Keralan food is rich with historic and geographic influences from many corners of the globe. The state was once the destination for traders from Greece, Rome, the Mediterranean, Arab states and Europeans, primarily the Portuguese. These ancient flavours, combined with the aromatic spices and indigenous cuisine of Kerala and its ethnic Malabari community, create delightful, savoury flavours. Juicy coconuts, found in abundance in Kerala, aromatically complement its vegetable, seafood and meat dishes. Find out where to dig into the tongue-tingling dishes of Kerala.
Thalassery Biryani served with succulent chicken
Thalassery biryani is sometimes referred to as Kerala biryani as it is the only biryani dish found in authentic Keralan food. Like other biryani dishes across India, Thalassery biryani is an aromatic blend of rice and Indian spices, served as a vegetarian option or with succulent chicken or seafood. What makes it so unique is that it does not use basmati rice, but a type of rice known as khaima/jeerakasala that heightens its flavours. Be sure to satisfy your tastebuds with this exotic dish that draws influence from Mughal-Arab and Malabari food at Ajwa Biriyani, where the locals rave about their delicious Thalassery biryani.
Ajwa Biriyani: Twinkle Plaza, Panavila Junction, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandum), Kerala 695014
Sadya, a banana leaf banquet
Sadya, or Sadhya, translates as ‘banquet’ in Malayalam, and is made up of a variety of tasty vegetable dishes. It is still served in the traditional way, in small portions and accompanied by rice, on a fragrant banana leaf. Thick parippu lentil curry, vegetable in a tamarind sambar gravy, fresh kaaya varuthathu banana chips and olan, an exceptional preparation of pumpkin, ginger and coconut oil, are just four out of twenty delicious dishes found in a typical sadya meal. Rossitta Garden Restaurant’s open courtyard dining experience and authentic Keralan cooking welcomes guests from all around the world. A 5 minute walk away from Fort Kochi, and operated under the Rossitta Wood Castle heritage bed and breakfast in the same location, it is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the fascinating history of Kerala before diving into a delectable sadya feast.
Rossitta Garden Restaurant: 1/334, Rose Street, Fort Kochi, Kochi (Cochin), Kerala 682001
Kerala Style Fish Molee
Though several Indian states have their own version of fish molee, the most renowned is from the state of Kerala. This spicy fish dish, fused with coconut highlights is a distinct Portuguese influence over this indigenous Keralan and Malabar food. Keralan food is so revered that it has found its way into the luscious food pot that is Malaysia and Singapore, where it has become a pillar of all things gourmet. It is best enjoyed with rice noodles made with roasted flour and coconut called idiyappam, steamed rice or appam a type of Indian pancake deliciously made with fermented butter and coconut milk. This delicious dish is a must to seek out at Caza Maria, a boutique heritage hotel with a restaurant open to all, located in the quaint Jewish quarters of Kochi (Cochin). Steeped in its own rich culture Kerala is much more cosmopolitan than might be expected as Caza Maria and Kochi’s diverse splendour no doubt will show.
Caza Maria: 6/125, Jew Town, Mattancherry, Kochi (Cochin) 682002
Images: Lekha Foods, Saju’s Tastes, The Hindu