Kerala Cuisine is linked to the Indian southern state of Kerala and its history, geography and culture. In Kerala Cuisine spices are used extensively and hence Kerala is also called as “land of spices” because it traded spices with many ancient civilizations. Because of its rich trading heritage, over the time various cuisines have blended with indigenous Kerala dishes where foreign dishes were adapted as per local tastes. Coconut and coconut milk are commonly used for thickening and flavoring along with coconut oil as coconuts grow in abundance across Kerala. Kerala’s long coastline and numerous rivers have been a strong source for fishing industry in the region, making seafood a common part of every meals. Rice is grown in abundance making it the main starch ingredient used in Kerala Cuisine. Kerala Cuisine offers a combination of both vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes made with, fish, meat and poultry along with rice being the staple food here.
Kerala Cuisine includes regional cuisines like Malabar Cuisine, Thalassery Cuisine and Syrian Christian Cuisine. This makes Kerala Cuisine a proper blend of Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities food habits offering variety of dishes mutually influenced and admired.
Malabar Cuisine is a blend of Arab, Portuguese, British, Dutch, Jewish, French, Brahmin, Zamorin and Chirakkal cuisines coming from the northern parts of Kerala state. In this cuisine the famous dish is Biryani made with dum style where the heat is applied on both top and bottom side of the cooking vessel. Malabar cuisine consists of ancient recipes of India which are safeguarded and passed down by royal cooks of royal families from generations.
Thalassery Cuisine originates from the town of Thalassery located in the north coastal Malabar region in Kerala. The influence of Arabian/Mughal culture is evident in this cuisine, especially in the dishes of the Muslim community. Thalassery falooda is a regional variant of the Persian dessert cocktail made with fruit salad, dry fruits such as black currant, pista, cashew, almonds, rose milk and vanilla ice cream. It is known for its mappila biryani where they use Kaima / Jeerakasala (short and thin grained) rice instead of the usual basmati rice. The Kaima / Jeerakasala rice does not need pre-soaking in water and here water is used only to clean the rice. After adequate boiling, the excess water is drained off from the cooking dish completely. This cuisine mostly forms a sub cuisine to Malabar Cuisine.
Syrian Christian Cuisine comes from the southern parts of the state of Kerala. It is a blend of Kerala’s own traditional dishes rich in coconut and the influence of Syrian, Dutch, Portuguese and British recipes. Plantains, coconut, gourds and yam are commonly used in this cuisine.
A few popular dishes in Kerala Cuisine are:
- appam refers to a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk
- idiyappam refers to a dish consisting of rice flour pressed into noodle form and then steamed
- puttu refers to a breakfast dish made of rice powder and coconut, steamed in a metal or bamboo holder served with meen curry
- pathiri refers to a pancake dish made of rice flour and served with meat or fish for dinner. Variants of pathiri include neypathiri (made with ghee), poricha pathiri (fried rather than baked), meen pathiri (stuffed with fish) and irachi pathiri (stuffed with meat), chattipathiri (baked maida with rich filling)
- sadya refers to a Kerala banquet meal served on a banana leaf with many vegetarian dishes popular in Hindu communities
- neenthram chips refers to a snack dish where plantain is cut into pieces and deep friend, then garnished with salt and pepper
- koottukari refers to gravy based hot and sweet curry dish made with vegetables and coconut
- thoran refers to a dry curry dish made with vegetables and coconut
- avial refers to a thick gravy dish of vegetables and coconut, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves
- kaalan refers to a thick gravy dish made of yogurt, coconut and any one of the vegetable which lasts longer than other dishes
- kappa refers to a snack dish where tapioca is boiled, cut into slices and then mixed with grated coconut, chilli, salt and turmeric
- stew refers to a thick gravy dish made of chicken, potatoes, onions simmered gently in a creamy white sauce flavored with black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green chillies, lime juice, shallots and coconut milk. Here lamb and duck can replace chicken in the stew recipe sometimes
- vettila murukkan refers to a digestive item where a betel leaf is consumed with lime and areca nut
- unnakkaya refers to a deep-fried dish, where boiled ripe banana paste covers a mixture of cashew, raisins and sugar
- pazham nirachathu refers to a dish where ripe banana is filled with coconut grating, molasses or sugar
- sulaimani refers to a hot lime black tea served after main course in malabar regions
- daahashamani water refsrs to a medicated herbal water, used when drinking water with biryani. It is an ayurvedic medicine, natural thirst reliever and digestive aid prepared by mixing dry ginger, cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, mimosa catechu, sapanwood, vetiver, puncturevine and sandal wood
- kozhikodan halwa refers to a dessert dish made with popular flour sugar, coconut oil prepared in four variations like black, white, red and green. The colour infusion was introduced naturally with almonds for red and pistachio for green. Today, with the growing demand for more choice, the halwa makers have started using jack fruit, mango, grapes, strawberries and even chocolate
- paal payasam refers to sweet dish which is similar to milk kheer. Here rice is cooked slowly in milk with coconut extract, dry fruits and sugar or jaggery