Kerala cuisine is the coming together of everything big, bold and brave. A Malayali never does anything by halves, least of all what he eats. Ask a friend and he will begin with discussing an ingredient and end up in a conversation about food. The spices used in Kerala cuisine cover a gamut of tastes and flavours. If you’ve tasted even the simplest curry from your Mallu friend’s lunchbox, you’ll notice the fierceness of red chillies, sting of ginger, sourness of tamarind and fragrant notes of cardamom, complex, layered and unique.
All these different ingredients and tastes and flavours are tied together by a simple ingredient that coastal cooking just can’t do without – coconut. This ingredient just sets everything right and makes taste perfect. It is found everywhere, used in almost everything and takes a simple dish from simple to lip-smacking.
Remember how we said that Malayalis don’t do anything in halves? The very act of preparing or cooking a meal is a process called ‘Pajakam’ in Malayalam.
Fish! What would Malayalis do without it?
Most of the Malayali dishes are defined by coconut, curry leaves and ‘meen’ or fish. A popular Malayali saying reiterates that people from God’s own country, never go hungry because all they have to do is dip their hands in the nearest patch of water to find fish! With backwaters surrounding much of the state, this is so very true.
Karimeen or Pearl-spotted fish is a rare and expensive fish that you might have probably had at some point in time. Several dishes are made from it, but none can beat Karimeen Pollichathu. If there’s one thing you must absolutely eat even without visiting the state, it is this!
Karimeen Pollichathu is intensely flavored and delicately prepared. It is considered a specialty because the fish is very rare and expensive. Marinated in spices, then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed, the fish stews in its own juices. The spices have to be right and you can grill it in an oven. If you identify with healthy, steamed food, then this dish is for you!