Every place has its own unique aspects which makes it special. It can be anything, ranging from natural beauty, architectural marvel, its people, historical importance and so on. But that is not what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to talk about uniqueness in food in every place or rather what propels such variety of foods to originate in each place? Maybe it is because of the multitude of people staying in the said location. I would like to think about it this way – if I am going to live in say Tamil Nadu for instance, even though I would like to try out Tamilian delicacies, after some time I will search for places providing good Keralite food as I am a Keralite and everyone loves the food which they have been having from their early days. No one forgets their roots right? similarly no one will ever forget how good their homely food is.
South Indian food is touted as being very spicy and it is attributed to the climatic conditions prevailing here. I think it’s fair to say that as Kerala is known as the land of spices, it’s only fitting that the food served is spicy. Also there are many factors which have influenced the traditional Kerala cuisine including long coastline, abundance of coconuts, numerous rivers, backwater networks, strong fishing industry.
Kerala has a history of trading with foreign countries like Greece, Rome, South China, Eastern Mediterranean, Arab countries, Europe over a span of over 2000 years and in all these years we have adopted the cuisines of these countries and blended it with our cuisine. Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and we use fish, red meat, poultry with rice as the major accompaniment. For the people coming from outside Kerala, presumably from North Indian states or from other states of India, this might seem quite awkward to see people consuming so much of rice instead of paratha or roti as they have it at their home. We used to produce really good amount to rice here in Kerala during old times, but even as it can be redone in Kerala, most people are content to import rice from our neighbors such as Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh and the situation is only going to get worse in the coming years. In the earlier times, especially during the pre-independence era and post-independence era, the main staple food in Kerala used to be Kanji (rice gruel) accompanied with pappad or some lentils and pickle and I am very happy to say that it is slowly making its comeback in the major areas in Kerala mainly owing to the increase in prices of other delicacies and the quiet effectiveness and satisfaction that a cup of rice gruel gives you for quarter of the same amount. Still there is no sign of re-emergence of another staple food which used to be such a big hit among the masses in earlier times but now been reduced to being served in toddy parlors or as an exquisite dish being served in big hotels. Yes. You guessed right. I am indeed talking about Tapioca. No one can forget the sheer pleasure it gives our palate whilst having tapioca and smashed chilly or with fish or chicken combinations.
Usually, Kerala food is served on a Banana leaf. There are actually few traditions which are followed by the old generations in Kerala and I find it logical and so would you I believe. Have a look below at what they are and why they are:
● Older generations implied that food should only be taken when you are hungry and the mind of the person having the food should be one of quietness and happiness.
● They insisted that food should be eaten sitting on the floor as in that way you won’t be able to eat too much. I have tried it and find it to be absolutely true. Also another advantage of the position is that this will help food to reach the stomach through alimentary canal directly which I personally guess doesn’t matter as food will reach its destination no matter how you take it..
● Now onto why banana leaf is used to consume traditional food in Kerala. According to the elders, after putting the leaf salt, sour and chilly is added first which is effective at awakening the digestive acids to digest the food you are going to have. Next up is ginger curry and lemon pickle which helps in digestion. Afterwards, comes the curries and then hot rice is placed on the leaf. The placing of hot rice in the banana leaf helps to heat up the same and rice absorbs the chlorophyll in the leaf. At the same instant a flavor is produced which is said to awaken six senses of the person.
● It is most effective to sit thankfully in front of your food, thanking the one who cultivated the food, thanking the chef who made the food, thanking the one who serves you the food and finally thanking god for giving us the opportunity to have the food.
● Also elders say not to have food whilst watching television or while talking as the body will react to whatever scene which is playing in front of you.
Also the cultural differences reflects in the variety of dishes in Kerala as we have Hindus and their special array of vegetarian dishes like idly and sambar which is among the best breakfasts of the world(which actually is a Tamilian dish but an awesome one nevertheless), rasam(which is an appetizer), a full course sadya will have about 24-28 dishes extending to as big as 64 dishes in the case of onam sadya served during aranmula boat race.
Muslims with their own unique non vegetarian dishes like pathiri, and usually have a blend of Arabian, North Indian and indigenous Malabari cuisine to follow and Calicut, named as the gourmet capital of Kerala is the best place in Kerala to experience the Muslim cuisine at its best.
Christian influence can also be seen in the their special combinations like appam and chicken stew and lots more combinations. The Christian combinations are very popular and prevalent in Christian community hotspots such as Kochi, Kottayam, Pala, Pathanamthitta region.
Not to forget all the minorities and their special foods along with the tribal people and their exquisite foods like spicy crab roast, pantithal which is a tribal vegetarian dish, koyipachappu which is another vegetarian delicacy, paral chuttathu, puzhameen curry and so on…
Nowadays North Indian and other major cuisines all over the world are having lots of takers in Kerala owing to the increase in number of people relocating to the Gods own Country for job or other purposes.
Initially I wanted to write about the various types of food which we get in each of these 14 districts and even though no one actually knows how many authentic combinations are on offer in these districts, the closest I could ever come on finding a reliable source of good food outlets all over Kerala and outside Kerala, is a list made by a hardcore foodie. Being a foodie myself, if I have the link and I am not sharing the same with you all, I would personally be doing our state and every one of you a crime which I am not ready to take the blame for. So here you go:
What more can I
say…I can go on for hours on the same topic and I must say it is quite amazing
to see that despite being a small sized state, Kerala is indeed a gastronomical
paradise. Come, feel and experience the plethora of aromas, textures, tastes,
and lose yourself in it… you can always retrieve yourself later…