Along the west coast of India, lies a long patch of green. The sea breeze, the coconuts, the spices and condiments weave a story of romance with the culinary delights of Kerala. An ode to perfection and with a love for everything spicy, meaty, juicy and coconutty, here is a sneak peek into 11 dishes you just cannot miss when in Kerala.
These gorgeous soft lace hoppers known as ‘Palappams’, are essentially made of rice, sugar, fermented coconut water/yeast. They are soft and moist in the center with crisp laced circumference. A sure bet to surprise your taste buds; it starts off with sweetness and has slight salty finish. A delectable dish when served with vegetable /chicken/mutton stews or egg roast. Coconut milk is a must ingredient for all curries. Now go smack it clean.
They are juicy, succulent and full of happiness. These happy yellow snacks make a wonderful evening with piping hot tea. Pronounced as ‘Pazhampori’, these are banana fritters deep fried in maida batter. The riper the banana, the juicier it gets. Next time when you’re in the famous God ‘s Own Country, remember to stop by the tea shop and ask for ‘Pazhampori’.Roll your tongue to say it right!
3. Beef roast
Hear Hear non veggies, this dish is sure to make you come back for more. They are bite sized pieces of heaven which will take you on a merry go round of flavors. Marinated in fresh spices and deep fried to oblivion, the beef tastes best when paired with white/red rice or warm chapattis.
4. Kerala Sadya
The Kerala Sadya opens to a plethora of exotic vegetarian flavors and a spread so delicious that supersedes one’s craving for anything non-veg. Traditionally served on a banana leaf, the dishes can vary from 13 to over 60 dishes depending on the occasion. The main dish is boiled rice served with Kootan (accompaniments) like Parippu curry (Dal curry served with ghee), Sambar, Rasam, Erisseri (Curried yams). Pulisseri (Curried buttermilk), Olan (Veg stew in coconut milk) and the list goes on.
The leaf is laid with the tail to the left to the guest. The serving starts with savories like banana chips and ends with desserts like kheer/payasam. Remember to fold your leaf away from you as it signifies satisfaction. If the leaf is closed towards you, it would mean discontent.
5. Puttu Kadala curry
One among the healthiest breakfast dishes, Puttu Kadala undoubtedly wins every other dish hands down. Puttu is steamed rice powder and Kadala curry is spiced chick pea curried in thick coconut gravy.
A rich splendor for a morning breakfast, Puttu has evolved to variants like Beef Puttu, Chicken Puttu and Prawns Puttu as well. It is a warm and comforting dish and is one of the finest vegetarian Kerala dishes you will ever taste.
6. Thalasseri Biriyani
Think aroma and think Thalasseri biriyani. The most popular and widely prepared biriyani in Kerala also known as the Kerala Biriyani. It is a spiced preparation filled with aromatic herbs and condiments slow cooked with succulent pieces of meat all the way to perfection.
Variants have evolved over time and don’t be surprised if you find a happy pineapple smiling at you. Most Keralites add pineapples or essence to enhance the flavor.
A standard disclaimer, you can end up smelling like a Biriyani once you are done tantalizing your taste buds.
7. Kappa meen curry
You will not meet a Malayalee who does not rave about this ecstatic delicacy of the south. Kappa is steamed tapioca or cooked tapioca with spices. It is a rich source of carbs and the secret energy source weaved into the genetic code of every Malayalee.
Kappa when served with fish curry, is a treat to your senses. The fish curry is often slow cooked in a mud pot with red chilies, onion shallots and tamarind pods. The spice teamed with the warmth can send you on a spiral flavor burst.
8. Karimeen poilichathu
The culinary pride of Kerala is our very own ‘Karimeen pollichathu’. Karimeen is a breed of fish (pearl spot) found in the local backwaters and ‘Pollichathu’ refers to ‘pan fried in banana leaf’. Traditionally found in local arrack shop served as a starter dish for toddy, this dish is known for its exotic rich flavors as it is cooked in spices mixed with coconut paste wrapped in a banana leaf. Besides the taste, the unpacking and eating is a fun exercise too.
9. Pathiri / chatti pathiri
Pathiri is the pride of Malabar, the culinary capital of Kerala. These thin, delicate rotis make an excellent combination with piping hot duck roast or spiced mutton curry. In another variant known as ‘Chatti pathiri’, which is the Keralites answer to lasagna, with layered rice pastry infused with spices and chicken. Sheer indulgence, I must say!
Okay, rechristening ‘Idyappams’ as ‘Rice string hoppers’ for the blue blooded Indians does ruin the appetite a bit. A more realistic rendition will be describing it as steamed rice noodle cakes which taste heavenly when served with any dish made with coconut milk.
You can either dunk it in sweetened coconut milk or pour any coconut milk based dish over it and slurp it clean.
11. Kerala parotta and chicken curry
The soft fluffy and layered bread from Kerala is a delight kneaded to perfection. Creating this delightful dish is quite an acrobatic procedure. The chef pampers the dough, flips and toss in the air till it fluffs in volume. A combination of maida and dalda, this delicate bread tastes best when served hot with spiced chicken curry or veg kuruma.
Who needs more reasons to visit Kerala? 🙂