Having lived outside of Kerala far longer than I’ve lived in it, a huge part of my life was spent missing that wonderful little piece of earth. Each time nostalgia seeps in, one of the most prominent triggers that instantly transports me back home is the image of my grandmother’s kitchen and the enticing aroma of her special duck roast wafting all over the house. A Malayali’s love affair with food has been long spoken of and will surely be in times to come too. Having said that, let us embark on a culinary voyage that canvasses the top five dishes from Kerala cuisine that we Malayalis are mighty proud of. Taking into account the richness and diversity of the Kerala food culture, this list has the potential to go way beyond five but let’s stick to the humble number for the time being, shall we?
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Beef Fry and Porotta
Obviously I had to start the list with that, lest you guys take it personally. Jokes apart, honestly there would be no Malayali who would have gotten enough of this combo. If Porotta and Beef Fry are not comfort food, then I don’t know what is!
Hailing from the Central Travancore region of Kerala, the lip-smacking, classic delicacy, popularly known as “Irachi Ularthiyathu” is a meat-lover’s delight. With the butter-soft chunks of roasted meat, creative combination of flavorful spices, coconut pieces (thenga kothu), curry leaves and the interplay of vivid textures, the perfection to beef fry lies in the way it is sautéed. Pair this legendary fry with a flaky Porotta and you might have just witnessed a match made in heaven! A porotta’s perfection is judged by exactly how soft, fluffy, and crispy – all at once, it can be. Those flaky layers of goodness tell you a unique culinary tale with each bite! Served from the road-side thattukadas to the poshest five-star hotels across the state, Porotta and Beef Fry has become an omnipresent fare.
Steamed rice flour layered with grated coconut and served with black garbanzo bean curry
Say, what? Just a fancy name I came up with for our hearty, old Puttu and Kadala Curry. The most iconic Malayali breakfast one can think of. Puttu is such an emotion for us that we even have a restaurant named after the dish. Yup rightly guessed, I’m talking about Dhe Puttu! Kadala Curry is one of the most quintessential curries that you’d see on the breakfast table of almost all Malayali households. Though diverse in its preparation style, the best Kadala curry is cooked with spices and thoroughly roasted coconut. While Puttu is also relished with sweet bananas and cheru payar curry, the combination of Puttu and Kadala is “vere level, bro!” Keep a plate of this in front of any Malayali and it will be wolfed down in just a matter of minutes.
Thalassery Chicken Biryani
Rich amalgam of spices, unique blend of masalas, and myriad flavors dance around your tastebuds when you bite into a well-prepared succulent Thalassery Chicken Biryani. A celebratory dish from the Malabar region of Kerala, this is a 100% soulful variant of biryani. What makes Thalassery Biryani so different from its counterparts is essentially two things. First, the biryani is made with small-grained jeerakashaala rice which gives the biryani an amazing fragrance and a unique texture. Second, the use of Thalassery black pepper and garam masala gives this mouth-watering dish its characteristic taste. Best accompanied with raita, vinegary onions, pickle, and pappadams, who can ever say no to a plate of this delightful biryani? Popular food critic Vir Sanghvi’s words, “I can eat a Kerala Biryani every day” holds especially true when it comes to the case of a Thalassery Biryani.
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Seafood was, is, and will always remain a weakness for Malayalis. Among the wide variants of “fishy” dishes, one delicacy that we are mighty proud of is the famous Karimeen Pollichathu. Originating from the backwaters of Kerala, this dish is one of the finest seafood preparations the country can boast of. Karimeen Pollichathu can give Karimeen Fry and Karimeen Molly a run for their money any day. This zingy, succulent dish which is absolutely crisp on the exterior and juicy on the interior is the result of frying the karimeen in banana leaf/plantain and grilling it to perfection. The banana leaf wrapped around the Karimeen is what predominantly contributes to the unique flavor it has. Imagine sitting on a boat, exploring the backwaters, and relishing this dish…ah, pure bliss!
Fun fact: Did you know that in the year 2010 Karimeen was declared as the state fish of Kerala?
Ending this list with something warm and sweet! Every Malayali’s all-time-favorite dessert is the classic Semiya Payasam. Traditionally prepared on special and joyous occasions like Onam, Vishu and one’s Pirannal (birthday) this dish is pure delish. Authentically prepared with vermicelli and milk, this yummy dessert is the perfect culmination to a sumptuous banana-leaf meal. Semiya Payasam is a dessert quickie that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes and is one that you cannot really screw up. Rich and creamy in texture, it is the fresh cardamom flavor that gives this vermicelli kheer its true and unique essence. The slower the thickening of the payasam, the more the flavor it imparts. Moreover, the fragrance of this dessert is owed to the ghee-rinsed roasted nuts and raisins simmering down in the milk.
Do you agree with our list? Keep adding more dishes in the comments section!
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