Unique Cuisines Of Kochi is one that developed in the toddy shops, which is usually high on spices and easy to eat.
All roads, they say, lead to Rome. But all tides, I say, lead to Kochi. The beautiful port here was an active trading post as early as 1440. Its wealth of spices made it a prosperous and precious city, centuries ago. Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and Anglo influences can be seen everywhere in Kochi even today.
Start your exploration at Fort Kochi. The Chinese fishing nets here offer some great photo-ops and, more importantly, fresh fish through the day. For a reasonable sum (bargain well) you can cast the Chinese nets yourself, select your favourite fish from the catch and have it cooked in the style of your choosing at one of the stalls nearby.
Fort Kochi (Mattancherry) is today extremely ‘touristy’ and offers great dining options from the world over. The Kashi Art Cafe is an old stalwart doing wonderful breakfasts and cafe food through the day. It also displays the work of local artists and is worth a visit. The Teapot Cafe has quirky interiors and is a great place for some excellent tea and snacks. Fort Kochi is also the modern cultural hub of Kerala and hosts art galleries, traditional music and dance performances, and fashion and jewelry designers who’re doing some brilliant stuff.
Since 2012, it has also been the home to India’s first biennale, the Kochi Muziris Biennale. If you can plan your trip during this event, it’s sure to get a lot more exciting.
About a 40-minute drive or a 20-minute ferry ride brings you to Ernakulam. This is the best place to explore the local (Naadan) food. One of my favorite recommendations is the restaurant at The Grand Hotel Since 1963 (yup, that’s the full name!) on MG Road. This is a treasure trove of excellent food. The Amachi’s Chilly Fish with a tone of red chilli paste and curry leaf is brilliant, as is the Kappalange Thoran (raw papaya thoran). This is a great place to try the Karimeen Pollichathu (Pearl Spot Fish wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked with spices) with fresh appams. In fact, everything here is brilliant so if you’re having one meal in Ernakulam, make it this one.
In the heart of town is the Pai Brothers Fast Food that prides itself on offering a huge variety of dosas. You will be hard- pressed to choose one from the massive menu, but my favourite is the Quail Egg Dosa. Also try the unusual Navadani (nine – cereal) Dosa, the drumstick leaf dosa and the Kanchipuram Dosa. A unique cuisine here is one that developed in the toddy shops, which is usually high on spices and easy to eat. The incredible Mullapanthal toddy shop in Udayamperoor serves a brilliant sample. The fish head curry is magnificently spiced and a must-try with kappa (tapioca), while you drink your kallu (toddy). Also try the other Kerala favourites like rabbit stew and fried quail, and have it all with the incredible puttu (rice flour and grated coconut). The finest representation of Kerala food, however, is the Onam Sadya. This is the traditional meal served across town on the occasion of Onam. This year, Onam falls between August 25 and September 6, so try and visit Kerala then.
The cuisines of Kerala have evolved over the centuries. They use the spices abundantly available in the region and the wealth of influences brought here by its many inhabitants from different cultures. It’s the only state in India where you can walk into one restaurant and order a range of brilliant vegetarian food or decide to go with chicken, mutton, beef, pork, quail, rabbit or seafood. Whatever you decide to go with, it’ll all be great!