My favorite thing to do when I visit a new country is to try local dishes. It’s my belief that trying local dishes gives you a deeper connection to the country’s culture. I grew up eating North Indian and I rarely had South Indian dishes. When I found out that I was going to Kerala, I was so excited to try some of the local dishes there. I actually made a list of everything I wanted to try. Spoiler alert – food in Kerala does not disappoint! The cuisine is rich and robust with yummy traces of coconut. Every dish bursts with colorful flavors and textures which indicate as to why people love the food in Kerala. We tried nearly 60-80 dishes and there was not a single dish we didn’t like. In no particular order, here are nine dishes you have to try when visiting Kerala.
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I asked a few Keralites what their favorite food is and they all replied, “appam with stew.” I totally understand the hype behind this dish now. Appam is a thin pancake that’s made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water, and a dash of sugar. It reminded me of a crepe. The edges are crispy and it’s shaped like a bowl. The best part about appams is that you can enjoy them at any time – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try appams with any kind of curry. You won’t be disappointed. Remember to scarf it down while it’s hot as it loses some of its flavor when it cools down.
2. Nadan Beef
Also known as beef curry, this is my absolute favorite dish in Kerala. Kerala is seemingly the only place in India where you can eat beef without any restrictions and guilt. This dish can be roasted or cooked in a thick gravy. I preferred mine with the gravy. Bite-sized pieces of beef are simmered in a curry made with lots of aromatic and delicious spices like cardamom, bay leaves, peppercorn and more. I truly fell in love with this dish and my mouth is totally watering as I write this post. This dish is best paired with Malabar parotta, which I talk about further in the post.
3. Pazham Pori/Ethakka Appam
This literally means “fried bananas.” Essentially, these fritters are made from ripe plantains that are dipped in a batter and deep-fried. The key is to use ripe bananas so you get the perfect flavor. Lastly, don’t forget to get a glass of chai or coffee when relishing in this tasty treat. It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up that many Keralites indulge in.
4. Malabar Parotta
This is a layered and flaky flatbread that is made from kneading flour, egg, oil, and water. Then, the dough is cut into long strips and then rolled together into a spiral with thin layers. It’s then rolled flat and made to resemble a pancake with many layers. After, it’s cooked over a hot pan with oil or ghee. I don’t even want to know how much weight I gained from eating these. They’re so addictive. I actually got a cooking lesson on how to make these parottas, and I was horrible at it. Making these delicacies is an intricate process that requires a lot of precision and patience… neither of which I have. As I mentioned above, parottas are best paired with beef curry.
5. Kozhi Muringakka Charu
This soup was my jam. I had it almost every single night that I was in Kerala. This soup is spicy and flavorsome with small bits of a chicken drumstick. We ordered this soup extra spicy and it was so perfect. We usually ordered this soup as a starter, but I was told that many Keralites will eat it as an actual meal with a side of rice. I swear that this soup contains magic potions. I had a terrible cold and I felt instantly better after drinking this soup. Some of you aren’t huge cilantro fans, but I highly recommend sprinkling some in this soup. It’ll really elevate the flavors.
6. Kozhi Chuttathu
These bite-sized chicken pieces are marinated with booming flavors and then grilled until the masala (spices) get charred. If you’re up for the challenge, order this dish extra spicy. My throat felt like it was on fire, but it was so worth it.
7. Mutta Roast
This is egg curry with a twist with the twist being that it’s a drier curry. I honestly didn’t know what to expect because I’m not a fan of roasts. I’m a gravy girl. But, I wasn’t disappointed after trying this. This is actually my second favorite dish after the beef curry. Basically, this dish consists of hard-boiled eggs coated in a thick gravy of tomatoes and caramelized onions. Typically, this dish is served for breakfast with a side of appam. I had this curry for dinner with parottas instead.
8. Vendakka Mezhukkupuratti
This dish reminds me of fried okra, but it’s way better. It’s like eating potato chips – once you eat one, you can’t stop eating them. The okra is cut into very thin slices and pan-fried with several spices. This was actually one of Amos’s favorite snacks.
This is a traditional and authentic Kerala meal. It’s served with rice and 10-20 vegetarian dishes on a banana leaf. Keralites say that the banana leaf enhances the flavor of the food. This meal is typically served for Onam, a big festival that happens all over Kerala. However, you can still find this meal all throughout the year. It’s the perfect way to try a little bit of everything and experience the diversity in the cuisine. Always get extra Avial though – it’s a thick mixture of various vegetables seasoned with coconut oil and curry.
Going to Kerala? Here are some resources for your trip to God’s Own Country:
Accommodation: If you want to stay at a hotel, use Hotels.com. I use it all the time because it provides the cheapest rates for hotels. Don’t forget to join their rewards program. Every tenth night is free!
Travel Insurance: In my opinion, India is relatively safe. But, you never know when accidents can happen. Don’t forget to protect yourself against flight cancellations, unexpected illnesses, theft and more. RoamRight has great customer service and benefits.
Tours: I’m mostly a DIY (do it yourself) traveler, but I don’t hate on people who do tours. You can use Viator and there are tons of fun tours on listed about Kerala.
Have you tried the food in Kerala? If so, let me know in the comments below.
I hope you found this article helpful for finding dishes to try in Kerala. Don’t forget to PIN it for later!