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Kerala Cuisine
 
Kerala cuisine
 

The cuisine of Kerala 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 prepared using fish, poultry and meat.

For over 2000 years, Kerala has been visited by ocean-goers, including traders from Greece, Rome, the eastern Mediterranean, Arab countries, and Europe (see History of Kerala). Thus, Kerala cuisine is a blend of indigenous dishes and foreign dishes adapted to Kerala tastes. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, and consequently, grated coconut and coconut milk are widely used in dishes and curries as a thickener and flavouring ingredient. Kerala's long coastline, numerous rivers and backwater networks, and strong fishing industry have contributed to many sea- and river-food based dishes. Rice is grown in abundance, and could be said, along with tapioca (manioc/cassava), to be the main starch ingredient used in Kerala food. Having been a major production area of spices for thousands of years, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon play a large part in its food.

Spices in Kerala Cuisine

As with almost all Indian food, spices play an important part in Kerala cuisine. The main spices used are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, green and red peppers, cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, and so on. Few fresh herbs are used, unlike in European cuisine, and mainly consist of the commonly used curry leaf, and the occasional use of fresh coriander and mint. Tamarind, kodampuli (Garcinia Cambogia), and lime are used to make sauces sour, as sour sauces are very popular in Kerala. Sweet and sour dishes are however, rare, but exceptions like the ripe mango version of the pulissery and tamarind-jaggery-ginger chutney known as puliinji or injipuli are popular.

Breakfast

Kerala cuisine offers many delicious vegetarian breakfast dishes that are often relatively unknown outside the state. These include Puttu (made of rice powder and grated coconut, steamed in a metal or bamboo holder) and kadala (a curry made of black garbanzo beans chana), idli (fluffy rice pancakes), sambar, dosa and chutney, pidiyan, Idiyappam (string hoppers - also known as Noolputtu and Nool-Appam), Paal-Appam, a circular, fluffy, crisp-edged pancake made of rice flour fermented with a small amount of toddy or wine, etc. Idiyapam and Paalappam are accompanied by mutton, chicken or vegetable stew or a curry of beef or fish moli (the most common dish is black pomfret in a coconut based sauce).

Lunch and dinner

The staple food of Kerala, like most South-Indian states, is rice. Unlike other states, however, many people in Kerala prefer parboiled rice (Choru) (rice made nutritious by boiling it with rice husk). Kanji (rice congee), a kind of rice porridge, is also popular. Tapioca, called kappa in Kerala, is popular in central Kerala and in the highlands, and is frequently eaten with fish curry.

Rice is usually consumed with one or more curries. Accompaniments with rice may include upperis (dry braised or sauteed vegetables), rasam, chips, and/or buttermilk (called moru). Vegetarian dinners usually consist of multiple courses, each involving rice, one main dish (usually sambar, rasam, puli-sherry), and one or more side-dishes. Kerala cooking uses coconut oil almost exclusively, although health concerns and cost have led to coconut oil being replaced to some extent by palm oil and vegetable oil.

Popular vegetarian dishes include sambar, aviyal, Kaalan, theeyal, thoran (dry curry), pulisherry (morozhichathu in Cochin and the Malabar region), olan, erisherry, puliinji, payaru (mung bean), kappa (tapioca), etc. Vegetarian dishes often consist of fresh spices that are liquefied and crushed to make a paste-like texture to dampen rice.

Common non-vegetarian dishes include stew (using chicken, beef, lamb, or fish), traditional or chicken curry (Nadan Kozhi Curry), chicken fry (Kozhi Porichathu/Varuthathu), fish/chicken/mutton molly(fish or meat in light gravy), fish curry (Meen Curry), fish fry (Karimeen Porichathu/Varuthathu), lobster fry (Konchu Varuthathu), Spicy Beef Fry (Beef Ularthiyathu), Spicy Steamed Fish (Meen Pollichathu) etc. Biriyani, a Mughal dish consists of rice cooked along with meat, onions, chillies and other spices.

Although rice and tapioca may be considered the original Kerala starch staples, wheat, in the form of chappatis or parathas (known as porottas in Kerala), is now very commonly eaten, especially at dinner time. Numerous little streetside vendors offer an oily parathas (akin to the croissant in its flakiness and oiliness) with meat, egg, or vegetable curry for dinner. Grains such as ragi and millet, although common in the arid parts of South India, have not gained a foothold in Kerala.

Sadya

Sadya items ready to be served, Clockwise from top Paayasam, Bittergourd thoran, aviyal, Kaalan, Lime Pickle, Sambar, Buttermilk with Boiled rice in center

Kerala is known for its traditional banquet or sadhya, a vegetarian meal served with boiled rice and a host of side-dishes served especially during special occasions and festivals. The sadhya is complemented by payasam, a sweet dessert native to Kerala. The sadhya is, as per custom, served on a banana leaf, and is a formal-style meal with three or more courses of rice with a side-dish (usually sambar, rasam, buttermilk, etc.). In south Kerala the Payasam in followed by more (butter milk). Whereas in North Kerala it is considered to be the last dish to be served.

 
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    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_of_Kerala
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