Enter Kerala, enter the haven for food lovers. The cuisine of Kerala gains influences from the coastal shores and entails a spark of uniqueness owing to its location. The cuisine is rich in spices. Some of the most common ingredients being asafoetida, green chillies, curry leaves, turmeric powder, mustard seeds and the likes.
The native culinary styles adopted from the tribal times of cooking in God’s own country have only been evolving to incorporate tasty twists and influences from neighbouring states, as well as osmotic influences from other cultures. You can clearly see French, British, Arabian, Portuguese and Dutch essences crawling into the culture, thereby affecting the manner of cooking and adding zest to the native Kerala cuisine. The staple food here however, remains rice and tapioca, so while booking your tickets to this paradise, keep the drool guard handy.
Where there’s a coast, there ought to be coconuts. Expect a free flow of coconut gratings garnished on your dishes and a heavy taste of coconut milk used in their preparations. Offering a plethora of options for vegetarians and meat lovers alike, there is an abundant supply of sea food for obvious reasons. The most common sides include dishes of meat and vegetables accompanied by pickles. Here are some of their best beef prepatations.
Let’s start with a dish that reflects the real taste of Travancore. Gaining its influence from its neighbour Cochin, this dish introduces the perfect blend of root and red meat. Since Kerala is all about tapioca, here’s a dish incorporating the tasty starchy root extract into beef. The name Kappa Erachi thus, literally translates into tapioca with beef. Translating the staple touch into a full meal is this dish with immense flavour and perfect combination. However, the trick lies in cooking the beef and tapioca separately to retain the flavour of the individual entities. The beef is marinated and cooked while tapioca is boiled with the necessary spices and left aside. These two come together in a pan to which curry leaves, coconut gratings and other spices are added. The end product is yellowish brown in colour and is rather chunky, with a whiff of garam masala. Enjoy this pasty preparation as a side dish or snack.
Naadan Erachi Ularthiyathu
Sounds complicated? What if we told you it simply means beef fry? Problem solved. When you receive a plate of dark meat with abundant crispy curry leaves, you know right then it is the famous naadan beef fry, Kerala style. The dry preparation of beef involves a flavour play so intense, that it leaves the taste lingering for a while. Most of the locals like this red meat fry as their alcoholic accompaniment. Biting into this over dinner with or without a portion of steamed rice is the way to end the day on your trip here. Instead of added coconut gratings, you will find small pieces of coconut in this one. Additionally, figure out the distinct taste of coconut oil used in its preparation. An aroma so strong and taste so power-packed, you can feel the melody of flavours playing with your senses. Relish every bite as you lick the plate clean. What if you want to have it as the main course? Team it with malabar paratha or have it with puttu, which is steamed cake.
Beef Kallu Shapu style
Especially famous in Kottayam, beef kallu shapu is actually a dish off the shelves of toddy shops. In case you are not familiar with toddy shops, toddy is an alcoholic beverage made with the sap extracted from palm trees. If you really want to experience toddy and food the traditional way, you must look out for toddy shops that offer brilliant local food and serve their white beverages in clay pots. While the most common accompaniments include preparations of tapioca, sea food curries and meaty roasts, let’s stick with beef for now. Any greens used in this? Yes, shallots. They pair up brilliantly with beef. Remember this; if a dish accompanies toddy, it has to be spicy and tangy. The toddy shops sure know how to beautifully complement their drinks and they do it just right, with lots of flavour and spice. Gear up for a tipsy kick with a densely flavoured twist, incorporating not just red chilli powder, but slit green chillies as well. Pick up your fix for the day and chill at these shops, mostly alongside a river. The experience of eating out of these shops is what matters.
How about some grilled beef? That is exactly what chuttirachi translates to. Treat yourself to a platter of juicy beef chunks coated with spices and grilled to the core. These make for great eats in the evening or night when you want to wind up the exhaustive day trying to fulfil your touristy itinerary desperately, over some comfort food. This tasty red meat eat has a marinade of the basic spices and masalas coated generously onto it. This dry beef dish is best had with a beverage or as a snack. Grilled in the oven for a relatively long span of time, the slow cooked fillet gathers all the flavours at its tender core and when they touch your palette, the flavour burst is just too immense. Did we forget to say that it is brushed with coconut oil? Or did we really have to say that?
Thattukada Beef Curry
This is a gravy preparation of beef, usually prepared at road-side carts in Kerala. Imbibe the true flavours of the state by adopting a means of eating out of a thattukada. It is a cart that is covered and set to sell all sorts of road-side food items. Be it hot meat fry, fresh dosas, snacks, fish munchies, beef preparations, omelettes or any other street food of Kerala. The gravy preparation involves a spicy, peppery concoction of curry to which whole spices and powders are finely ground and fried, and the outcome is divine. Watch the ingredients blend into a paste and envelope the beef chunks while it is cooked into a gravy. Have it with rice and take a helping of tapioca on the side. You will enjoy the complementing tastes of the root and meat cooked in onions, curry leaves, and pepper. Try it with appam or chapatis or just plain steamed rice if you want to savour the deep taste of the meaty gravy by itself.
Aditi Shukla is a blogger, content writer and editor, and an avid traveller, foodie and music fanatic. She runs the blog Lyf&Spice to share her travel experiences and gourmet journeys.