A trip to Kerala, popularly known as God’s Own Country had always been on my bucket list and I had every detail mapped out in my head before we got there. Stepping out of the airport last October I realized my imagination had not done this beauty justice. It felt as though we had entered paradise with its endless greenery, scenic backwaters and picturesque beaches. If I had to go on about this enchanting place and all it has to offer, we would be here all day. So I’ve decided to talk about a memorable experience from my trip to Kanyakumari.
At the break of dawn we made our way to the southernmost tip of India. A cloudy day right from the start, by the time the afternoon rolled around we were running for shelter from the pouring rain. Little did we know that our shelter was popular food chain in Kerela. Excited to try a new cuisine we sat down and did what we thought was a natural reaction once seated in a restaurant- asked for the menu. The waiter just stared at us. The language barrier wasn’t helping our case at all. Eventually he gave up trying to communicate with us and came back with banana leaves. “No menu” the Manager explained. We were about to get our first taste of Sadhya which is a traditional meal served on a banana leaf.
Patiently we waited for our food. Again our waiter Raam stood in front of us, holding a big bowl of rice with a confused expression. We looked at him and he looked at us. After what seemed like a century the Manager was back laughing. “Wash leaf. Use water.” Water was everywhere except my leaf by the end of it, but maybe that’s just me. Then we were served more food than our leaf could hold.
Each dish is served in a specific order with a particular place on the leaf. Rice is the main dish that is served with an assortment of curries such as Sambar, Rassam and Puliserry. Pappadam, Banana and Jaggery chips joined the mix. Avial was served next, which is a mixture of various vegetables seasoned with coconut oil with curry leaves. Koottukari, with its hot and sweet taste followed. It is a yellow curry with a few vegetables. A special mention goes out to the assortment of pickles and chilies laid out for us. They make your eyes water and your mouth burn but still leave you asking for more. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until my leaf was completely devoid of food. True to their hospitable nature, I was always served more food before I could blink. As desert, large portions of Payasam which is basically Kheer or rice pudding, was doled out. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat another bite, the final dish was brought out- rice with buttermilk. With that, this wonderful meal came to an end.
Sadhya in Malayalam, means a banquet. If this wasn’t
a meal fit for kings, I don’t know what is. As we sat chatting after the meal waiting for the bill, our friend Raam was back intently looking from our banana leaves to us and making some sort of gesture. As expected, confusion followed as we attempted to decipher his signals. To make a long story short and to save you from going through any misunderstandings in Kerala, I’ll tell you what I learnt that day. As tradition follows, after one has finished eating, he must fold the banana leaf in a particular fashion to indicate so. It also indicates your level of satisfaction. If the leaf is folded inwards towards oneself, as in the top half is folded on the bottom half, it shows that you are satisfied with the meal or that it’s a joyful occasion. If the opposite is done, it indicates a sad occasion or that the food needs improvement.
The next day as we sat down for breakfast before we headed to the airport, we were still talking about our delicious meal from yesterday and stating how nothing else could live up to that. Enter Idiyappam, a light dish of rice noodles, determined to prove me wrong. This mouth-watering dish can also be served with sweetened coconut milk for the sweet version or stir fried for the savoury version with flavours ranging from tomato, lemon, tamarind to spicy coconut. This meant I could have had it for every meal during my stay here, but sadly it was time to leave.
Sometimes I wish I’d never tasted that amazing food because now there are countless days where I crave for those traditional dishes that you can’t find in any restaurant in Pune. My saving grace is that thanks to HausKhaas my precious Malabari Stew with Idiyappams are now just a phone call away. Whether you’ve been there before or not, biting into this delicacy will instantly transport you to the mesmerizing place that is Kerala.