Culinary Experiences

Colorful Christmas and New Year banquets in South India

South Indian breakfast at Kochi.

The first dish is called Red Champa Puttu is very popular breakfast dish in South Indian and Sri Lankan. They are steamed cylinders of ground rice layered with coconut accompanied by beans curry.

The second is called dosa. It is the Indian version of crepe made from rice batter and black lentils. It is served with various small curries like sambar and chutneys.

Chettinad Chicken Masala

Tamil Nadu’s favorite foods are overwhelmingly vegetarian, with lots of coconut and chilli. The exception to all-veg diets is Chettinad food. The menus often feature mutton (goat), chicken and fish.

At Visalam Hotel we learn about the spicy Chettinad cuisine with cooking demonstrations in the open kitchen. This time we learn how to make a Chettinad Chicken Masala with exotic ingredients. The only difficult ingredient to find outside India is Kalpasi also known as black stone flower, is a species of fungi used as an Indian spice in the State of Tamil Nadu, fairly popular in Chettinad. Below the video I attach the PDF file with the recipe in case you are adventurous enough to try it! I did it this week and it was delicious even without  the kalpasi. For vegetarian and vegan version, you can put chunky pieces of tofu, paneer or tempeh.

This is the PDF file for the recipe Chicken Chettinad Masala

Spice of Life!

A visit to a Spice Plantation is a must when you are in Periyar. It is amazing to see where the spices we buy at the supermarkets come from. Pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace and anise covered the Periyar hills from the 14th century.

Our tour guide (and an exporter of spices) told us that : the king of the spices is pepper, the queen is cardamom and the prince is vanilla. Also, in Hindu cuisine all spices are the mixture of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cumin and pepper.

Below are pictures of some of the spices we found during our visit to the spice plantation in Thekkady.

Best of South India: Food in Kerala!

From the most romantic, elegant and finest dining experience in Florence, Italy to the bizarre, exotic, vegetarian, quick and free temple food in the South of India. I love to try everything. Travelling is not just recreate our eyes with the spectacular sightseeing but also indulge our paladar with various dishes typical from the regions we explore.

The dining experience in Kochi, South India was unlike anything I’d ever had in my life. After we finished our tour, the guide suggested to have lunch so we went to a outdoor comedor (dining room) with long tables. There were around 300 Hindus people eating there. I think we and an American guy were foreigners. No plates no cutlery. Food was served onto huge banana leaves and we had no choice other than eating with our hands. I thought our guide bought tickets for our meals. I thought to myself “this must be the cheapest meal I’ve ever had” at the end I realized it was free. Anyone can eat for free here and many people do.

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In India, temple food has always held a special place in the hearts of those who have a religious bent of mind. Paying homage in the form of food to the gods and goddesses is a practice that is commonly followed in a country of numerous rituals. All faiths are welcome to eat a free lunch daily at the temple.

The food consist of an assortment of vegetarian dishes. Delicious chapatis, soupy lentils called “dal” cabbage marinated with grated coconut, spices, and aromatic curry leaves, hot beetroot sauce, white rice and at the end a delicious pudding which is cooked by boiling pure milk on low temperature for many hours to make it a soft custard.

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Does ignorance give you immunity to slightly upset foreign cultures? After I finished eating I was in a rush to wash my sweaty and dirty hands. I completely ignored the deity and instead of giving some offerings which could be some money or food I took a quick picture. The locals gave me a mean look. I should have asked my guide what to do next. It is a good lesson for me to learn for my future trips!

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Kerala is a very fertile land and there are plenty of rice, coconut groves, teas estates, and spice plantations (Tellicherry Pepper, green cardamom, and cinnamon come from Kerala). Kerala cuisine is also quite diverse and the common ingredients you will find are coconut (in all forms), fish preparations, tasty seafood dishes, pineapple and mango based desserts.

Below are some dishes we had on the boat while sailing on the backwaters of Kerala.

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