Kerala’s spice plantations, coconut-palm groves and long coastline have shaped its local cuisine.
Kerala food is linked in all its richness to the history, geography, demography and culture of the land. Kerala cuisine has a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes using fish, poultry and red meat.
Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, and consequently, coconut products are widely used in dishes for thickening and flavouring. Most local dishes are cooked in coconut oil. Kerala’s long coastline, numerous rivers and backwater networks, and its strong fishing industry have contributed to many seafood dishes. Rice and cassava (tapioca) form the staple food of Kerala. All main dishes are made with them and served along with kootan; the side dishes may be made from vegetables, meat, fish or a mix of all of them. The main dish for lunch and dinner is boiled rice. Kerala breakfast has a rich variety; the main dishes are made from rice flour, or fresh or dried cassava. Owing to the weather and the availability of spices, Kerala food is rich and spicy and includes the following ingredients – chilli, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon.
Delicious breakfast dishes include puttu (rice powder and coconut, steamed in a metal or bamboo holder) eaten with steamed bananas and or with a spicy curry, idlis (spongy, round, fermented rice cakes) and sambar (fragrant vegetable dhal), dosas with coconut chutney, idiyappam (rice noodles) or paalappam (a kind of pancake) served with a meat or fish stew. Appam is a soft pancake made from toddy-fermented rice batter, with a soft spongy centre and crispy edges, also eaten with a coconut-mellowed stew.
Sadya is the most famous main course Kerala food. It is a type of Kerala thali with a set of curries including boiled rice, sambar, parippukari with ghee, pachadi, kichadi, aviyal, puliyan, kuttukari, kalan, olan, injikkari, rasam, pappadam, pickle, raita, and payasam.
Popularly known as Malabar biryani or Thalassery biryani, Kerala biryani is another famous dish all over Kerala. The difference between Thalassery biryani and other biryani variants is the type of rice used (khaima rice) and the method of preparation.
Popular vegetarian dishes include sambar, aviyal, kaalan, thoran, poduthol (dry curry), pulisherry (morozhichathu in Cochin and the Malabar region), olan, erisherry, puliinji, cherupayaru (mung bean) and kappa (tapioca). Vegetarian dishes often consist of fresh spices that are roasted and crushed to make a paste-like texture to dampen rice.
Popular non-vegetarian dishes include stew (using chicken, mutton, fish), traditional or chicken curry (Nadan Kozhi Curry), chicken fry (Kozhi Porichathu/Varuthathu), beef fry, fish, chicken or mutton molee (in coconut milk), fish curry (Meen Curry), fish fry (Meen Porichathu/Varuthathu), prawn fry (Konchu Varuthathu), Spicy Steamed Fish (Meen Pollichathu) and Malabar chicken curry.
For dessert, payasam is made of brown molasses, coconut milk and spices, garnished with cashew nuts and raisins.
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