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Benzy's Restaurant - Andheri East back to Homepage

Delight from God's own country

12 January, 2001

John Smith

Section

11

Malabar food is the native food of Kerala situated along the South Western border of India. The northern part of Kerala is where Malabar food is cooked commonly.

Malabar was influenced by Arab traders, French rulers and the native Zamorins and Namboodiris. So there are Muslims, Christians and Hindus there each contributing to the wonderful diversity of the food in their own unique way. If you started analyzing each recipe, you can find the roots to be from each of the cultures above. Just like the rest of Kerala, there is a lot of intermingling in the recipes and yet there are unique dishes too. So how do you introduce a cuisine? Is it by the unequivocal Malabar Porotta which is now a common enough term to be available in the freezer section of your local Indian grocer or by the Biryani that Malabar is famous for or it by the myriad fish cuisine?

Traditional Malabar Muslims, known for their elaborate eating habits, an all welcoming nature and generous wedding festivities. But if you go into any of their households for lunch you would be surprised. The fish curry lunch meal is light and very healthy with a good balance of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein.

The fiery curries of the locals were adapted to the foreign tastes resulting in Malabar cuisine or Mopilla or Mopla cuisine as its known now. The major influence was from the Arabs who stayed over and established their religion along with the cuisine in the state. As a result, vegetables fish, meat and chicken were all cooked in milder spices and coconut gravies to form the local Mopla or Malabar cuisine. Malabar food is not similar to Moghlai food at all. Almost all Malabar food used large quantities of coconut, milder spices, lesser ghee and oil in the dishes. The Arab influence is prominent in the cuisine of the region.

Fish Curry

The fish curry with coconut that is serving in our restaurant is made fresh everyday with the fish of the day. It goes well with rice and chapathi too. The ingredients are mixed together in the pot, crushed by hand, no oil, and then set on the flame. When it is bubbling away, the fish is added to it and when the fish is cooked, a fresh ground paste of coconut is added to it. Seasoning is just curry leaves and shallots. That’s it. This is in direct contrast with the other fish curries which need slow frying of shallots or roasting the coconut etc.

Kerala is blessed with backwaters, lagoons, rivers, lakes and has plentiful supply of a variety of fish. Pomfrets, crabs, mussels, clams abound in the sea; a range of fresh water fish such as the prized karimeen (pearl spot).

Though coconut oil is preferred cooking medium for most seafood dishes in Kerala, any other cooking oil can be used, with teaspoon of coconut oil drizzled in for that distinctive flavor of south india.

Rice splendors

The verdant paddy fields across Kerala bear witness to the importance of rice in the malyali diet; it is the state’s staple food. In Kerala parboiled unpolished matta rice with nutritious husk is preffered over the polished white rice popular else- where in India. Matta rice is boiled, dried, and then husked, retaining much of the bran, which gives flavorsome rice its characteristic reddish hue.

Roasted rice flour is steamed in large, hollow bamboo stem for puttu. This type of rice flour even use in making Appams.

The vegetable side dishes run the gamut of the Kerala cuisine but the preferred ones are Cabbage thoran, Cheera thoran, String beans, Pumpkin…actually any vegetable goes. Making the combination is the tricky part of the meal. It’s best to have a light vegetable with a heavy curry or vice versa to balance the sweet with the spicy and the fried with the steamed so that the end result is not too leaden. You can feat these vegetable recipes on every Wednesday by having sadhya meal.

Sadhya food: 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.).

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