Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cuisines of India - Part I

Today's post is not a recipe but a glimpse into the cuisine of one of the Indian states.

India as most of you know is a very diverse country in terms of the culture, language, and cuisine. I come from the south-western state of Kerala - whats unique to this region are the lush green fields, the backwaters, ayurvedic practices, coconut trees and such. It is a coastal state that thrives immensely on tourism.

It was a major spice trade center and early dynasties traded with the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. Later years saw the dominion of Portugal, Dutch and ultimately the British until India gained its independence.

As with any Indian state, festivals in Kerala is celebrated with much pomp and ceremony. One of the main aspects of which being 'the feast' or as the Keralites call it 'Sadhya'. It is lunch that's normally served on a banana leaf and can have anywhere between 10 to 20+ vegetarian dishes served in it.

In a typical feast you will find banana chips, fresh bananas, about 2-3 different kinds of pickles and chutneys each, as many curries as one can possibly fit into their schedule, some dry roasted vegetables, papad - all of which is served with rice and ended with a sweet pudding called 'payasam', typically made of rice, milk and sugar.

You will find that almost all the dishes made in Kerala contain coconut in some form or the other. There is a heavy infusion of the coconut flavor be it either ground mixture of coconut and spices, or dry roasted, or food that's simply cooked in coconut oil. What i love though about the dishes is the variety of vegetables that one uses - you could make 95% of the dishes without having to chop a single onion. Also there is very limited or almost no frying involved which basically means less oil.

Seafood is another staple food of Kerala. With an unlimited supply from the sea and lakes it is an everyday feature in most households, some starting with breakfast. Typically though you will find that 'feasts' made on Hindu festivals are a pure vegetarian affair

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