Food And Cusines in Kerala

The cuisine of Kerala has a long heritage as a part of its culture as a whole. The whole repertoire of Kerala food can be broken down into the Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian categories. The Non-vegetarian dishes are characteristically hot and spicy while the vegetarian food is flavored mildly and mush favored by beginners.

The food tradition of Kerala is the outcome of the many and rich cultures that have coexisted in the land for a long time. The constant exodus of new people over the ages has lead to all the regional dishes to change over the course. But even after all this time the coconut remains the king of the Kerala kitchens. The rice curries and the sea food here is especially famous, dishes like the Fish Curry, Avial, Paal Payasam, Dry Prawns with Cabbage, Vellarikka Kichadi and Kerala Parantha are popular among tourists.


Kerala has been the landing site for many foreign cultures like the many European nations during the 18th century. As a result the various elements from these cultures have resulted in the Kerala dishes like the Malabar Mutton Biriyani.

Since the medieval times the region of Kerala consisted of the Kingdoms of Kochi, Travancore, Malabar and North Malabar, and each had its own distinct culture with different influences over time. In comparative way, the Central Travancore cuisine had European Christian culinary influence that was different from the North Malabar cuisine. In the later period the arrival of the Muslim settlers from the North, further developed the non-vegetarian tastes of Kerala.

Common Ingredients Used

Since the pre-medieval times Kerala was known as a ‘spice capital’ and spices from here were shipped to the far European shores. Along with the rich produce of the regional products like Coconut, tapioca, coffee, rubber and cocoa, the spice plantations of Kerala are known for their quality spices. The plantations Munnar and Thekkady are well known. As a result the spices like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, red and black pepper and ginger are common in the Kerala kitchen. The most iconic condiment is perhaps the Curry Leaf and is used extensively in all preparations.  After the European colonies were established, the non-vegetarian ingredients like mutton and chicken were included in the mainstream. A peculiar practice in Kerala cooking is to replace tomatoes with tamarind.

Food Habits of Kerala

The staple of Kerala is made up rice, coconut, fish and lentil. These are the main ingredients in most of the preparation in combination to assorted seafood like prawns and shrimps. The food customs are dictated entirely by religion and caste. For example the apex Hindu caste of Brahmins, are staunch vegetarians and on the other hand though the Muslims are non-vegetarian, they are forbidden from consuming pork.  The traditional way of serving food on a banana leaf and eating with one’s hands is common to all the communities.

The menu differs as the day progresses. Starting with breakfast, it involves the dishes like dosa, idli, upma ,sambar, kadal and puttu, which are prepared from rice and lentil flour with predominant fresh coconut and curry leaves. For lunch, large portions of rice are preferred in its various preparations, for example the Choru, where the unpolished rice is used along with its husk. The rice is accompanied typically, by sambar or a fish curry and scores of vegetarian and non-vegetarian side dishes like chicken, mutton curries and several vegetable preparations. For dinner too, rice remains the central ingredient with supporting actors like buttermilk, olan and rasam. The Thoran preparation is a dry, heavy coconut flavored, fish that resemble fritters

After the Indian Independence the influence of other Indian cultures became prominent, especially the North Indian tastes for wheat preparations. This has led to the successful inclusion of the common North Indian bread like Chappati and Paratha in the form of the Kerala Paratha which is fried in coconut oil. Today’s Kerala food consists of all the traditional dishes in addition to dessets, pickles and curd preparations. Payasam is a unique dessert in this state and is prepared using rice, lentil and occasionally bananas. The crispy poppadams made of rice and the various chutneys are an inseparable part of a Kerala meal. The indigenous tea-time snacks of Kerala like the banana and tapioca chips and rice cookies have come to be loved across the country.

Famous Non-Vegetarian Cuisines of Kerala

Kerala offers many non-vegetarian flavors with mouth watering spicy and savory dishes. With preparations from fish to lamb, the cuisine has multiple recipes that leave the tourist wanting more. Some of the more popular non-vegetarian dishes are given below and a word of caution, the non-vegetarian preparation from Kerala are notoriously spicy.

  1. Fish Curry

  2. North Malabar Prawn Curry

  3. Chicken Curry

Popular Vegetarian Cuisines of Kerala

These Kerala dishes are the milder, vegetarian counterparts of their non vegetarian cousins and some of the sweetest desserts in India can be found in traditional Kerala cooking. The subtleties of the vegetarian dishes are exquisite, that on may call artful. Some of the iconic vegetarian dishes from Kerala are as follows:

  1. Vellarikka Kichadi

  2. Sambar

  3. Paal Payasam

  4. Sadya

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