Do you eat to live or live to eat? I belong to the latter. Food triggers a lot of memories in me – the crunchy pazhampori reminds me of the long gossip sessions I used to have in our college canteen, the sweet flavor of boiled plantain and upma reminds of after-school shenanigans, puttu and kadala curry reminds me of family breakfasts back home. Food is an embodiment of culture and history of a place. If you do agree with me, let’s embark on a food-journey along the 14 districts of ‘God’s own country’.
KASARGOD- A blend of Mangalore and Malabar
Whenever I think about Kasaragod, Aravind swamy and Tovino immediately comes to my mind. Can you trace the link?
One of the most beautiful yet least explored districts of Kerala, Kasaragod, has a unique cuisine, which is a blend of Mangalore and Malabar. A handful of Kasargod friends, whom I rang up to ask suggestions for this article, had one common answer about their favorite local food – Rice and fish curry. With the local abundance of fish and mouthwatering recipes passed down over generations, fish is a regular food item in Kasaragod kitchens. Every Kasargodans would definitely have a drool worthy memory of mashing rice with the leftover fish curry from the day before in the same mud vessel the fish was cooked in and eating it to hearts content.
KANNUR- A culinary paradise
From AKG to E.K Nayanar to Pinarayi Vijayan, from Payyambalam beach to Muzhappilangad beach, from looms to lores, from Sreenivasan to Samvritha Sunil, Kannur has given us the best in everything ranging from political stalwarts to talented cine artists. It has the same trend when it comes to food. I really don’t know where to start. Kallathapam, a dish made out of ground rice, jaggery and shallot onions will satisfy your sweet and savory cravings. The Malabar version of the Italian lasagna- Chattipathiri, will take your taste buds for a jolly ride. Kannur kitchens will flood you with so many other choices like kalumakkaya, unnakaya, pathiri and orotti; don’t take the risk of choosing one, just have it all. To top it all, there is the very famous Thalassery dum biryani. The smell that wafts through the air when the dum is broken would drown you in your own drool.
KOZHIKODE- All hail the land of food scientists!
In the movie Ohm Shanti Oshana, Nazriya gives a beautiful intro to Kozhikode – the place where Bashir Sahib hails from, ruled by Samoothiri, where Vasco De Gama landed, has the best auto drivers in Kerala, where even the wind smells of halwa and biryani, and is known for its very own ‘ice orathi’. Some very fascinating food items has come out of the kitchen labs of Kozhikode like the avil milk, fried ice cream and a variety of non-vegetarian dishes. Kozhikode biryani is often hailed as the king of all biryanis. A glass of sulaimani by the beach will erase all your woes. Tilakan’s character in Ustad hotel talks about the secret ingredient that he adds to his sulaimani that makes the world around him just slow down – LOVE. On seeing the warmth of the people in Kozhikode, I know that they add this secret ingredient to everything they cook.
WAYANAD: An exotic culinary journey
This piece of jewel set in the high Western Ghats will take you through a gastronomical ride. Gandhakasala rice, a variety rice grown by the tribes of this region, has the potential to give Basmati rice a run for its money given its nutritional value and taste. Come monsoon season and Wayanad will welcome you with its signature frog dishes. I bet you could drink buckets of Mullayari (bamboo rice) payasam, a yummy dessert found here. In addition to all this, honey and spices found in this region are known for its fine quality. Wayanad should be in the bucket list of every foodie out there.
MALAPPURAM – A mini Gulf bazar
The soccer capital of Kerala is dotted with numeric Arabic restaurants. From shawarma to kuzhimanthi, you can find everything and anything in Malappuram. One of my best memories when it comes to Malappuram is the kuzhimanthi I had from there. Every bit of that lightly spiced rice, the dewy moist chicken and most of all, the tangy tomato chutney that was served along with it was heavenly. Just reliving those memories is making me insanely hungry.
PALAKKAD- Finally some good vegetarian food!
After crossing Mangalore, you have to come down to Palakkad to have some good vegetarian food. One of the best shooting spots of Malayalam cinema, Palakkad will give your gut a much-deserved vegetarian break. With a lot of Tamil migrants in this region, Palakkad food is the fusion of both Tamil and Kerala cuisine. Common dishes include sambhar, rasam, injipulli and a variety of pickles. Vatha kuzhambu, which is made out of dried or preserved vegetables, is a specialty in this region. No journey to Palakkad is complete without a visit to Varikkasseri mana to try out the wholesome Palakkadan sadhya.
THRISSUR – Vibrant hues, symphony of chendas, fireworks and some buttermilk
The land of the most melodious Malayalam slang, numerous successful businesspersons, world famous Thrissur pooram, and beautiful waterfalls – the cultural capital of Kerala needs no introduction. The movie ‘Punyalan Agarbathis’ gave us an entire song depicting the various facets of Thrissur. On trying to recollect my food memories of Thrissur, the buttermilk that I drank from the pooram ground stood out to be the best and most prominent. And then, there is the paal payasam of Guruvayoor which would definitely re-ascertain your faith in divinity. On moving further south to Angamaly, we find people who are in love with pork. The movie Angamaly Diaries has beautifully portrayed this eternal love affair. From pork chops to pork roast, you can definitely see the ‘Angamaly touch’.
ERNAKULAM – The queen of Arabian Sea is also the food capital of Kerala
I remember the 2 months of my internship days during my college time in Kochi, where I used almost my entire stipend to eat out. Duck egg, Pai dosas, Kabsa of Iftar hotel, whole-wheat momos, raw veg burgers, pork biryani, Pazham kanji of Pappadavada hotel … I lived a life which every foodie yearns for. The queen of Arabian Sea is indeed a potpourri of cuisines across Kerala.
IDUKKI – Do you know what Asiad is?
One of the most melodious Malayalam songs in recent times was the ‘Idukki’ song in ‘Maheshinte Pratikaram’. This soothing song goes on to describe the qualities that makes Idukki a Midduki (smart girl). Just thinking about this mind-blowingly beautiful place lifts up my spirits. Eating a plate of hot Asiad in that cool, dewy climate will fill up your heart, tummy and soul. Asiad, also known as Kappa biriyani is a dish prepared by mixing mashed tapioca with chicken, beef or mutton with adequate quantity of spices. A side dish of sliced onions hand mixed with lemon juice and salt adds an extra dose of tanginess and crunchiness. Can life be more beautiful?
KOTTAYAM – The city of letters, lakes, latex and beef
In the movie ‘Godha’, Tovino describes the love Malayalis have for beef. Be it steamed tapioca, porotta, appam or rice, the people of Kottayam has found beef as the best companion to pair it up with. Hand mixing beef curry prepared with a generous quantity of coconut milk poured over steaming yellow mashed tapioca is happiness redefined for every Kottayamkaran/kari.
ALAPPUZHA – Nirvana!!!
Alappuzha, the official mascot of Kerala tourism, is a must-see place for every nature lover. With its backwaters, houseboats and toddy shops, Alappuzha can be an experience in itself. The Karimeen polichathu, prepared by smoking pearl spot fish in a banana leaf, which I had from Alappuzha is hands down the best thing I have ever had in my life. A glass of fresh toddy by the side can elevate you to nirvana.
PATHANAMTHITA – From aravana payasam to aranmula sadhya
The Aranmula sadhya of the ‘pilgrimage capital of Kerala’ is something that you must not miss. One of the world’s most sumptuous vegetarian feasts, Aranmula sadhya is offered to Lord Parthasarathy of Aranmula temple. Starting from theertham (water), kalabham (sandalwood paste) and vena ( butter) and ending with buttermilk, cumin water and betel leaves, Aranmula sadhya has a strict protocol of its own. It is a vegetarian feast fit for the Kings!
KOLLAM- seafood that melts in your mouth
Adorned by the Ashtamudi kayal, Kollam is known for fresh and delicious seafood like fish, prawns, squid and mussels. Fish moilee of Kollam is must try. Pair this up with coconut milk-rich gravy with appam or rice and your taste buds would salute you. Meen peera, fish mappas and squid stir-fry are a few of the many signature dishes from Kollam.
TRIVANDRUM – Have you tried Kethel’s chicken?
The capital city of Kerala is also famous for its crispy, spicy and tasty kethel’s/Trivandrum style chicken fry. This spice rich chicken, deep-fried in coconut oil can be paired up with Kerala porotta or even eaten alone.
What is your favourite Kerala delicacy? We’d love to know. Let us know in the comments section below.