As most Indians would probably know, Kerala is the land of Idlis, dosas, appams and sambhar. But sadly, despite the availabilty of these dishes at most places….I discovered that even the best of restaurants do not serve the authentic form of South Indian food.
In the name of dosas, we get fancy ‘Paper dosas’, ‘Set dosas’, etc. What I had in Kerala was a somewhat different version of the dosa that we get in Delhi. It is a little thicker than a chapatti and is not always served crisp and golden. Nevertheless, the taste is just right!
Idlis (rice cakes) are small and soft cakes of fermented rice dough and the sambhar has a variety of vegetables usually readily available in the south like cucumber, and tapioca stems, and seasoned with tamarind, not tomato.
But of course the spices! (Ouch!) It took me a day to get used the spices. My mom surprisingly took a longer time. But then, they just enhanced the flavour of the dishes. Even while roaming around in the street markets, one could take in the fragrances of cardamom, pepper, star anise, and a host of other strong, but pleasant spices.
At many places we had a kheer like dish, but instead of using rice, they used something like noodles in the milk, which sorta spoiled our mood. But apart from that, the local halwas and the sweet dishes made with rice were a treat for the tongue! Although you could make out the extensive use of coconut oil in the halwas, but that didnt bother us much after a few spoonfuls.
We also gorged on the special fish of the backwaters, known as the karimeen fish. The karimeen fish is a fresh water fish, which is soft and when fried well, gives a nice flavour to the tongue. The most popular version is the Karimeen Pollichathu, which is karimeen fish wrapped in a banana leaf and fried (Pollichathu means wrapped in banana leaf).
Buying banana chips of course, was a given. The best part is, that most shops would make the chips right in front of you and serve them to you right then. However, we discovered that they tasted better when cool.
We also tried something called ‘Sharja’. Seeing it on every restaurant’s menu, we were pretty eager to find out what it was. Turned out to be an ice-cold (chilled in fact) milkshake with coffee, banana, and chocolate powder, and ice. Though it sounds very interesting, to be honest, it is not very impressive.
Kerala, and most of the rest of south India, also has numerous varieties of the banana and coconut. The most popular was the orange coconut and the red banana. Although the red bananas were similar in taste as the yellow ones, the orange coconuts we found to be a tad sweeter than the green ones. What more, these coconuts were the perfect thirst buster!!
Regardless, we did realize that the Keralites make full use of their bananas and coconuts and try to create a variety of things with these resources! In the end, the best thing that I liked about Kerala food was still the dosas and banana chips. 🙂
Oh!! Did I just forget the best part of having food in South India!! On Banana Leaves!!! Yes! we had food on banana leaves instead of plates…just in the traditional way. Now why dont we do the same everywhere?? Economical, eco-friendly and the coolest way to have food! Woohoo!! 😀