot cuppa by dexterously pouring the ‘meter chai’, a tumbler of frothy tea that wakes you up from the lunch’s drudgery . Kerala Backwater cuisine is more of an experience – to fit your appetite with a purpose to offer exceptional journeys to an exceptional land.