Welcome to a culinary journey through the vibrant land of Kerala, where tradition and flavour come together to create a mesmerising tapestry of delectable dishes. Nestled along the southwestern coast of India, Kerala, often referred to as “God’s Own Country,” boasts a rich cultural heritage that extends to its world-renowned cuisine.
So, come with us on this compelling voyage, and let the Taste of Tradition: 24 Kerala Dishes You Shouldn’t Ignore transport you to a world where each bite carries the warmth of home-cooked meals and the heritage of a culture deeply rooted in its love for food. Get ready to savour the richness, embrace the diversity, and unlock the secrets of Kerala’s culinary treasures. Bon appétit!
1. Appam with Stew
Appam is a popular and traditional Kerala breakfast dish made from fermented rice and coconut batter. These lacy, fluffy pancakes have a spongy centre and crisp edges, making them a delightful treat to relish. The origin of appam can be traced back to the ancient Dravidian culture, where rice was a staple crop. The fermentation process not only adds a tangy flavour but also aids in making the appams airy and light.
Appams are often paired with stew, a mildly spiced coconut milk-based curry. The stew is typically prepared with mixed vegetables like carrots, potatoes, beans, and tender chicken pieces. This dish showcases Kerala’s culinary expertise in blending flavours and using coconut milk in various dishes.
2. Puttu with Kadala Curry
Puttu, another staple of Kerala cuisine, is a cylindrical steamed rice cake made from rice flour and coconut. It is often served for breakfast or accompaniment to curries and stews. The unique cylindrical shape is achieved using a special puttu maker layered with grated coconut.
Kadala curry is the perfect accompaniment to puttu. It is a flavorful curry made from black chickpeas (kala chana) cooked in a rich blend of spices, coconut, and onions. The combination of the soft and crumbly texture of puttu with the spicy and aromatic kadala curry creates a harmonious balance that pleases the taste buds.
3. Idiyappam with Egg Roast
Idiyappam, known as nool puttu or string hoppers, is made from rice flour pressed into thin noodle-like strands. These delicate rice noodles are perfectly steamed and enjoyed as breakfast or dinner. The idiyappam is believed to have originated in Southern India and gradually became a significant part of Kerala’s culinary tradition.
Egg roast is a delicious side dish that compliments idiyappam wonderfully. It involves hard-boiled eggs cooked with a medley of spices, onions, tomatoes, and curry leaves. The rich flavours of the egg roast bring out the mild taste of idiyappam, making it a satisfying meal option.
4. Kerala Sadya
Kerala Sadya is an elaborate vegetarian feast, often served during festivals and special occasions. It is a display of the cultural and culinary heritage of Kerala. Served on a banana leaf, the Sadya consists of various dishes, including rice, sambar, rasam, avial, thoran, olan, pachadi, kalan, and more. Payasam, a sweet dessert made from rice, jaggery, and coconut milk, is usually served at the end of the Sadya.
Each dish in the Sadya is prepared with various vegetables, lending various colours and flavours to the meal. The Sadya reflects the harmony between the people and nature in Kerala, where vegetarian cuisine holds a special place in the hearts of the locals.
5. Kerala Parotta with Kerala Beef Curry
Kerala Parotta is a popular layered flatbread in the Malabar region of Kerala. It is made with all-purpose flour, oil or ghee, and water, which is kneaded into a soft dough and then stretched and beaten to create thin layers. The dough is then coiled into circular shapes and cooked on a grill until it turns golden brown and flaky.
On the other hand, Kerala Beef Curry is a mouthwatering dish that perfectly complements the parotta. The beef is slow-cooked with a flavorful blend of coriander, turmeric, black pepper, fennel, and cardamom. Coconut milk is added to give the Curry its rich and creamy texture. The result is a tender, spicy, and aromatic beef curry that pairs exceptionally well with the soft and flaky Kerala parotta.
The parotta and beef curry have a strong cultural significance in Kerala’s culinary heritage. They are often served in local restaurants and street food stalls during special occasions and festivals. The dish’s popularity has also spread beyond Kerala’s borders, making it a favourite among food enthusiasts nationwide.
6. Malabar Biriyani
Malabar Biriyani is a cherished rice dish in the Malabar region of Kerala. Unlike the traditional biryanis in other parts of India, Malabar Biriyani is distinct in its preparation and flavours. The key ingredient that sets this biryani apart is Khaima rice, also known as Kaima rice or Jeerakasala rice, a small, fragrant, and indigenous variety of rice from Kerala.
The preparation of Malabar Biriyani involves marinating meat (chicken, mutton, or beef) in a blend of spices and yoghurt. The marinated meat is then cooked separately and layered with partially cooked Khaima rice in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. The pot is sealed with a tight-fitting lid, and the biryani is slow-cooked on a low flame or dum process, allowing the flavours to meld and infuse into the rice and meat.
Malabar Biryani is famous for its unique combination of spices, including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fried onions, and cashews that add a rich and crunchy texture. The aromatic fragrance of the biryani is simply irresistible, and it has become a signature dish of Kerala’s culinary heritage.
7. Karimeen Pollichathu
Karimeen Pollichathu is a beloved Kerala delicacy that features pearl spot fish, locally known as “Karimeen.” The fish is marinated with a blend of spices, including red chilli powder, turmeric, and black pepper, and is then wrapped in a banana leaf after being coated with a mixture of shallots, garlic, ginger, Curry leaves, and grated coconut.
The wrapped fish is then cooked on a hot grill or tawa, which imparts a unique smoky flavour to the dish. The banana leaf acts as a natural casing and helps retain moisture, making the fish tender and flavorful.
Karimeen Pollichathu is known not only for its delicious taste but also for its cultural significance. In Kerala, it is a dish often served during traditional feasts and celebrations, and it has gained popularity among tourists and food enthusiasts worldwide.
8. Meen Curry
Meen Curry is a quintessential dish that reflects the coastal influence on Kerala’s cuisine. It is a simple yet flavorful preparation made with fish pieces simmered in tangy, spicy coconut-based gravy.
The gravy uses grated coconut, tamarind, shallots, garlic, ginger, and aromatic spices such as fenugreek, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Combining these ingredients gives the Curry its sour and spicy taste, which pairs perfectly with steamed rice or Kerala parotta.
This fish Curry is a staple in Kerala households and an essential part of the traditional Kerala Sadya (feast). It celebrates the abundance of fresh seafood available in the region and represents the deep connection of Keralites with their coastal roots.
Certainly! Let’s delve into the details of these four traditional Kerala dishes:
1. Chemmeen Curry
Kerala Prawn Curry, locally known as “Chemmeen Curry,” is a popular seafood dish showcasing the region’s coastal flavours. Kerala’s abundant coastline significantly influences its cuisine, and prawns are a favourite catch among the coastal communities. The dish is prepared using fresh prawns marinated in a blend of spices like turmeric, red chilli powder, and tamarind juice to impart a tangy flavour.
Coconut milk is a key ingredient in this Curry, giving it a creamy texture and mellowing down the spice levels. The Curry is typically infused with curry leaves, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds that add aromatic undertones. The final result is a delectable balance of flavours, with the natural sweetness of prawns complemented by the tanginess of tamarind and the richness of coconut milk.
Erissery is a traditional Kerala vegetarian dish that combines the sweetness of pumpkin with the earthiness of lentils. It is an integral part of the Onam Sadya, a grand vegetarian feast served during the harvest festival of Onam. The dish is a celebration of the region’s abundant produce, particularly pumpkins that grow in abundance in Kerala.
The preparation involves cooking pumpkin and lentils (usually cowpeas) with turmeric and salt. Once cooked, the ingredients are mashed to a semi-thick consistency. The dish is then flavoured with a coconut-based paste consisting of grated coconut, cumin seeds, green chillies, and curry leaves. Coconut oil is often drizzled on top for added flavour.
Avial is a quintessential Kerala dish and a staple in Kerala Sadya. It is a medley of mixed vegetables cooked in coconut and yoghurt-based gravy. The vegetables used in Avial may include drumsticks, raw bananas, yams, carrots, beans, and ash gourd, among others. The dish is known for its rich blend of textures and flavours.
To prepare Avial, the vegetables are gently cooked with minimal water and seasoned with turmeric and salt. The highlight of this dish is the coconut paste, ground with green chillies and cumin seeds, which is added to the vegetables along with yoghurt. Curry leaves and coconut oil are used as the finishing touch, enhancing the taste and aroma.
4. Kozhi Curry or Nadan Kozhi Curry
Kerala Chicken Curry, locally known as “Kozhi Curry” or “Nadan Kozhi Curry,” is a favourite non-vegetarian dish in Kerala. It reflects the state’s love for spices and flavours and the widespread availability of chicken in the region.
The preparation involves marinating chicken pieces in a mixture of spices like coriander, cumin, turmeric, and red chilli powder. Onions, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic form the base of the Curry, and it is cooked with a touch of coconut milk and tamarind for tanginess. The final seasoning of curry leaves and mustard seeds elevates the taste.
These four dishes are just a glimpse of the rich culinary heritage of Kerala. Each dish carries a history of cultural influences, traditional practices, and regional ingredients, making them an essential part of the state’s gastronomic identity.
Sure, let’s delve into the details of each of these authentic Kerala dishes:
Neychoru, or Neichoru, is a classic Kerala rice dish cooked with ghee that gives it a rich and aromatic flavour. This dish is a staple in Kerala’s traditional cuisine and is often served during special occasions, festivals, and celebrations. The preparation of Neychoru involves sautéing rice in ghee and whole spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.
This gives the rice a fragrant aroma and enhances its taste. The rice is then cooked with water or coconut milk until it is fluffy and perfectly done. Neychoru is often paired with side dishes like Kerala chicken curry and Kerala beef curry or vegetarian options like Kerala vegetable stew or lentil curries.
2. Kerala Vegetable Stew
Kerala vegetable stew is a delightful and mildly spiced dish with various vegetables cooked in a creamy and flavorful coconut milk-based broth. It is a popular vegetarian side dish that compliments various Kerala rice dishes and bread, such as appam, idiyappam, or parotta.
The dish typically includes carrots, potatoes, green beans, and peas simmered in coconut milk and vegetable stock. Adding whole spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom lends a distinct taste to the stew. Sometimes, the stew is enriched with the subtle flavour of curry leaves and a hint of green chillies, making it a comforting and nutritious dish enjoyed by people of all ages.
Kalan is a traditional Kerala curry that combines the tanginess of yoghurt with the mild sweetness of raw bananas (plantains). This dish is often part of the elaborate Kerala Sadya (feast) during festive occasions like Onam. Raw bananas are cooked until tender and combined with a flavorful coconut and yoghurt-based gravy to prepare Kalan.
The tempering of mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves gives the Curry a distinctive taste. The dish strikes a beautiful balance between yoghurt’s creaminess and the bananas’ natural sweetness, resulting in a delightful and wholesome curry that pairs well with rice.
4. Kerala Egg Roast
Kerala egg roast is a delicious and spicy dish with hard-boiled eggs cooked in a flavorful onion and tomato-based gravy. It is a popular side dish in Kerala, often served with rice, appam, parotta, or even bread. To prepare this dish, boiled eggs are shallow-fried until they develop a golden-brown colour.
The gravy is then prepared by sautéing onions, tomatoes, and aromatic spices like ginger, garlic, and red chilli powder. Adding fennel seeds, cinnamon, and cloves impart a unique flavour to the dish. Kerala egg roast is loved for its perfect balance of heat and spices, making it a favourite among egg enthusiasts and spice lovers.
5. Kappa with Kerala Fish Curry
Kappa is the Malayalam name for tapioca, a starchy root vegetable widely consumed in Kerala. This dish is a popular staple among the locals and holds a special place in their hearts. Tapioca was introduced to Kerala during the colonial period, and over time, it became an integral part of the state’s culinary culture.
To prepare Kappa with Kerala Fish Curry, tapioca is boiled until soft and then served with a spicy and tangy fish curry. The fish curry is typically made using coconut milk, tamarind, and an array of aromatic spices like turmeric, chilli, fenugreek, and curry leaves. The combination of the mild, slightly sweet taste of tapioca and the flavorful fish curry creates a harmonious and satisfying meal that showcases the essence of Kerala’s coastal cuisine.
Thoran is a classic Kerala side dish with vegetables like cabbage, beans, carrots, or even unripe jackfruit. This vibrant and nutritious dish is a testament to Kerala’s emphasis on fresh and locally sourced produce.
To prepare Thoran, the vegetables are finely chopped and then stir-fried with grated coconut, mustard seeds, Curry leaves, and other spices. The grated coconut enhances the flavour and adds a unique texture to the dish. Thoran is a quintessential part of Kerala’s traditional meal, Sadya, served on special occasions and festivals.
Pachadi is a refreshing yoghurt-based side dish that beautifully balances Kerala cuisine’s spicy and aromatic flavours. It is akin to a raita but with a Kerala twist. This dish is known for its delightful sweet, sour, and tangy taste.
To make Pachadi, vegetables like cucumber, pineapple, or beetroot are cooked and mixed with a spiced yoghurt mixture. Mustard seeds, Curry leaves, green chillies, and grated coconut are added to enhance the taste. Pachadi plays an essential role in Kerala’s Sadya and provides a cooling contrast to the fiery curries and spices on the plate.
8. Ada Pradhaman
Ada Pradhaman is a luscious and indulgent dessert with a special place in Kerala’s culinary heritage. It is a type of payasam, a traditional Indian sweet pudding.
The key ingredient of this dish is Ada, which are rice flakes or flat noodles made from rice flour. These rice flakes are cooked in coconut milk and jaggery (unrefined sugar) until they turn creamy and delicious. Ghee-roasted cashews, raisins, and coconut pieces are added as garnishing, enhancing the flavour and texture of the desert.
9. Pazham Pori
Pazham Pori is a popular tea-time snack in Kerala, made from ripe plantains (bananas). Sliced bananas are coated in a spiced batter made of all-purpose flour (maida) or rice flour, turmeric, sugar, and a pinch of salt. The batter is then deep-fried until the cakes turn golden and crispy.
This delightful snack is often served with steaming hot tea, especially during the monsoon season. The sweetness of the ripe bananas and the mildly spiced coating make Pazham Pori an irresistible treat loved by locals and visitors alike.
Unniyappam is a traditional Kerala sweet dish made during festivals and special occasions, particularly during the festival of Onam. These sweet rice cakes are made using rice flour, jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), ripe bananas, grated coconut, cardamom, and a hint of black sesame seeds.
The batter is poured into a special vessel with small, round moulds and fried in ghee or oil until golden brown and crispy. The combination of jaggery and banana imparts a unique sweetness to Unniyappam, making it an integral part of Kerala’s culinary heritage.
11. Kerala Banana Chips
Kerala Banana Chips, locally known as “Ethakka Upperi,” are thin, crisp banana slices deep-fried in coconut oil. Made from raw, unripe bananas, these chips are a favourite snack in Kerala and are enjoyed by people of all ages.
The secret to achieving the perfect crunch and taste lies in slicing the bananas thinly and frying them in fresh coconut oil. The chips are seasoned with a sprinkling of salt or spices, giving them a savoury twist. Kerala Banana Chips are a tasty snack and a popular souvenir for tourists visiting the region.
12. Chatti Pathiri
Chatti Pathiri is a unique and delightful savoury dish from Kerala, often prepared during festive occasions and Ramadan. It is a layered pastry made by stacking thin pancakes (similar to crepes) filled with a mixture of chicken, eggs, vegetables, and aromatic spices like black pepper, cumin, and coriander.
These layers are then folded and cooked in a special pan called “Chatti,” where the dish gets its name. Once cooked, the Chatti Pathiri is sliced and served, revealing the beautiful layers of flavours and textures. This dish showcases the artistry of Kerala’s culinary traditions and is a must-try for anyone visiting the region.
From the humble Pazham Pori to the intricate Chatti Pathiri, each dish represents a unique blend of flavours, history, and cultural influences. These dishes have stood the test of time, carrying the traditions and legacy of Kerala’s rich food heritage.
Exploring Kerala’s cuisine is like embarking on a delightful gastronomic journey through the state’s diverse landscapes and vibrant culture. These dishes reflect Kerala’s deep-rooted culinary traditions using locally sourced ingredients, aromatic spices, and cooking techniques passed down through generations.
Whether you’re savouring the crispy Kerala Banana Chips, indulging in the sweetness of Unniyappam, enjoying the comforting flavours of Pazham Pori, or marvelling at the intricate layers of Chatti Pathiri, each bite tells a story of the region’s cultural heritage.” So, next time you visit Kerala, embrace these traditional delights and immerse yourself in the rich and diverse flavours that have made Kerala’s cuisine truly unforgettable.