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Kerala

A little taste of Kerala

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Kerala   

IMG-20170801-WA0016.thumb.jpg.4a7ae1d5684985d6b5d8764aeb66a1dd.jpg

My niece has just married and we are in Kerala as part of the celebrations. I wish I could have preserved  the whole event in detail for eGullet, as I’ve enjoyed the posts of others so much. In particular I’m thinking of @chefmd's Mongolia blog and @sartoric's amazing South Indian report. Forget that standard! I’m going to try a little mini-blog. Not only am I terribly disorganised and IT challenged but I am also currently suffering from a rotator cuff tear which makes photography painful and difficult. Even though this will be a very scanty record, I think I can offer something a little different to what we've seen before.

 

Prawn fry.

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Chicken fry.

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Rice.

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My mother used to send us off to school with our lunch of fried prawns, rice and yoghurt. I think this rice is basmati, which is not quite correct. The yoghurt is home made daily. The prawns are from the Kerala backwaters; large and fresh caught. These are spiced mainly with chilli paste, and cooked in coconut oil to a somewhat firmer consistency than would be considered polite nowadays in the UK. This combination takes me right back to kindergarten tiffin. The nuns used to roll their eyes and tut at how red and hot the prawns looked. We don’t get it much or at all any more when we’re back in England, so this was an absolute treat.  The chicken fry and chicken curry (just pictured with the rice) would normally have been stars in their own shows, but got hardly a look-in today. The thoren (again not pictured) being vegetarian, was sadly neglected. I’m sure it was very good but vegetables really have to fight for their space on my plate.

Please bear with me for the misalligned pictures, varying resolution and clunky editing...

 

 

 


Edited by Kerala Photo uploading incompetence, spelling correction (log)
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Alex   

Thank you for some delicious-looking food; I also like the first photo.

 

Also, my sympathies about the rotator cuff tear. I had surgery for that (my dominant arm, no less) about 2½ years ago after PT and other measures didn't have any effect. It took about six months of post-surgery PT for things to get back to normal -- but, fortunately, they did.


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."
 

The mosque is too far from home, so let's do this / Let's make a weeping child laugh. -Nida Fazli, poet (translated, from the Urdu, by Anu Garg, wordsmith.org)

 

The greatest enemy of knowledge is the illusion of knowledge. -(origin unclear)

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sartoric   

Gee thanks @Kerala, wish I was there ! Your food looks great, and it's lovely to share your childhood memories. More please.....

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Smithy   

I too would like more information, as you find time to post it.

 

 Tell me more about the combination of curried prawns (or chicken) and rice, please.  It may just be the photos, but I don't see sauce with the prawns (or chicken) that could be added to the rice.  Is there extra sauce, or is the rice relatively dry in this combination?  Was that the purpose of the yoghurt in your tiffin?

 

I love rice but am inclined to include sauces with it.  It may be because my mother, a U.S. Southerner, considered "rice'n'gravy" to be a single word. :)


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Kerala   

@Smithy, the yoghurt would provide the liqiuid component as well as a tangy sour note.I didn't photograph the combination as it would look slushy on the plate. To me this preparation is like Anton Ego's ratatouille in that movie.

There was chicken curry with the rice, which had some gravy. Also, normal people eat vegetables, again providing some sauce on the plate.

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Kerala   

20170724_205856.thumb.jpg.2169827832b282473d42d534c948a0b8.jpg    

          

Menu

 

Appam-8

Chicken biriyani- 130

Beef biriyani- 130

Kappa  (Tapioca)- 40

Kappa Biriyani    -130 (beef)

                                -150 (chicken)

Idiyappam (string hoppers)- 8

Chappatti- 10

Parotta- 10

Coconut shell Puttu- 20

Mackerel with chilli                                         )90-120

Mackerel with grated coconut                   )

Kera fish with chilli- 100-130

Karimeen (Kingfish) Vattattharachathu curry- AS PER SIZE

Beef roast (fry)- 120

Chicken Vattawuttharachathu - 130

Chicken Roast- 150

Chicken Fry- 140

Chicken Varattiyathu (Fry)- 160

Duck Curry- 170

Poti Fry- 80

………………..

 

This is the Menu board from a restaurant called Erivum Puliyum, literally “Heat and Sour.” It refers to the taste of chillies and tamarind, essential in Kerala cooking and especially for fish. We walked in at 9 PM needing to order a take-away for 15 people, WhatsApped the photo to our group and the restaurant delivered the food in 40 minutes. The place is a favourite of my sister’s when she is in Cochin. It’s rough and ready but very popular, and the menu shows what can be had for a very modest outlay. The current exchange rate is 83 rupees to the pound sterling, 64 rupees to the US dollar. But it’s difficult to access without the language.

 

Kappa Biriyani uses tapioca instead of rice. Innovation continues in surprising ways! This dish has taken off big time in Kerala recently, and is completely new to me. Nice, but whereas rice biriyani has a resonance of the Mughal Court, kappa biriyani leans towards the toddy shop.

 

Varattiyathu, roast, fry are somewhat interchangeable terms in cooking and not necessarily related to what you might expect. Anywhere from deep-fried to slow cooked in a dry sauce would fall in that spectrum. Some of the dishes refer to “with chillies” or “with coconut.” Since both are present in just about everything you can eat in Kerala, I guess this means “with even more!”

 

Poti Fry- I had no idea. Googling leads to Boti Fry, lamb gizzards apparently. Sadly, I missed the opportunity.

Google tells me Kera is Amberjack.

Karimeen is what I always thought translated to Kingfish, but google offers Pearl Spot or Green Chromide.

 

You can see the prominence of beef on the menu. The owner says there’s been some trouble with the recent rise of Hindu fundamentalists who object to the sale of beef. In Kerala there’s never been a distinction between beef and buffalo- you either ate it or you didn’t, and we didn’t interfere with other people’s choices. Now, as elsewhere in India, we are seeing restaurants advertising buffalo to try and avoid the ire of religious types. I’m not saying it was a paradise of tolerance and mutual respect, but that was certainly how we saw ourselves. This shift is also reflected in the confused and confusing approach to getting alcohol in Kerala. Suffice to say, at present it is not a dry state, but you will have difficulty buying a legal drink on public holidays and on the first day of every month. It’s all political.

 

Talking of politics; no pics of the food, so here’s a picture of Noam Chomsky at a place where we ate.

20170802_171551.thumb.jpg.e781ed078527e0bb4edcf47c629bd164.jpg

 

 Future installments will not be so text-heavy.


Edited by Kerala Picture uploading, text spacing (log)
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Kerala   

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Once again lunch at my mother’s. These days when in India she mainly supervises the servants until they make it like she would. She’s eighty now and just doesn’t have the enthusiasm to prepare food with quite the same attention to detail on a daily basis. The food definitely tastes as though she cooked it, and the distinction is clear and consistent between food prepared under her roof and that prepared at her sisters’ houses.

 

Thoren.

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There are many types of thoren, but beans thoren is the template, and this is it. Stir fried with ground coconut, curry leaves, mustard seeds, chillies… I’ve never cooked this so I won’t comment further.

 

Vendakka mezhukupuratti. Okra stir-fried.

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Okra is called “ladies’ finger” in Indian English. Not slimy at all in this preparation. Again, with grated coconut and much other stuff. Way beyond my expertise.

 

Fried prawns.

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These are sea-prawns. They’re smaller than the freshwater ones in the previous post, but not tiny. The taste is very similar. There’s a huge industry farming freshwater prawns in the Kayal, the back-waters around Cochin.

 

Sambar.

 

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I just cannot emphasise enough the importance of sambar in Malayali cooking and the Kerala psyche. It's a kind of stew with muringakka (drumstick), okra/ladies' finger, tomato, yams, gourds, marrow and various other vegetables. Typically it is not very hot, but it has a very spiced taste. It is absolutely idiomatic, the one thing every cook in Kerala will be able to prepare without thinking about it at all. Absolutely beyond my reach as a cook, and I've never tried to prepare it. It can be eaten with rice, appam, idli, dosa, vada...

 

Here’s a picture off all the above along with some chicken curry on my plate.

 

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3 veg and 2 non-veg. See how much I’m willing to suffer for eGullet? Actually the vegetables tasted great with the rest of the food. I really should try more of this…

 

 


Edited by Kerala Uploading photographs... Let's try once more! (log)
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Kerala   

Bugger, I really have not got on top of this photo-uploading lark. The post looked so pretty in preparation... Please wait while I try and sort this out.

Sorry folks, that's the best I can do at the moment!

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cakewalk   
3 hours ago, Kerala said:

 Future installments will not be so text-heavy.

Your voice is as distinctive as your photos. Please continue with both!

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20 hours ago, Kerala said:

Bugger, I really have not got on top of this photo-uploading lark. The post looked so pretty in preparation... Please wait while I try and sort this out.

Sorry folks, that's the best I can do at the moment!

 

Yes, what @cakewalksaid. You are doing better then fine, and we are loving it!


> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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liuzhou   
On 04/08/2017 at 2:04 PM, Kerala said:

lamb gizzards apparently

 

Lambs don't have gizzards. Only birds and some reptiles do. Mammals never.

 

On 04/08/2017 at 2:04 PM, Kerala said:

Karimeen is what I always thought translated to Kingfish, but google offers Pearl Spot or Green Chromide.

 

Remember that Google offers nothing but a listing of what other people offer.

 

I often have to translate obscure food items (from Chinese) and find Google more often than not to be useless, I search for something and get results that are miles away from what I am looking for, or I get things which are well meant but obviously wrong.

 

If I were to put on my website now that kanmeen is raw donkey flesh dressed with  pineapple juice, that will turn up on Google, too.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Duvel   
48 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

If I were to put on my website now, that kanmeen is raw donkey flesh dressed with  pineapple juice, that will turn up on Google, too.

 

Actually, monkey flesh dressed with pineapple (or mango) juice is ganmeen. With a "g", but pronounced similar to a "k". An understandable, yet not tolerable mistake ...

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Kerala   

A trip on the Kayal.

 

5987474742d3d_IMG-20170801-WA0014(1).thumb.jpg.bf02b7796d19d4015c52eaeab9b2fee3.jpg

 

The Kayal is the backwater system that runs just inland along the coast of Kerala. It has brackish water but is no longer tidal. The system is largely man-made, a waterway transport system that is also essential for agriculture, coir production, irrigation and farming of crustaceans and fish.

 

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The house boats are based upon working transport boats which used to carry spices, coir and fish along the length of Kerala. We took an afternoon’s circuit on one of these boats and it comfortably carried fifteen of us with plenty of room. You can charter a boat for a four-day trip from Cochin to Alleppey, watching life glide by, sipping a beer and chatting.

 

IMG-20170801-WA0017(1).thumb.jpg.5622d4f744b55f32f2572d7168e5fcbb.jpg

 

  If you get the chance, this is one experience I would highly recommend, especially if you want some peace and quiet on your holiday. The bedrooms on the boat were clean, spacious and comfortable, with air-conditioning and en-suite facilities.

 

IMG-20170806-WA0003(1).thumb.jpg.32237f679c30a9aa970695eb424fc166.jpg

 

Anyway, on to the important stuff! One of the main benefits is stopping along the way to choose fresh-caught fish, crabs and prawns.

 

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Have some fresh coconut while you wait.

 

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Lunch being served.

 

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From right to left along the table, thoren, chappatthi, sliced onions and lemons, a fish curry, some veg, fried fish.

The prawns from the catch above...

 

Prawns...IMG-20170806-WA0001(2).thumb.jpg.ce93312fbf7c68311fb1aa655d932a6e.jpg

 

Up close and personal...

 

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Fried fish.

 

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Crab garnished with corriander.

 

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This was definitely not a part of my childhood, as this kind of experience was just not available growing up. I remember watching the transport boats pass by from the shore as a little boy. The Kayal is still an honest working waterway. The life along the shore seems stuck in the 1970's- neither entirely a good thing nor bad. The food is fresh, traditionally prepared and delicious. I'm looking forward to doing the four day trip some time when I come back.

 


Edited by Kerala Spacing. (log)
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brucesw   

I am frustrated that the board software does not let me 'like' some posts multiple times!  I am loving this.

 

I was going to ask what body of water was pictured in your first post - you have answered that.

 

We have a substantial expat community from Kerala in the Stafford/Missouri City suburbs of Houston and I have eaten at all of the restaurants there - none of which, unfortunately, are as seafood oriented as this last post. 

 

I hope you have much more to share.

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kayb   

Take your time mastering the photo uploads, but be sure to upload and share with us everything you have! This is fascinating. Perhaps one of the things I love most about eGullet is the vicarious samplings of the world's cuisines offered by those to whom they are "home cooking."

 

And I'm so full I'm about to die, but I would KILL for those giant prawns! They look marvelous!

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Smithy   

Add me to the list of admirers.  The photography is lovely, and you're showing me a place I've never been, from the viewpoint of someone who can compare what it was to what it is now.  The food looks glorious, and like kayb, I WANT those prawns, now!  The crabs with the coriander provide a beautiful color contrast.  I keep trying to sneak what we call cilantro into my family meals; sometimes my DH approves; this scattering of the stuff over a finished dish might be another thing he'd like.

 

The prawns and fish both look like they have a crisp crust; the prawns look almost like tempura. Can you describe in more detail how they are cooked?  Is there a batter?  Would it have the same spices you've named above?  Would it have a starch of some sort?  I predict messy kitchen experiments in my future....

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Shelby   

I am loving this!  More please :)

 

I have the same questions at Smithy about the crust on the fish and prawns.  Those prawns OH those prawns look so wonderful.

 

And that bedroom!  I would have never thought you would have air conditioning!  I think I would love a 4 day trip like that.....

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Kerala   
On ‎07‎/‎08‎/‎2017 at 1:03 PM, Smithy said:

 

The prawns and fish both look like they have a crisp crust; the prawns look almost like tempura. Can you describe in more detail how they are cooked?  Is there a batter?  Would it have the same spices you've named above?  Would it have a starch of some sort?  I predict messy kitchen experiments in my future....

 

The crust is not from a tempura/a la romana style batter. Spices- mainly chilli powder, perhaps some turmeric and pepper- are mixed into a paste with lemon juice or lime juice, and used as a brief marinade for the prawns. The prawns are then fried in coconut oil which may have been tempered with chillies and a few mustard seeds. Curry leaves can be added. The marinade provides the bits of crust but it is not a complete covering layer. If you do what I've just suggested you'll get a very tasty plate of prawns even if it is not exactly authentic. The coconut oil really provides a marvellous Keralan taste!

 

I am so glad everyone is enjoying this. The photographs are from just a few days, after the main celebrations, when I thought I'd document and share the few remaining meals. Some of the photographs are from my daughters and my better half, the groom and various members of my family, which is why we have different formats and resolutions. I'm afraid I don't have very many more to share.

 

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sartoric   

@Kerala, is the wedding ceremony similar to a Hindu one that goes for three days or so ? I'd be interested to hear about any similarities (or differences), or see any photos.

 

Thanks for taking the time to share your experience :) 

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