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Friday, 18 October 2013

THE GREAT KERALA CUISINE AND ITS VARIATIONS

Kerala Cuisine

Kerala food is moderately spicy in nature, but most flavourful, and its recipes promote locally grown ingredients for cooking. 

Kerala is the home of  kera known as the coconut tree. Coconut is the base for many dishes and is used in almost every dish in Kerala. Coconut oil is used for cooking. The oil is extracted from the dried coconut or “kopra.” Grated coconut and coconut milk are widely used in dishes for thickening and flavouring.

Rice and tapioca (cassava) are the most common foods of Kerala. Varieties of main dishes are made with these two. Seafood is also one of the very famous foods. Fish, crab, shellfish, lobster, and prawn are used for everyday cooking. Sardines and mackerel are the most commonly used varieties of fish.

The different meat varieties used in Kerala kitchens include poultry, red meats, and a few game birds (now restricted by law).

Kerala breakfast shows a rich variety. Most of the breakfast dishes are made from rice flour. Some of the breakfast dishes are appam, idiyappam, idli, dosa, and puttu. Along with this, some of the side dishes are made with coconut.

For lunch and dinner, the main dish is boiled rice. Along with this, there will be one or more curries and side dishes. There are several varieties of vegetarian and nonvegetarian curries and side dishes.

Popular vegetarian dishes are sambar, rasam, aviyal, kaalan, olan, erisherry, pulisherry, thoran, pachadi, and kichadi.

Food in Kerala is generally steamed and lightly tempered. Most of the dishes are spicy. Non-vegetarian dishes include chicken, fish, and lamb. Curry, fry, and ullarthu are made from these varieties.

Nowadays, Kerala people often have chapattis or food made of wheat, especially for dinner. Grains like ragi and millet are common in some parts of south India.

Onasadhya
Kerala is famous for its traditional banquet called “sadhya.” This is a vegetarian meal served with boiled rice as the main dish and along with variety of side dishes. This traditional meal is prepared during special occasions and festivals and is served in a banana leaf.

Kerala cuisine and the eating habits of its people are closely related to its festivals, especially Onam. A proper sadhya is the traditional vegetarian feast of Kerala. Usually served as lunch, it consists of parboiled pink rice, side dishes, savouries, pickles, and desserts spread out on a plantain leaf. Tradition insists that the tapered end of the leaf points to the left of the seated guest. Rice is served on the lower half of the leaf. The feast begins with the serving of parippu, a lentil preparation made of small gram and ghee.

The second course is sambar, the famous south Indian vegetable stew in which any available combination of vegetables is boiled in a gravy of crushed lentils, onions, chillies, coriander, and turmeric, with a pinch of asafoetida.

Avial, an essential side dish, is a blend of vegetables, cconut paste, and green chillies. Some of the other important side dishes include thoran and olan. Thoran can be minced string beans, cabbage, radish, or grams, mixed with grated coconut and sautéed with a dash of red chillies and turmeric powder. Olan is a bland dish of pumpkin and red gram cooked in a thin gravy of coconut milk.

The savouries include upperi, pappadum, ginger pickle, pachadi, and kichadi. Upperi is deep-fried banana chips. Pappadums are fried, creamy yellow, sun-dried wafers of black gram flour. The ginger pickle is a rich brown, hot, and sweet ginger chutney, while the kichadi consists of sliced and sautéed cucumber or ladyfingers in curd, seasoned with mustard, red chillies, and curry leaves in coconut oil. Pickles are usually mango and lime.

Desserts are served midway through the meal. The payasam is a thick, fluid dish of sweet brown molasses, coconut milk, and spices, garnished with cashew nuts and raisins.

There could be a succession of payasams, such as the palada pradhaman and parippu pradhaman. Pazham, a small, ripe, golden-yellow plantain, is usually eaten with the payasams.

After the payasams, rice is served once more with the spicy rasam. Rasam is a mixture of chilli and peppercorn powders boiled in diluted tamarind juice.Kaalan, seasoned buttermilk with turmeric powder and green chillies, and plain sour buttermilk that comes salted and with chopped green chillies and ginger, are served before the feast is finally wound up.