20th March 2014
As we cruised the waters of the Vembanad lake, I went to investigate my most favourite place. The kitchen.
That’s where all the action is, after all.
Joji, one of the 3 staff members on the boat, was busy frying something that looked fishy. And he confirmed my suspicions by identifying it as seer (or king) fish. The rest of our lunch was already done.
Luckily, I took to Kerala cuisine, like a duck takes to water. On an earlier trip to Kerala (details shall be withheld to protect offending party!) we were so busy eating all kinds of delicacies, that we didn’t make it in time for our flight out (also the first time in my flying history, I’ve missed one!).
On another trip with my sister and mom we had some really delicious fare, especially on our houseboat ride. Even my very hard-to-please mother was satisfied enough to give the chef some brownie points.
I also realised that I am quite easy to please since since I’m very fond of coconut. Lately, the sister (also a former chef) has been extolling the virtues of coconut oil. And telling the whole family to adapt to it. Considering ours is anAssamese family, and we are addicted to our mustard oil, you can imagine that convincing my mother hasn’t an easy task.
Needless to say, she hasn’t succeeded on that front, but I’m already swayed by the goodness of this pure oil. I haven’t really done much research on it myself (sis has done enough for the whole family), but some factors indicate that it’s better than refined oil and also good for health. And that people in countries populated by coconut trees and who consume copious amounts of coconut oil are healthier. Interesting that though I don’t have statistics.
You see, in God’s own country, you can’t really go more than a few meters without encountering a coconut in one form or another. It’s in your food, your oil, your soap, and of course, in every frame. Imagine what your friends would say if you went back from Kerala without those sinful banana chips fried in coconut oil.
There must be more coconut trees in Kerala than in the rest of the world combined. Though I was told that there are absolutely no coconut related deaths in Kerala – a local told me this confidently. And yes, I have my doubts about this one.
Coming back to our houseboat, we’re on a cruise – possibly the most relaxing time we’ve had in Kerala so far. The Kerala Blog Express team has been split up into several groups. I am with two lovely women – Roxanne (aka The Tiny Taster from Mumbai) and Stefania (Dutch, but now residing in Malaga, Spain), who writes about life from an expat’s perspective. Roxanne loves food as her blog name suggests and takes pictures of everything before we partake of the delicacies. We’re all happy to finally get an opportunity to let our hair down and just relax – this time was much needed since we’ve been on the move since we arrived in Trivandrum.
We sit on the deck of our boat enjoyed the cool air as we made our way through the waters. Watching life pass in slow motion in front of us. Someone is making their way across to the other side in a smaller row boat. Another one is loaded with a cycle. A lady whipping her clothes on the lake shore and finishing her daily dose of laundry. A little kid bathing happily in the waters beside her home. It’s like watching a different kind of TV – daily life TV maybe.
The houseboat lunch has to be the most delicious so far in this trip. It could also be because it’s the closest to home cooked food, which I usually prefer when I travel. Most of my sojourns include homestays (something I’ve missed on this trip) because that’s where I get to taste the best local food.
This is what we got on our plate for lunch:
– A long beans sabji (vegetable fry)
– A cabbage fry (with my favourite ingredient, coconut)
– Seer fish fry
– Red rice
The stir fries are simple, and usually cut into small bits. Like the cabbage. And garnished with black mustard seeds and coconut. This style of preparation is called a “thoran“.
And since this post is about cooking up a delicious meal, here’s the recipe a cabbage thoran you can try at home. It seems really simple!
Before this particular culinary treat, we were actually treated to our first traditional meal on another houseboat cruise, organised by Hotel Raviz, Kollam. They had put out an elaborate meal as we cruised the backwaters and and these were some of the delicacies I remember:
– Fried prawn (really succulent and the best I’ve had so far on the trip)
– Thalassery mutton biryani
– Roast chicken (not sure which style, but was quite good)
– Meen moilee (coconut preparation – loved it!)
– Loads of pickles/raitas and sides like beetroot pachadi, crisp fried bitter gourd, pineapple raita and other chutneys that I didn’t take note of
– Appams with vegetable stew
There were also a few traditional vegetarian dishes, which I didn’t pay much attention to since there was prawn and fish
I think I must have been a Keralite in my last birth since I can’t seem to get enough of coconuts. Curries, chutneys, water, drinks – bring it on! Except in my hair. I realised after two days of trying to wash it out after a rather relaxing Ayurvedic massage at the Kumarakom Lake Resort.
Anyway, I must admit that I haven’t gone as far as my sister though. She even cooks her pasta in coconut oil. And claims it’s really delicious. That’s not something I’m not ready to try yet.