Being a Keralite NRI what do you miss the most about your hometown? Obviously your home, your loved ones, the feel and lifestyle of being a Malayali and most importantly the homemade typical Kerala household food. In a way we are lucky that Kerala cuisine has carved a niche for itself in the world of culinary, so no matter which part of the world we live in we will always have access to our food.
Kerala cuisine is vast and delicious. You can’t just eat a few dishes and say you have tasted it all. Each district has got its own specialities with distinctive tastes and most of them you won’t even get in the restaurants. Unless you take the effort to recreate the magic your mom creates in her kitchen every time without a fail, there is no way you are going to have it when you reside outside of Kerala.
For me, it was even worse, especially because I just got back from my vacation feeling all homesick and was finding it difficult to get back into the routine food patterns here. That is when I heard about this Kerala Food Fest – Kappa Chakka Kandhari happening at the Sharjah Expo Center.
To be frank I didn’t have my hopes up because of the popularity of seafood in Kerala which I don’t eat. I was prepared to see a lot of seafood & meat dishes at the fest more than anything else but at the same time was very keen on seeing everything to at least satisfy the Malayali in me. That’s how much I was missing my home and hometown.
Now, guess what happened when I reached there. To my surprise, there was a lot of vegetarian dishes, snacks, and payasam to try out, and that too the kind of dishes that I mentioned above which you will not find in any restaurant. You can imagine what would have happened next. I totally forgot that I was carrying my camera & notepad, and I focused completely on just eating.
Kappa(Tapioca) cooked in different ways, Yams, Sweet Potato, a variety of authentic chutneys, Kanji & Payar (Rice Gruel with green gram) – Malayali’s humble dinner, different types of pickles, Kadachakka curry (Breadfruit), Kadachakka Cutlet (Breadfruit Cutlet),Pazhampori (Plantain fritters), Unniyappam (Rice fritters), Chakka ada, Churuttu, Ariyunda(Rice balls), Madakkusan, Palada Pradhaman(rice and milk payasam), Chakka Pradhaman (Jackfruit payasam), Chakkakuru Payasam (Jackfruit seed payasam), Chukku Kaapi(dry ginger and Jaggery coffee), Kandhari Shots (Birdseye chili shots)- something new & refreshing, and at last my favourite Kozhi Pidi – Rice dumplings in thick coconut sauce flavoured with cumin and curry leaves served with Chicken curry. It is a Kottayam speciality but not everyone would be familiar with it. I have a lot of memories of my granny associated with this dish and I was in awe when I saw this there. My granny is no more but she used to make this as an evening snack without the chicken curry. Now you know my emotional attachment to this regional delicacy.
If I have to write about each and every dish I tried there, I don’t think I can finish that in this one blog. There were 101 dishes to try and I think I tried at least a minimum of 25 dishes out of it. In short, we just pigged out at the fest.
Finally, when I was done eating I got a chance to get into the kitchen where the actual efforts were going on. It was indeed a pleasure to watch the preparations and talk to the people behind such an amazing concept. Above all, in spite of the bad weather conditions, the place was jam packed. Yep, that’s what you call the “spirit of foodies”. Hope to see more of such initiatives in the future.