Kerala, the land of coconut trees and spices, is famous for its delicious cuisines. The genuine delicacies of Kerala vary from the traditional vegetarian sadya to mouthwatering sea-food dishes. Kerala cuisine is rich and spicy. Coconut, in different forms, is an unavoidable ingredient in Kerala recipes, which enhances a distinct taste and aroma to the dishes. Before travelling to Kerala it is essential to have a clear idea about the food culture of Kerala and the choice of dishes to try out. Here is a selection of 5 best dishes you should not miss while you are in Kerala.

1.  Puttu & Kadala Curry : Start your Day in a Healthy Way

You can begin your day in Kerala with a variety of breakfast delicacies, which include Idli, dosa or vada with sambar and chutney combinations. However, the unique combination of the wonderful healthy dish Puttu with Kadala curry is considered as a very popular vegetarian breakfast option of Kerala. The traditional Kerala recipes for Puttu and Kadala curry are very simple, spicy and tasty.

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Puttu is a steamed rice cake with grated coconuts. Ground rice is filled in cylindrical metallic containers with intermediate layers of grated coconuts and steamed by placing it in a Puttu kutti (Puttu maker) for few minutes to make soft and delicious puttu. It is believed that the Portuguese have discovered this healthy dish for their soldiers. You can have Puttu with a combination of banana, egg curry or with Kadala curry.  Among these, Kadala curry is undoubtedly the most favorite combination of the food lovers. Kadala curry is a spicy dish with thick coconut gravy, made using black soaked chickpeas or black channa. The chick pea is soaked overnight, cooked in a pressure cooker and simmered in the thick gravy of ground coconut and spices to prepare the delicious Kadala curry. Kadala curry is prepared in every home and restaurants throughout the state as per traditional Kerala recipes, but with slight variation in different places.

Where to Get the Authentic Taste

Puttu & Kadala combination is available in almost all hotels and restaurants throughout Kerala. Or you can just walk into any small village tea shop and savour the delicious taste of this traditional breakfast, experiencing the simplicity of village life.

2.  Kerala Sadya : the Complete Vegetarian Meal

Kerala Sadya (feast) offers you the exotic vegetarian flavors of Kerala recipes. It is a traditional vegetarian lunch of the state, served on a banana leaf, and is usually eaten during special occasions and festivals. It is a complete meal with more than a dozen varieties of dishes which could be over 60 dishes depending on the occasion. The serving itself is an art that is attained by experience. The banana leaf is laid with its tail portion to the left of the guest and the serving starts with a specific order. Crispier items are served first, which include upperi (banana chips), sharkara upperi (banana chips coated with jaggery), and pappadam. Then come banana, spicy pickles and puli inji (a ginger recipe). Now the different side dishes are served, including Avial, Thoran, Olan, Kalan, Pachadi, Erissery, Koottukari, etc.

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Rice is served in the middle of the leaf. Then Parippu (dhal) is served along with ghee, followed by the main curry, sambar. Sambar is followed by Rasam and butter milk in the subsequent courses.  After the meal is finished, sweet desserts called payasams are served which are of different varieties. One is Pal payasam (made of milk, rice and sugar) and the other is a different variety called ada pradhaman or pazham payasam (made of banana). It is a heavy meal that will give you full contentment that you cannot get from any other dishes.

Where to Get the Authentic Taste

A regular meal in any good vegetarian restaurant in Kerala is a miniature of Kerala Sadya. Though it is a comprehensive meal of special occasions, many of the hotels and restaurants throughout Kerala can arrange a full Kerala Sadya for you at any time.  However, if you are there during Onam festival, you can enjoy these diverse delicacies of Kerala recipes with a vibrant mood of festive spirit.

3.  Malabar Biriyani : the Fragrance that Rewrites History

Malabar Biriyani, also known as Kerala Biriyani or Thalasseri Biriyani, is the most popular biriyani dish, famous for its unique taste and aroma. Speciality of this biriyani is because of the selection of rice used and the method of preparation. A short-grain, thin rice known as khaima rice or jeerakasala rice is used instead of the usual Basmati rice, which, along with an exceptional blend of spices, adds a unique flavor and makes it an exclusive dish tastier than all other biriyani variants. It is believed that this dish is of Mughal origin and it is probably the reminder of Mughal-Arab cultural influence in Northern Kerala.

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The blending of ghee rice with spices, masala and the cooked chicken is done by a special process called dum process,  which involves slow cooking by tightly sealing the lid of the vessel and placing hot charcoal on the lid. Another distinct feature of dum process is that the dish is not oily because no oil is used to cook the chicken. This biriyani is so popular that even a famous Malayalam movie is made with this biriyani as the central theme.

Where to Get the Authentic Taste

This speciality dish of Malabar origin, prepared based on authentic Kerala recipes is an unavoidable food in the North Kerala districts of Kozhikode, Malappuram, Kannur, Wayanad and Kasargod. Though originated in Malabar region, it is widely prepared in most of the Biriyani restaurants throughout Kerala. Sagar Hotel in Kozhikode, Paris Presidency in Thalassery and Malabar Biriyani House in Kochi are some of the places famous for Malabar Biriyani.

4.  Karimeen Pollichathu – an Awesome Treat in the Houseboat

Karimeen Pollichathu is one of the exceptional and traditional Kerala recipes that gives an amazing treat to the taste buds of the fish-loving and food-loving tourists. Karimeen or Pearl spot fish is a species of fish found in the backwaters of Kerala in Alleppey, Kottayam and Kollam.  ‘Pollichathu’ means burnt or fried. Here the pearl spot fish, marinated with a rich blend of specially prepared spicy and tasty gravy, is wrapped in banana leaf and baked by placing on a hot pan. It is served hot with the same banana wrapping, which adds flavor and aroma to the dish. The version and ingredients for the gravy may vary slightly from place to place, resulting in slight variation in flavor.

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Karimeen is the official fish of Kerala State. It is a bit costly, but available throughout the year. It is most common in the houseboats of Alleppey and Kumarakom backwaters as one of the favorite dishes of the tourists. Also, it is traditionally found in the local toddy shops of villages, served as starter dish for toddy. Cruising in a house boat, enjoying the natural beauty and serenity of backwaters, unpacking the banana leaf and savouring the delicious Karimeen will give you an unforgettable experience. It is good with rice or chappathi and you will surely love it.

Where to Get the Authentic Taste

If you are on a houseboat, the expert cook on your boat will prepare it and serve you hot. Other than houseboats, this unique delicacy is widely available in most of the restaurants throughout Kerala. It shall be worth dining in some good seafood speciality restaurants in Kerala. Grand Hotel restaurant in Kochi, Travancore Palace in Alleppey and Sagar Hotel in Kozhikode are few of them.

5.  Kappa & Meen Curry – a ‘Must Try’ Delicacy of Kerala Recipes

Kappa and Meen curry, literally meaning tapioca and fish curry is an indispensable dish of Kerala. This combination is one of the tastiest Kerala dishes I have ever had. Once considered as common man’s food, it is now widely served in star hotels, houseboats, toddy shops and small restaurants in almost every nook and corner of Kerala. Compared to other Kerala recipes, this traditional food is very easy to make and highly delicious.

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It is a wonderful option to use boiled tapioca mixed with spices as a snack during tea time but when combined with fish curry, nothing can beat the combo. The preparation of fish curry can be made in different ways. By marinating with masala and spices, fish can be cooked using tamarind gravy or the other way is to use coconut milk. Both types are delicious and if it is cooked in an earthen pot, the result will be great. Tapioca is a major source of carbohydrates and is a proven healthy food.

Where to Get the Authentic Taste

Tapioca fish combo is now available in all places of Kerala from small village restaurants to star hotels and tourist resorts. It is widely available in coastal areas and is a favorite dish of the tourists who visit the backwater destinations and beaches of Kerala.

The list given above may not be exhaustive, but I am sure that they will not disappoint you. Beautiful nature, soothing climate, hospitable people and delectable dishes; the magnificent land of Kerala welcomes you. Come, and taste the tempting dishes of Kerala; they will tickle your taste buds.

Ramakrishnan

Ramakrishnan

I am an engineer by profession. Writing is my passion. I enjoy writing, reading, travel, life, love, freedom and philosophy.

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