Food Delights

The culinary skills of the different communities of Kerala make the dishes distinct in taste and in variety. Almost every dish that is prepared in the Kerala style has coconut and spices added to it. The main spices used are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, green and red peppers, cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, etc. Spices are used in Kerala to tone up the system the way wines aid the digestion of Western cuisine.

The vegetarian dishes include sambar, rasam, olan, kalan, pachadi, kichadi, avial, thoran, and koottu. Biriyani, that originally came from North India, now popular here, is a dish of rice cooked along with meat, onions, chillies and other spices. Karimeen pollichathu and fish moilee are seafood delicacies. Sheep are not reared in this part of the world but goat meat is used to cook mutton Biriyani.

The main course is served with rice and at the end of each meal the dessert, payasam, is served. Payasam is prepared from milk, coconut extract, sugar, cashews, dry grapes, etc. Paal payasam is the specialty.

A typical Kerala breakfast may be puttu, which is rice powder and grated coconut steam cooked together, idli and sambar, dosa and chutney, idiyappam (string hoppers – also known as Noolputtu), or vella appam, a kind of round pancake made of rice flour fermented with a small amount of toddy (fermented sap of the coconut palm), edged with a crisp lacy frill. It is eaten with chicken or vegetable stew.

Kerala cuisine also has a variety of pickles and chutneys, and crunchy pappadums, banana chips and jackfruit chips. Tea time snacks and hors d’oeuvre like kozhalappam, achappam, cheeda, and churuttu taste best when deep fried in coconut oil.

The Kerala paratta is a flatbread of wheat or corn flour, with whorls of soft layers that is served with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries.

A favourite dish of Kerala Syrian Christians (or Saint Thomas Christians) is stew. Chicken and potatoes are simmered gently in a creamy white sauce flavoured with black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green chillies, lime juice, shallots and coconut milk. They prepare stews with chicken, lamb, duck. The other dishes are piralen (chicken stir-fries), meat thoran (dry curry with shredded coconut), fiery vindaloos, sardine and duck curries, and meen moilee (spicy stewed fish). This is eaten with Appam. Appams, Kallappams or Vellayappams are rice flour pancakes which have soft, thick white spongy centres and thin golden crisp lace like edge. Meen vevichathu or fish in fiery red chilly sauce is also another favourite item. Besides the chicken and fish there is also red meat, erachi orlarthiathu. Beef (or lamb) is boiled with roasted fenugreek, red chillies, cloves, onions, cummins, garlic, ginger, fried coconut wedges and a little vinegar. Then with the water reduced, the, meat is almost fried dry in a little oil that has been flavoured with sliced shallots and highly aromatic curry leaves. Wine is an integral part of their cuisine. In fact it is said that marrying into a Syrian Christian home can be the best thing that can happen to a food lover!