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The cuisine of Kerala (Malayalam:േകരളീയ പാചകൈശലി) is linked in all its richness to the history, geography and culture of the land. Most of the non-vegetarian dishes are spicy.

The food habits of Travancore and Malabar (southern and northern Kerala) are quite different to each other.

Kerala is known for its traditional Sadhyas, a vegetarian meal served with boiled rice and a



host of side-dishes. The Sadhya is complemented by payasam, a sweet milk dessert native to Kerala. The Sadhya is, as per custom, served on a banana leaf. The southern Kerala dishes are often spiced with garlic, whereas in northern Kerala garlic is generally avoided in all vegetarian dishes. Traditional dishes include Sambar, Aviyal, Kaalan, Theeyal, Thoran, Injipully, Pulisherry, Appam , Kappa (Tapioca), Puttu (Steam Cake), And Puzhukku. Coconut and Coconut Oil is an essential ingredient in most of the food items and is liberally used.



Pachakam is a Malayalam word that means cooking or preparation of food.

The culinary skills of the different communities of Kerala make the dishes distinct in taste and in variety. Almost every dish that is prepared in the Kerala style has coconut and spices added to it. The main spices used are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, green and red peppers, cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, etc. The vegetarian food includes Sambar, Rasam, Olan, Kalan, Pachadi, Kichadi, Avial, Thoran,



etc. Biriyani, a Mughal dish, was popularised by the Keyi family in Kerala. Biryani is a dish of rice cooked along with meat, onions, chillies and other spices. Karimeen Pollichathu and Fish Moilee are seafood delicacies.

The main dishes are served with rice and at the end of each meal the dessert, payasam, is served. Payasam is prepared from milk, coconut extract, sugar, cashews, dry grapes, etc. Paal Payasam is the speciality.

The Kerala Paratta is a flatbread with layers that is served with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

A typical Kerala breakfast may be Puttu, which is rice powder and grated coconut steam cooked together, idli and sambar, dosa and chutney, Idiyappam (string hoppers - also known as Noolputtu), or Vella Appam, a kind of pancake made of rice flour fermented with a small amount of toddy (fermented sap of the coconut palm) which is circular in shape, edged with a crisp lacy frill. It is eaten with chicken or vegetable stew or Kadala curry. Kerala cuisine also has a variety of pickles and chutneys, and crunchy pappadums, banana chips, jackfruit chips, kozhalappam, achappam, cheeda, and churuttu.

Kanji (rice congee) and payaru (mung bean), kappa (tapioca) and fish curry are traditional favourites of Keralites.

Goat meat
A remarkable feature of Kerala cuisine is that the use of mutton is almost nil and goat meat (chevon) is widespread across communities. However, in local lingua franca mutton invariably means chevon. Sheep are not reared in this part of the world.

Syrian Christian Cuisine

A favourite dish of Kerala Syrian Christians (or Saint Thomas Christians ) is stew. Chicken and potatoes are simmered gently in a creamy white sauce flavoured with black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green chillies, lime juice, shallots and coconut milk. They prepare stews with chicken, lamb, duck. The other dishes are piralen (chicken stir-fries), meat thoran (dry curry with shredded coconut), fiery vindaloos, sardine and duck curries, and meen molee (spicy stewed fish). This is eaten

Paal Payasam
Paal Payasam


with Appam. Appams, Kallappams or Vellayappams are rice flour pancakes which have soft, thick white spongy centres and thin golden crip lace like edge. Meen vevichathu or fish in fiery red chilly sauce is also another favourite item. Besides the chicken and fish there is also red meat, erachi orlarthiathu. Beef (or lamb) is boiled with roasted cirruabder seeds, red chilles, cloves, onions, cummins garlic, ginger, fried coconut chips and a little vinegar. Then with the water reduced, the, meat is almost fried dry in a little oil that has been flavoured with sliced shallots and highly aromatic curry leaves. Wine is an integral part of their cuisine. In fact it is said that marrying into a Syrian Christian home can be the best thing that can happen to a food lover!

Historical and cultural influences
Pre-independence Kerala was split into the princely states of Travancore and Kochi in the south, and the Malabar district in the north; the erstwhile split is reflected in the cuisines of each area. Malabar has an array of non-vegetarian dishes such as pathiri (a sort of rice-based pancake, usually paired with a meat curry), porotta (a layered flatbread), and the kerala variant of the popular biriyani. In contrast, traditional Travancore cuisine consists of a variety of vegetarian dishes using many vegetables and fruits that are not commonly used in curries elsewhere in india including plantains, bitter gourd ('paavaykka'), taro ('chena'), Colocasia ('chembu'), Ash gourd ('kumbalanga'), etc. Garlic is predominantly used in south-kerala dishes as well.

In addition to historical diversity, the cultural influences, particularly the large percentages of Muslims and Syrian Christians (also see Syrian Christian Cuisine of Kerala) have also contributed unique dishes and styles to Kerala cuisine.

Kerala cuisine offers many delicious vegetarian breakfast dishes that are relatively unknown outside the state. These include Puttu (a cylindrical dish made of rice powder and grated coconut) and kadala (a curry made of chana), idli (fluffy rice pancakes) and sambar, dosa and chutney, pidiyan, Idiyappam (string hoppers - also known as Noolputtu), 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 (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.

Rice is usually consumed with one or more curries. Accompaniments with rice may include upperis (dry curries), 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.

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 (naadan-style) chicken curry, fish moli, fried fish (Karimeen porichathu), etc. Biriyani, a Mughal dish consists of rice cooked along with meat, onions, chillies and other spices.



Kerala is known for its traditional banquet or sadhya, a vegetarian meal served with boiled rice and a host of side-dishes. The sadhya is complemented by payasam, a sweet milk 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.).

Kerala does not have any indigenous cold desserts, but hot/warm desserts are popular. The most popular example is undoubtedly the


payasam: a preparation of milk, coconut extract, sugar, cashews, dry grapes, etc. Payasam can be made with many base constituents, including Paal payasam (rice), Ada payasam (with ada, a flat form of rice), banana, dal, etc. Ada payasam is especially popular during the festival of Onam. Most payasams can also be consumed chilled.

Other popular desserts include Unniappam (a sweet fried ball of flour), pazham-pori (banana slices covered with a fried crust made of sweetened flour), kozhukkatta, etc.

Spices in Kerala Cuisine
The main spices used are cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, green and red peppers, cloves, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, etc.

Pickles and other side-dishes
Kerala cuisine also has a variety of pickles and chutneys, and crunchy pappadums, banana chips, jackfruit chips, kozhalappam, achappam, cheeda, and churuttu.

Cooking Utensils
There are utensils that are used in Kerala which are significant to cuisine in Kerala. An aduppu is a square harth, tawa a griddle, and Cheena Chatti (literally Chinese pot) a deep frying pan.

Food offerings in rituals
Food is extremely important when it comes to rituals or festivals. Food offerings in ritual are important in Kerala and throughout South India. Food offerings are often related to the gods of religions. In India, there are numerous offerings for Hindu gods and there are many differences between food offerings in North and South India. Most offerings contain more than one type of food. There are many reasons why people use the practice of food offerings. Some are to express love, or negotiate or thank gods. It can also be used to “stress certain structural features of Hinduism” (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 508). Of course, not every ritual’s gods require food offerings. Most have a liking for certain foods. For example, butter is one of the preferred foods by the god Krishna. Also, wild orange and a sugarcane stalk are related to Ganapati (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 508).

There is a division of the Hindu pantheon into pure and impure deities which is stressed, but shaped by food offerings. Pure deities are offered vegetarian foods while impure deities are offered meat due to their craving for blood (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 509). A specific dish is offered to both pure and impure deities. That is a flour lamp which is made of sweetened rice-flour paste which is scooped out and packed with ghee. The flour lamp is only partially baked and then eaten (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 509). Another aspect of food offerings is the hierarchy that foods have. It may seem strange that there is a hierarchy for foods, but it is because there is a dual opposition between the pure and impure deities which is hierarchal (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 509). There are two gods which have this dual opposition. They are Vishnu and Siva. Ferro-Luzzi explains that Vishnu is viewed as kind while the offerings that are given to Siva are more ‘frugal’. An offering to Siva might be likely to be plain rice with no salt or other toppings, while an offering to Vishnu may resemble a South Indian dish which can consist of rice with other side dishes. An example of a food that is acceptable to one god over another is green and red chilies. Green and Red chilies are not acceptable for Vishnu’s offering, but Siva has cravings for chilies (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 510). Specifically in South Indian offerings, they are offered in numbers. For example, the number three is important in Kerala offerings. There are the trimadhura which translates into ‘the three sweets’ (Ferro-Luzzi 1977, 512). All of these practices of food offerings in ritual are important in Kerala culture as well as South Indian culture.

Arab influence
Some of the delicacies of the Mappilas of Kerala have an Arab influence that began to affect the region in the 7th century.

  • Pathiri is a sort of pancake made of rice flour. The word Pathiri has its origin traced to the Arabic word fateerah فطيرة, meaning "pastry".
  • Alsa is a Mappila dish derived from Harees, a traditional Arabic dish consisting of wheat, meat (or chicken) and salt. It is prepared by hitting the wheat with a strong equipment that makes it soft and palatable. Alsa and Biryani were popularised in Kerala by the Keyi family of Thalassery.

Also dishes like Chattipathiri, a layered sweet savoury is popular.

Glossary of vegetables and spices

  • Taro: Chena
  • Asafoetida : Kayam
  • Ash gourd : Kumbalanga
  • Banana : Pazham
  • Bengal gram : Mani Kadala
  • Big Gram : Van Payar
  • Bitter gourd : Kaipakka (Pavakka)
  • Black gram : Uzhunnu
  • Cabbage : Mottakkoosu
  • Cardamom : Elakkaya
  • Nutmeg : Jathikka
  • Cashew nut : Kasuvandipparippu
  • Green Chili Pepper : Pacha mulaku
  • Coconut : Nalikeram, Thenga
  • Coriander : Malli or Kothamalli
  • Cumin : Jeerakam
  • Drumstick : Muringakkaya
  • Fennel : Perumjeerakam
  • Fenugreek : Uluva or Vengayam
  • Garlic : Veluthulli
  • Ginger : Inji
  • Shallot : Chuvannulli or Cheriyulli
  • Green gram : Cherupayar
  • Jack fruit : Chakka
  • Cucumber : Vellarikka
  • Snake gourd : Padavalanga
  • Colocasia : Chembu
  • Ground nut : Nilakkadala
  • Papaya : Karmosa(Wayanad), Omakaya
  • Tapioca : Kolli, Kappa, Marichini
  • Egg plant : Vazhuthananga, brinjal
  • Jaggery : Sarkara (vellam)
  • Milk : Paal
  • Okra / Lady's finger: Vendakka
  • Onion : Ulli, Savala, Sabola
  • Pea : Payar
  • Black pepper : Kurumulaku
  • Plantain : Nendrakka, Etheka
  • Potato : Urulakkizhangu
  • Pumpkin : Matthanga
  • Raisin : Unakka mundiri, Kismis
  • Salt : Uppu
  • Sugar : Panjasara
  • Tamarind : Puli
  • Tomato : Thakkali
  • Guava : Perakka, Poyyakka
  • Gooseberry : Nellikka
  • Clove : Karayampoo
  • Cinnamon : Karuvapatta
  • Coconut oil : Velichenna



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This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

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