God’s Own Country is a paradise for food lovers, with so many dishes to try that it’s almost overwhelming. With tantalizing dishes for the chicken and beef eaters, the pure vegetarians and the seafood lovers, experiencing the food in Kerala is just one of the reasons you should visit this stunning state. We have painstakingly narrowed it down to these 7 must-haves when in Kerala for a brief time. Time permitting, we say go everywhere and try everything! In the meantime, read up on experiencing the food in Kerala to get those taste buds tingling.
Possibly the most recognizable South Indian dish, sadhya is a delicious meal that can’t be followed by anything but a nap. Traditionally served on a broad plantain leaf, sadhya is notorious for having as many as 30 various components! You can always get lucky by being invited to a Mallu friend’s home at Onam to have Onasadya. But trust us, whether it’s at a friend’s house or at one of the recommended restaurants, eating sadhya has to be on your bucket list.
Mothers Veg Plaza: Simple in setup yet consistent in delivery, Mothers Veg Plaza always hits the mark when it comes to sadhya. Served on a plantain leaf (just as it should be), the sadhya is only served till 3 pm. Head there early, as there’s bound to be a rush.
BTH Sarovaram: Just like Mothers Veg Plaza, BTH Sarovaram is known not for its sparkling quarters but more for its delicious Sadhya. Getting here early is paramount, as there is sure to be some crowd.
Appam and Stew
Soft and cushiony in the centre and crispy around the edges, appams are made to soak up stews and curries. But its match made in heaven is the Keralan stew, rich with coconut milk and with a mild hit of green chilli. While this is a breakfast meal in most Syrio-Christian homes, you can have it at any time of the day. An essential to experiencing the food in Kerala, don’t give this one a miss!
Paragon: With outlets in both Dubai and Kerala doing swimmingly well, Paragon has somewhat of a cult following. You’ll have a hard time choosing but take it from us, their appam and stew is a must-have.
Salkara: Salkara is run by the same people fueling Paragon. Similar to Paragon, Salkara is a no-frills, functional but neatly kept restaurant. It also makes for a good (and the only fitting) option to replace Paragon for appam and stew.
Perhaps the best result of trading influences, Kerala’s malabar biryani has to be on every non-vegetarians’ list. It exists as a result of trade with the Middle East, and makes the Arab influence in this Malayalee state quite evident. Unlike other biryanis, malabar biryani is made with short-grain jeerakasala rice that holds a lot more flavour.
Tracing its roots to the Muslim Mopplah community, Malabar biryani is enjoyed by everyone, irrespective of creed or religion. The quest for delicious biryani brings them to Kerala, and the malabar biryani is their gold at the end of the rainbow.
Kayee’s Rahmathullah Hotel: Dishing out mouth-watering biryani since 1948, Rahmathullah Hotel is practically an institution. Every new day sees a crowd gathering to taste their famed dish but remember, it is well worth the wait! While chicken and mutton are available everyday, Friday has fish biryani and Tuesdays have prawn.
Paragon Restaurant: Yes, this is enough of an institution to have a second mention in our blog. Founded in 1939, Paragon has only gotten better over the years. This is the place to stuff yourself with malabar biryani.
Kerala Beef Fry
Erachi Ularthiyathu is the traditional name for this popular dish. Mouthful to pronounce? Don’t worry, the only mouthful you’ll need to worry about is shoveling down as many mouthfuls of this dish as possible! Chunks of beef are slowly stir fried with a delectable mixture of coconut, curry leaves, spices and green chilly.
The rich red mixture is served alongside Malabari paratha – layers upon layers of soft paratha to peel off and wrap around the beef fry make for an unforgettable meal. Looking for the best accompaniment? Some alcohol or toddy should do just fine!
Mullapanthal restaurant: Don’t be fooled by its simple ‘hole-in-the-wall’ appearance – Mullapanthal is all about the food. This award-winning toddy shop has some unbeatable beef fry that can be served with some toddy to wash it down. It’s the small yet hardy joints like this that contribute so much to experiencing the food in Kerala.
Grand Pavilion: If you’re looking for a more upscale establishment to try beef fry, head to Grand Pavilion. This is yet another institution that garners a double mention a little lower in the blog. Make sure you order the Malabar parotta to go along with the beef fry.
Visiting Kerala and not trying karimeen pollichathu would be a shame for all seafood eaters. The Keralites consider karimeen pollichathu to be one of their traditional delicacies. Karimeen, also known as the pearl spot fish, is found in Kerala’s backwaters. It is kept to marinate in a mixture of chillies, lemon and spices, then wrapped up in a plantain leaf and baked. Authentically Keralan in preparation, Kerala is one of very few places that can offer karimeen pollichathu. Usually served alongside rice, the fish gets so well cooked that the soft, flaky flesh simply compliments the amazing spicy, tangy flavour.
Grand Pavilion: Yep, here’s the second mention. Despite having an extensive menu, take it from us, the karimeen pollichathu here is to die for. They may serve North Indian and Chinese, but Grand Pavilion holds a mastery over local flavours and dishes.
Karimpumkala: What started out as a humble toddy shop in 1958 has now turned into an esteemed joint for absolutely lip-smacking food. Family owned and operated, Karimpumkala sources their seafood from coastal city Alleppey, and their backwater fish from Kumarakom.
The only thing better than dessert? Just more of it! A South Indian specialty, payasam is a sweet, thick dessert similar to kheer. There are several variations of payasam, each of them as delicious and indulgent as the last. When in Kerala, you’re sure to have payasam and see it sold everywhere.
Apart from the basic paal payasam – milk, sugar and rice painstakingly boiled over a flame for a long time, make sure you try the chakka pradhaman – jaggery and coconut milk, twice boiled. Also look out for Parippu pradhaman. It’s essentially coconut milk blended with split yellow moong daal.
Mittayi Theruvu: Head to this street in Kozhikode to indulge your sweet tooth. Translating to Sweet Street, you’ll find a whole range of sweets here, alongside payasam.
This one isn’t a dish, but we felt like it warrants a spot on our blog nonetheless. Brewed without any milk, served with a dash of lemon, this amber hued tea is believed to have Arab origins. Yet another remnant of trading influences, Sulaimani chai came to the coasts of Kerala with Arab traders. The addition of local spices and the replacing of dates with sugar constituted the local influences. This tea serves as a great digestive, which we’re sure you’ll need after all the sampling to be done!
Honestly, the cuisine of Kerala is staggeringly vast and delicious. It crosses boundaries of religion and dietary choices, making sure there is a wholesome meal to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. While there are several restaurants dotted around India that replicate its authenticity, nothing beats going there yourself and experiencing the food in Kerala. Maybe even opt for a houseboat stay to heighten your experience even more!