cuisine of kerala

Raindrops and rainbows. Enchanting monsoon showers. Swaying coconut palms. Lush green paddy fields. Rustic houseboats on emerald backwaters. Sun-drenched sandy beaches. Pristine rain forests. Rejuvenating ayurvedic spas. Beautiful hill station retreats. Exotic food. And  plenty, plenty more.

Welcome to Kerala, a fascinating land of contrast in the languid south. The place I call home, ha.

This tropical green state on the southwest of India is skirted by 373 miles of beautiful palm-fringed coastline, and a charming laid-back way of life. A truly idyllic setting for peace and tranquility.

Flanked by the Arabian sea on the west, and endowed with an abundant of fragrant spices like pepper, cardamom, ginger, clove and cinnamon, this part of India has attracted flotillas for centuries from every corner of the globe like Phoenicia, Greece, China, Arabia, Syria, Portugal, France, Netherland, Rome and Britain.
The cuisine of Kerala takes full advantage of the lands produce: excellent seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fine meat. The food here is invariably rich and spicy.

Rice is a staple. Blessed with a charming myriad of rivers and backwaters, Keralites are fortunate to enjoy a wide variety of fresh and salt water fish and seafood. Fresh catches like black pearl spot, prawns, oysters and squid are used to prepare tantalizing seafood delicacies. Dry, salted fish also feature heavily in the menu.

Kerala means land of coconuts. Needless to say, coconut is the staple ingredient, be it in the form of coconut water, milk, cream, meat, vinegar, toddy or oil. Who would have guessed that coconut water is a natural energy drink? True. It’s pure, refreshing and full of nutrients. And the tender coconut meat, ah, the succulent meat scooped off with a spoon on a hot summer day simply tastes divine. Do you know that coconut oil has a healthy saturated fat called lauric acid? Yep, I chanced upon this information during one of my research session on the web. It kind of justifies my need to use it sparing for flavoring those traditional dishes.

The cuisine of Kerala is seasoned with curry leaves, chilly peppers, asafetida, fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds among other spices rendering food its distinctive flavor. Souring agents like tamarind, limejuice and kodampulli (kokum or garcinia indica) are used to add zing to most dishes. I guess I have to pause here and admit that I use chili and tamarind quite liberally in my own kitchen. Yes, we like it hot and spicy. Not a fan of hot and spicy dishes? Hm, here’s food for thought: Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili and cayenne pepper has been shown to help boost metabolism and regulate blood sugar. So jump start your goal to lose those extra inches by adding a dash of pepper to your diet. Now if that’s not reason enough to make you want to grab chilies at the grocery store- how about the fact that it has antioxidant properties too!??

A mélange of fine tropical fruits such as banana, mango, pineapple, chikoo (sapodilla), papayas and watermelon can be enjoyed as fresh juices or milkshakes from the various street vendors found everywhere. Tea is more popular than coffee. 

The traditional Indian thali meal is served in banana leaves in this state. The Kerala Sadya is a sumptuous spread of rice and more than 14 classic, vibrant vegetarin dishes served as lunch on a plantain leaf. If you ever have a chance to experience sadya, my advice is not to miss it. It's going to be a totally novel experience.

Malabari biryani, karimeen pollichathu (steamed fish in plantain leaf), chemmeen ularthiyathu (prawn roast), kappa (tapioca cake) with meen mulakittthu (a fiery red fish curry), appam (laced pancakes) with stew, kadumanga achar (tender mango pickle), kanji and payar (rice gruel with beans) are some of the defining staples and most celebrated dishes from this region.
The National Geographic Traveler magazine rated breakfast in Kerala – puttu (steamed rice cakes), idiappam (string hoppers), appam (lacey rice pancakes), idli/doas (fermented rice pancakes) and pathiri (unleavened rice pancakes) – as one of the best in the world. Oh yes! What's more, Kerala was ranked world's 50 must-see destinations and also one of "ten earthly paradises" by the same magazine. The list goes on. Little wonder this land is dubbed "God's Own Country." 

Promising, huh?

39 comments:

  1. Awesome snaps...keep going

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  2. Thanks, Filu! I'm glad you liked it.

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  3. some of them are really professional :) You have a good frame-eye.

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  4. Hey Isaac, good to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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  5. Are these pictures all by you? they are superb!

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  6. Nags: You are a gem! Thanks so much for your support..:)

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  7. @Kiku: You are wonderful. Thank you!

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  8. hellooo nashitha...kollalo pics...good work...

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  9. Great culinary and visual compositions...
    Very delectable indeed...

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  10. Hey Chimbs, how you doing? Long time huh.
    Thanks for your kindness!

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  11. Just chanced upon your blog! What lovely pictures..the one with the ferns brought back so many memories!

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  12. Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to browse, and share your thoughts!

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  13. hi

    chanced on you and glad i did. your blog will go a long way ahead in becoming popular. you have a very good eye for photography. i loved the black and white and the green ferns mainly by virtue of the bright colour. i also liked the waterfalls and the one with two houses...why don you do up an acc in flickr and connect with other photographers. it's a place for professionals and amateurs. and make sure you join foodbuzz and other food sites for greater fanfare.

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  14. Hey Thoma, nice of you to say so. Thanks so much for your support and advise!

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  15. Hey Nashi!

    This blog is wonderful...

    Was wondering if you could post the recipe of Avial?? This is a Kerela cuisine as well I believe!! I just love this!! Would help if you post it!!

    Thanks and great to get in touch with u again!!

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  16. Hey, hey, Jovi!! It's wonderful to hear from you. Gosh, I miss y'all so much. Btw, congratulations! :)

    Sure sweetie, I'll work on the Avial recipe and post it esp for you. Soon, inshaAllah. Stay in touch.

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  17. This is absolutely enchanting,I am thrilled we as a family choose kerela to be our next chow,meet & greet:)I can't wait to get there and experience all this & more...You are terrific at photography and have captured the most stunning and honest shots:) Keep it up !!! Thanks for following my blog and letting me find yours,look forward to your posts:)

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  18. Hey Kavitha, I hope you have a wonderful and memorable experience in Kerala! And many thanks for your generous compliments, it's a great pleasure to have you here! :)

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  19. Awesome pics you have here!! Love the pics. And a lot of dishes for me to choose from :) Being a budding cook, blogs like yours are great motivation :) Keep posting more of your talent in food and photograph :)

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  20. Hey Gopz, thanks for popping over to say hello. You are way too kind and generous! Hope you keep visiting for more recipes :)

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  21. It is a pleasure to see the images of Kerala that you have put out here. They are beautifully taken and convey the mood and the setting of your beautiful land.
    The opening shot of the waterfall is so exquisitely well framed. Mind you, i have been there a couple of times and I do not have a decent shot of the waterfall till date.

    I really love the photograph of the lovely house on the waterside with the rail tracks acting as liner in the foreground and the tranquil cloud studded blue skies woven in a net of steel power. Where exactly is this shot? ( And you need to have your camera sensor cleaned...the dust is visible..;-))

    Superb page on Kerala. I wish I could try the Kerala dishes that you have listed on it.

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  22. Hi Anoop, thanks again for your lavish comments, am overwhelmed to receive feedback from one of the most celebrated social photographers!! Nature fascinates me and I snap away way too many pictures most times, I admit :) Only wish I had a DSLR to take sharp images with more details, ah! All these pictures were taken on my last visit home. It was really tricky to get even a decent shot of the falls with the mist on the lens. It's a shame thought that I don't have a single good picture from the foot of the falls after all the efforts trekking up/down the dangerously slippery terrain, and that too in the rainy season! That photo of the house was a passing shot taken from the car when the traffic slowed down to a crawl on the bridge to Willingdon Island, Kochi (my mom’s house). Thanks for the tip on the sensor :)

    Anoop, how I wish I could watch you take those stunning shots of nature and people, and p’haps learn something in the process! I’m sure you have heard this plenty of times before, but I have to say it again-your pictures are simply too good to be true!!

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  23. Hi Nashitha,

    We don't want to scare you, but we've been looking for you:) You are the perfect representative of Kerala for the New Spice Route:

    http://maps.seasonwithspice.com/p/spice-route-in-21st-century.html

    We would absolutely love to feature you and Plateful and all those wonderful Kerala dishes. If your interested, please contact us:

    http://blog.seasonwithspice.com/p/contact-reese-mark.html

    I think you will agree that the Spice Route starts, and ends...in Kerala. Oh no, now I'm thinking about all those amazing spicy fish dishes. I need to get back to Kerala.

    Best,

    Reese & Mark

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  24. Hey Reese and Mark! Thanks for popping over! This sounds like a wonderful idea, I'm so thrilled!

    Oh yeah, Kerala is "spicy" -- very much so! :))

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  25. Your beautiful images of Kerala remind me so much of my own hometown in the Philippines... I know, it's pretty far from India but it looks like we share a lot in common, if "only" in the sea and the luxurious countryside.

    I'm glad I cam across your blog, because I also love the food you share. :)

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  26. Hey Sarah, it's a pleasure to meet you too, albeit virtually! I'm so intrigued by your description of Philippines - can't wait to see it and experience it, ah!

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  27. Thank you for stopping by Nash.You have a wonderful collection of recipes & memories of Kerala on your page.I m so glad to have found you.Will check back quite often..already bookmarked raspberries muffins to try :)

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  28. Hi Nash, you have quite a great presentation of Kerala cuisine, entices me to go visit and taste all those rich spices and flavors that I could almost smell by your description. I love the pictures as well, with all the green and refreshing water.

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  29. Hey Tanvi, it's a great pleasure to see you here! Thanks so much for your lovely note.

    Hi Tersa. thanks much for popping over. Hope you get to try our dishes and see the influence of your people on our cuisine...:) See ya around!

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  30. Hi Nash,Your pics are superb.And those pics of Kerala reminds me of my country Srilanka.Our cuisine also evolves around coconut."The wonder tree" we call it.
    I've just started my blog.Would like if you could post some tips on photography.Love your backgrounds and props..

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  31. Love this write up too and your pride in your home state is perfectly understandable! Lived in Mahe for a year when my dad was the Public Administrator of the Union Territories of Pondicherry and I remember vividly our bungalow by the Arabian Sea and the wonderful sightings of Dolphins in the early mornings and before sunset - the cannas and coconut palms in the lush garden around!
    The pictures are incredible too! Cheers and hugs again :)

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  32. You not only click wonderful photographs, you write beautifully too. I am glad you stopped by my site because i found yours! I am going to go through your archives now

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  33. Thanks for stopping by - great blog you have!

    What beautiful photos of Kerala...It's such an amazing place with a rich food tradition. Will definitely have to check out your recipes!

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  34. Everything about this is simply beautiful....! I look forward to experimenting your recipes !

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  35. Nashira, not sure how I got to your blog, but so glad I stumbled on to Plateful! Absolutely stunning photographs of our Kerala (Yes, I'm a malayalee now in the US), mouthwatering recipes, and lovely stories. I remember the upperis and chammanthis....will be back to try out some of this fabulous treasure trove of recipes. Happy New Year!

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  36. AnonymousMay 30, 2012

    I love your blog! My husband is a Keralite, I learned appam, puttu kadhala, chemeen curry, manga curry after I got married to him, my roots are from Goa, so our cuisines are pretty similar being from the coastal areas! I love this blog, it is so clean, refreshing and just something that makes my heart lighten up! Thanks for being an inspiration. Keep doing what you do, and know you are one of the best!

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  37. Kerala has rich variety of both veg and non veg cuisines.

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A million thank you's for stopping by, taking the time to connect, and coming back to visit again. I genuinely appreciate each of your kind thoughts, lovely words, love and support. Happy, happy to hear from you, and hope to see you again!

♥ Nashi