Published On: Tue, Jul 3rd, 2018

Traditional Cooking in Kerala, India

Kerala, the idyllic honeymoon state with a wide range of attractions, ranks high in Indian cuisine with delicious vegetarian dishes, lots of coconut and Indian spice and festival food rich in flavour and colour.

Traditional Cooking in Kerala, India

Northern and southern areas have their own favourites but from Malabar to Kochi and beyond, Kerala claims an authentic cuisine based on natural products. Fish, curry, vegetables or biryani, each recipe is prepared in its own cooking pot, brass, bronze, copper, terracotta or bamboo, designed to enhance taste and nutrition.

Kerala Vegetarian Dishes and Indian Spice

Kerala offers a wide range of vegetarian dishes, especially in the predominantly Hindu south. Most popular are sambar, a vegetable stew in tamarind and pigeon pea broth and aviyal with lots of vegetables, curd, coconut and curry leaves. Plantain, bitter gourd and garlic are often used in southern curries. Thoran is a tasty curry with peas, coconut, jackfruit, carrot or other vegetables.

The lush hills of the hinterland shelter fragrant Indian spice gardens where cardamom, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and cloves have pride of place. There are green and red peppers, black pepper, cumin and turmeric and fresh herbs such as coriander, mint and curry leaves.

Indian Cuisine, Biryani

As in most Indian cuisine, rice is a staple diet, accompanied by one or more curries and an assortment of pickles and chutneys. The well known Biryani rice dates back to Mughal times and comes with meat, onions and spices. The Muslim influenced Malabar offers chicken, beef and mutton dishes, fried, stewed, steamed or curried, and flavoured with spices.

Seafood in Kerala is fresh and beautifully prepared, from lobster and crab to black pomfret with coconut sauce or sear fish in seasoned coconut milk. Pearl Spot from the backwaters is succulent baked with chillies, spices and curry leaves. Tapioca is a delicious accompaniment to curried fish.

Traditional Cooking in Kerala, Festival Food

Kerala’s signature dish is the appetising Sadya, the traditional festival food for family events and holidays. Presented in small portions on a banana leaf, it’s a sumptuous array of up to 40 vegetarian dishes, with rice and delicacies like banana or yam curry, cucumber in curd and coconut paste and hot pickles with lime, mango or ginger. There are crispy pappadams and a sweet milky pudding with raisins and cashews known as payasam.

From Hong Kong to Korea, food festivals are popular across Asia but the annual Pongala held in Trivandrum is one of the largest, attracting over two million women. They come from afar to set up their own little kitchens along the streets, hearth, pots and ingredients. When the sacred fire from the Attukal temple reaches one’s hearth, the food is cooked, offered to the gods and taken home with a blessing. Festival dates vary but are usually in the first quarter of the year.

About the Author

- Paul Linus is an eminent online journalist who has been writing news, features and editorials on different websites from across the world for about a decade. He can be contacted at

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