Kerala Food


Like the rest of South India, Kerala food is spicy yet scrumptious. Kerala has its own distinctive cuisine using the ingredients locally available. Sea food is famous among the non-Brahmins, Muslims and Christians. The evolution of the culinary style of Kerala can be traced to the social structure and to the history of the state.

The local Kerala food includes a lot of coconut as that is grown aplenty in the coastal areas. Grated coconut is included in virtually every dish. Coconut milk is used to make the gravies and lends a sweet tinge to the cooking. The oil used for cooking also is mainly coconut or vegetable oil. Rice that grows well in this fertile soil is the staple food.Sea food such as fish, crabs, shellfish, lobsters are included in everyday cooking especially in the coastal regions. Smaller varieties of fish are dried salted and pickled. They may or may not be fried before consumption. Sardines and Mackerel are the everyday fish.

The average Malayali is very liberal in his use of spices. The commonly used spices are green chillies, cumin, coriander, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, dried red chillies; and curry and coriander leaves added fresh provide a subtle yet irresistible flavor. The food in Kerala is generally steamed and a light tempering, is possibly the most oil is used apart from the rare fried dishes. A great emphasis is laid on healthy cooking.

Hindus, especially the Brahmin Namdoodiris are generally vegetarians and have a distinct style of cooking. Tapioca and plantain cultivation is profuse in Kerala. Hence a great use of these vegetables is found in both main dishes and in snacks. Since Islam is one of the main religions of the land, the Muslim household food has a distinctive Mughal/Awadhi touch to it. The Kozhikodan Biriyani and the Prawn Masala are familiar favorites in a Malayali Muslim household.

Kerala Recipes

Breakfast in a Malayali household may consist of one or more of the following dishes:
  • Appam
  • Puttu
  • Idiyapam
  • Idli
  • Dosa
  • Idiyapam

A traditional festival meal, Sadya or Saddya as it is called, is served on a plantain leaf end with the narrow end to the left. It necessarily includes the following dishes:
  • Parripu (Dal)
  • Sambar (Dal cooked with a slight tempering of vegetables like brinjal, drumstick, tomatoes etc)
  • Rasam ( A clear soup)
  • Avial (Assorted vegetables cooked in a paste of grated coconut and curd, spiced with cumin and green chillies)
  • Kaalan (Curry in a curd base)
  • Theyal
  • Olan (Red beans and White Pumpkin cooked in coconut gravy)
  • Thoran
  • Erisseri (Dal and Yam spiced with Cumin)
  • Pulli Inji (Ginger pieces in a spicy tamarind pulp)
  • Pachadi (Raita)
  • Kichadi
  • Chips (Banana/ Tapioca/Jackfruit)
  • Pradhaman/Payasam

The order in which the food is served is of physiological, cultural and religious significance. On the bottom left are placed the Pappadam and Chips. Above these the pickles and Pulli Inji are placed. Now from left to right are served Thoran, Olan, Avial, Kalan, Erisseri and Pachadi. In the middle of the leaf rice is served. On it Parippu, Sambar, Rasam and Curd may be served as per the course. The Payasam/ Pradaman is served between the Rasam and Curd courses. The courses get lighter as the meal proceeds and the addition of digestive tidbits such as Pulli Inji or Lime Pickle ensure complete digestion. Pradhaman or Payasam may be of many kinds but the favorite is Pal Payasam (rice cooked in milk with jaggery or sugar). The order in which the food is served is said to signify the spiritual progress of the soul from materialism (spicy) towards spiritualism (refined and subtle).

All in all, a travel through the different districts of Kerala shall indeed prove a gastronomic delight. Maps of India brings to you a few mouthwatering recipes and authentic Malayali fare.

Last Updated on : 23/07/2013