Traditional Food In Kerala

traditional food in kerala
| 4 min read

One segment in Indian cuisine that has developed a cult following is the traditional food in Kerala. This hotspot (pun intended) for an interesting fusion of flavors has become the main starting point for some tourists when trying some local fare. In the course of exploring this culinary variety, they then discover the various ways that the food is made flavorful by rice flour, coconut milk, and various spices. You then realize that Indian cuisine is not just curry and turmeric. Whether you are into vegan fare or into the meatier variants of food labeled “traditional”, you’d be amazed at the culinary fusion that Kerala food has in store for you. Be ready to eat with your hands for some of the dishes mentioned. Scroll below and find out more about the traditional food of Kerala.

1. Puttu [Kerala rice cakes] with curry dip

Puttu with kadala curry
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jackson John 10 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Puttu is a breakfast dish accompanied by a curry dip called Kadala curry, distinct from the conventional curry that the locals have exported to the world. Instead of curry powder though, Kadala curry dip is made from black chickpeas cooked with coconut gravy. It adds flavor to the bread called “puttu”, cooked in a cylindrical mold from a batter of rice flour, grated coconut, and water. No wonder why foodies have called it soft rice puttu. It is one of the few healthy breakfast options available that do not compromise the need to fill up your tummy and fuel your activity whether at school or at work.

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2. Appam [disc-shaped rice cakes]

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Connie Ma used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This bread is occasionally interchanged with the puttu when dunked over the Kadala curry dip since it is also made up of rice flour. While it can be eaten on its own, having some curry dip to taste, helps. Most locals have the appam as a side dish for their main meals like vegetable curry, mutton stew or other meat-based culinary fares. Locals would highly recommend appam cooked fresh with its edges toasted to a crisp. Eating it while it is hot also maintains the taste of the rice flour unique to other forms of bread baked in an oven using conventional flour. Highly recommended for fans of the gluten-free and ketogenic variety of dishes.

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3. Malabar chicken biryani

Malabar Chicken Biryani Kerala Style
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nita Abbey used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Biryani is one of the most identifiable Indian dishes apart from the chicken curry. Tourists were elated to discover a Kerala version that locals have been proud of eating throughout several generations. It introduced a cooking style to the world that includes turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, and fennel powder and makes the dish explode with flavor. These and other spices that complete the alchemy for the chicken marinade, that once cooked is topped off with basmati rice. The aroma surely boosts many cravings for this version of biryani as the smell of cinnamon, mint leaves, bay leaves, and other ingredients waft through the air. The next thing you realize is that the dish is served, garnished with chopped cashew nuts and some extra coriander leaves for your pleasure.

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4. Unnakaya [flourless finger food]

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jyothis Thaliath used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the hidden treasures of Indian cuisine is this finger food the locals called “unnakaya”. Some tourists might find this concept familiar since it is like a corn dog except that the filling is not hotdog but grated coconut among other local ingredients. Also, it is a flourless kind of bread-filled dish as bananas are mashed to form a batter, flattened and filled with its signature ingredients. The tropical feel of Kerala is best tasted with this concoction of mashed bananas and grated coconut, guaranteed to fill an empty stomach craving for local fare.

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5. Idiyappam [rice noodles]

Idiyappam with Egg Masala Curry
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Viewfinder18 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

The common misconception about Indian cuisine is that they don’t have noodles. Until they get to Kerala and get served Idiyappam. Idiyappam is Kerala’s answer to Chinese rice noodles consisting of rice flour cooked in boiling water and formed into a dough. That dough is then put through a mold that pushes it out in noodle form. The final form is more like pasta but paler. The usual topping is hard-boiled eggs immersed in spicy curry sauce.

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6. Pazham Pori [fritters]

Pazham Pori
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ayshamarjana used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Fried banana fritters Kerala-style? Some may correct you eventually from calling them bananas and mention that they are actually plantain sliced lengthwise, coated in flour and fried. The flour makes the fritters flavorful and chances are that the flour is unique to Kerala. Trying to fry your own fritters might taste different simply because of the kind of flour used. The locals though love the fusion of the flour and the ripeness of the fruit fried to golden brown perfection. Best enjoyed with some ginger tea, also found in Kerala.

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7. Parotta [multi-layered pancake]

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Charles Haynes used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sounds Italian but it’s actually Keralite. Think of dough cooked in long strips, flattened on top of the other with a rolling pin and cooked in a frying pan. So it’s a thicker version of the sourdough used by the Middle Easterners for their shawarma or the bread used by other versions of Indian cuisine for their samosa. This is then topped with beef curry as a filling before rolling it up to be served. The spicier the beef curry used as a filling, the richer the flavor of the parotta.

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Indian cuisine, Kerala-style

Kerala oonu
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user ABHIJITH SOMAN used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Tourists have flocked to Kerala for the more traditional manner of preparing food. Raw, almost immune from fusion without losing the taste that nourished the natives of Kerala from breakfast to dinner. Curry powder and other spices fused with coconut milk and then some, you can guess by this point which demographic it has attracted the most - vegans and other fans of plant-based food products. Add other organic products for that farm-to-table feel (that is very natural and homely for the native Keralites) and you can be rest assured of the freshness with all the nutrients intact in those ingredients.

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My name is Jing, a freelance writer online since late 2013. I enjoy writing about memorable experiences brought by traveling around. I find fulfillment in exploring areas that make a tourist...Read more

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