Kerala is known as the "land of Spices". Even the Kerala cuisine is known for its spicy and hot foods. Traditionally, in Kerala food is served on a banana leaf. One has to take food with right hand. Almost every dish prepared in Kerala has coconut and spices to flavour the local cuisine giving it a sharp pungency that is heightened with the use of tamarind, while coconut gives it its richness, absorbing some of the tongue-teasing, pepper-hot flavours. The unusual cuisine of Kerala brings to the fore the culinary expertise of the people of Kerala. Producing some of the tastiest foods on earth, the people of Kerala are gourmets with a difference.
The cuisine is very hot and spicy and offers several gastronomic opportunities. The food is generally fresh, aromatic and flavoured. Keralites are mostly fish-and-rice eating people.Kerala cuisine is a combination of Vegetables, meats and seafood flavoured with a variety of spices. Seafood's are main diet of Coastal Kerala. Whereas Vegetable is the main diet in plains of Kerala and Meat is the main course among tribal and northern Kerala.
The land and the food are rich with coconut, though one can't imagine Kerala food without chilies, curry leaf, mustard seed, tamarind and asafoetida.
These people put to good use whatever the land offers and the result is a marvellous cuisine that is simple yet palate tickling. They relish equally a dish as simple as 'kanji' (rice gruel) or as extravagant as the 'sadya' (feast). Just a pinchful of tamarind can substitute tomatoes, but there is no real substitute for curry leaf. Since time immemorial, coconut has been an integral part of the cuisine of Kerala. Tender coconut water is a refreshing nutritious thirst quencher. The crunchy papadam, banana and jackfruit chips can give french-fries a run for their money any day.
Sadya is the elaborate dish, which is a totally extravagant affair. Avial, an all time favourite, is a happy blend of vegetables, coconut paste and green chillies. Avial's seasoning is a spoonful of fresh coconut oil and a sprinkling of raw curry leaves, stirred in immediately after the dish is taken off the stove.
Kottucurry' is made out of cubed potatoes, onions and green chillies cooked in coconut milk with plenty of red chilli. 'Olan', a bland dish of pumpkin and red grams is prepared by cooking it in thin gravy of coconut milk.
The hot Rasam, served after a delectable array of sweets, is a tangy deviation from the symphony of tastes and is poured on another serving of rice. The famous British 'Mulligatawny Soup' is said to have derived its flavour from Rasam.
Rasam is a mixture of chilly and pepper corns powders boiled in diluted tamarind juice. The pulissery is seasoned buttermilk with turmeric powder and green chillies. 'Moru' or plain sour buttermilk comes salted and with chopped green chillies and ginger.
Combination of vegetables like pumpkin, drumstick, potato, chilly etc and coconut sauce, it is a very popular side dish. Even mango, jackfruit and cashew nuts are included in Avial. Avial is a dish that makes the most of the locally available vegetables. That's why a novice cook who is unsure of the names and prices of the fare but has to go vegetable shopping can safely ask for an avial kootu (an avial mixture) for, say, forty or fifty rupees and be assured of a variety of vegetables for the week. These don't include the leafy ones though.
Appam is the soft pancake made from toddy fermented rice batter, with a soft spongy middle, which is laced with crispy edges. It is generally consumed with either vegetable or chicken or mutton stew, thoroughly mellowed with thick coconut milk and garnished with curry leaves.
A type of steam cake, 'Puttu' is made from rice flour and steamed in long hollow bamboo or metal cylinders. Depending on the taste preference, Puttu can be had with steamed bananas and sugar or with a spicy curry made from gram or chickpeas
Banana chips are deep-fried and/or dried slices of banana. They can be covered with sugar or honey and have a sweet taste, or they can be fried in oil and spices and have a salty and/or spicy taste. Variants of banana chips may be covered with chocolate instead. Usually, the chips are produced from underripe bananas, of which slices are deep-fried in sunflower oil or coconut oil, which are then dried, and to which preservatives are added. These varieties of chips can be very oily, due to the deep-frying process.
Another form of fried banana chips, usually made in Kerala (India) and known locally as 'upperi', is fried in coconut oil. Both ripe and unripe bananas are used for this variant. Sometimes they are coated with masala or jaggery to form both spicy and sweet variants. It is an integral part of the traditional Kerala meal called sadya served during weddings and traditional festivals such as Onam Banana Chips. Made from unripe bananas and deep fried in coconut oil, thesebanana chips are crispy and tasty. These South Indian fried snacks are largely demanded in domestic as well as international markets.
These tapioca chips are made by deep frying of thinly sliced tapioca in coconut oil and mixing it with various spices. These famous South Indian snacks are available in standard packing material to maintain their flavor and crispiness. Tapioca is widely consumed in the state of Kerala. It is either boiled or cooked with spices. Tapioca with fish curry (especially Sardine) is a delicacy Kerala is known for. Thinly sliced tapioca wafers, similar to potato chips, are popular too. Cassava, often referred to as tapioca in English, is called Kappa Kizhangu or Poola (in northern Kerala) or Maracheeni Kizhangu or Cheeni or Kolli in Malayalam. Tapioca is used to make a granular product (Tapioca Pearls) called chowwary in Malayalam. Chowwary is used to make a light porridge by adding milk or buttermilk, recommended for patients recovering from illness.
String hoppers is a culinary specialty in Kerala. It is also called noolappam or noolputtu from the Malayalam word for string, nool, but is most commonly known as idiyappam or string hoppers. It is made of rice flour or wheat flour, salt and water. It is generally served as the main course at breakfast or dinner together with a curry (potato, egg, fish or meat curry) and coconut chutney. It is also served with sweetened coconut milk in Malabar region of Kerala. It is not usually served at lunch. Using wheat flour in preparation gives it a brownish hue.
There are several varieties of 'payasams'. One is in which rice, wheat or vermicelli is boiled with milk and sweetened with sugar. It goes by the name of 'pal payasam'. Another, is made of boiled rice or dal or wheat, to which is added jaggery and coconut milk. Both are flavoured with spices.
In a South Indian meal, payasam is served after rasam rice, while rice with buttermilk forms the last item of the meal. Payasam also forms an integral part of the Kerala feast (sadya), where it is served and relished from the flat banana leaf instead of cups. In Malayalee or Kerala cuisine, there are several different kinds of payasam that can be prepared from a wide variety of fruits and starch bases, an example being chakkapradhaman made of jackfruit pulp, adapradhaman made of flat ground rice
A sumptuous, mouthwatering delicacy, it's a not- to- be-missed combination of 'Kappa' and 'Meen curry'. With natural flavours erupting out of it liberally, the fish curry is made with garlic paste, onions and red chillies and seasoned with mustard seeds and curry leaves.