Cuisine of Kerala refers to the variety of delicious dishes that God’s own country has to offer including the vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. Kerala Cuisine is connected to the geographic, culture and history of the country.
Kerala cuisine is much like the fascinating geographical features of the land. It is authentic, enchanting, delicious and with variety. The romantic connection of Kerala with gastronomy has a long history to tell. It all started with the advent of the foreign forces in this land from times immemorial. Many battles were fought to take control of this ‘spice garden of India’.
The foreigners who fell in love with Kerala include the Dutch, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Romans, Greeks and Arabs. When they withdrew from this land, they left a lasting mark not only on the history and culture, but also on the cuisine. Thus Kerala cuisine is a confluence of the influences from across the world. Cuisine of Kerala varies from region to region. But the main ingredients that isused in the Kerala dishes is the same,most of them using spices and coconut. The fusion of local ingredients with external influences makes Kerala cuisine a unique gastronomical experience.
The culinary delicacies are distinct as we travel from south to north Kerala. Before independence, Kerala was divided into Travancore, Kochi and Malabar. The Travancore cuisine consists of vegetarian dishes. The traditional Malabar cuisine was designed by the Arabs with delectable non vegetarian dishes. While the traditional Hindus stick to vegetarian dishes, the Christians and Muslims include non vegetarian dishes in their authentic cuisine.
Vegetarian dishes of Kerala consist of rice as main course with many side dishes. During festivals and grand occasions food is served on plantain leafs with as many as eleven side dishes accompanying rice. Non vegetarian dishes consist of mainly stews (chicken, beef etc.), various meat dishes, fish curry, fried fish and sea food. The Malabar region is famous for the finger lickingly delicious Biryani which is a Moghul dish with meat, rice and spices as the main ingredients. The affection of Keralites for its cuisine can be seen in the grand culinary preparation during festivals and wedding.
Rice is the main food of Kerala and it is cultivated abundantly here. The surprising factor is that the variety of dishes that the people of Kerala prepare with the key ingredient rice is endless. They prepare soft rice cakes (Appam), thin breads (pathiri), pancakes with coconut and jaggery (ada), golden clored sweets (uniappam), flower shaped sweets (achappams) and noodle shaped rice cakes ( idi appams)with the flour of rice. The main breakfast dishes of Kerala include ‘puttu’ (steamed rice cake with grated coconut) and soft rice cake called ‘idli’ that comes with chutney and a curry called sambar.
The variety of rice used in Kerala is different from other parts of the country. The type of rice used here is ‘Puzhukkalari’ by drying and boiling the rice. When cooked, it will be soft, blurby, reddish in colour and de-husked.
Talking about the key ingredients, we cannot fail to mention the importance of coconut in Kerala dishes. It is grown abundantly in Kerala and grated coconut and coconut milk are used lavishly in curries as thickening and flavoringagent.
Like all other Indian cuisine, Kerala cuisine is also delicious due to the use of spices. The main spices used in Kerala cuisine include turmeric, cinnamon, clove, ginger, green and red pepper, cardamom, garlic, cumin seeds and coriander.
Seafood And Fish
Kerala is blessed with a long coastline and this has made fish and seafood the main ingredients of Kerala cuisine. The common fishes that are used in typical Kerala fish curries include sardine and mackerel. Pearl spot is or Karimeen is a delicious fish in the back waters. The pearl spot fry is an inevitable delicacy provided in the houseboats. The Alleppey fish curry is also popular for its taste, with mango adding to the tangy flavor. Other seafood delicacies include squid, prawns and mussels.
Beverages Of Kerala
An unavoidable drink in Kerala is the toddy which is prepared from coconut sap before it blooms. It is not intoxicating if it is drank fresh from the coconut tree, but when it is fermented it isintoxicating. There are a number of toddy shops across Kerala which provides delicious non veg and seafood curries including prawn, beef etc. along with toddy.
The use of cold desserts in Kerala is very minimum unlike that in North India. Hot warm desserts Of Kerala is worth mentioning. The popular warm dessert of Kerala is payasam which is prepared of milk, jaggery, coconut extract and dried fruits. There are different versions of payasam with rice, banana and pulses.
Halwa is a Kerala sweet that originated from the influence of Middle East and it is now an inevitable part of Kerala Cuisine.