There is a popular saying that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page’. So pack your bags and head out to the southern state of Kerala, also known as the greenest state of India. It was in Kollam, an ancient city in Kerala that the first foreign travelers set foot in India. From then onwards, the inflow of tourists hasn’t stopped in this heavenly ‘God’s own country’.
Kollam is a coastal city with a labyrinth of water channels that make up the famous backwaters of Kerala. The Ashtamudi Lake, located in the Kollam district takes up about 30% of its land area and is the product of merging of eight major backwaters. In the local Malayalam language, that is exactly what Ashtamudi means, with ‘Ashta’ mean eight and ‘Mudi’ meaning head. The lake possesses a unique wetland ecosystem and is shaped like a large palm frond, or more imaginatively, like an octopus! It is one of the most-visited backwaters in the state and is well known for its houseboats and resorts. Numerous hotel exists in and around Ashtamudi to cater to all kinds of pockets. The Raviz hotel owns a beautiful property on the lake shore that is a must-stay hotel to experience the lavish loving nature of the people of Kerala. With their wonderful restaurants and hospitable staff, the weary traveler is made to feel like a king.
Being the hub of backwater cruises, a luxurious boat ride in the mesmerizing backwaters is a must to capture the scenic beauty of amazing bird life, vibrant butterflies, green hills, lush greenery and crystal clear backwaters interspersed with numerous tiny islands. It’s enough to make the toughest urbanite fall in love with nature. However, a trip to Kerala is never complete till you have tried out their mouth-watering cuisine. The food here takes the traveler to a whole new level as you celebrate the rich Malayali heritage.
Kerala’s long coastline with its network of rivers and backwaters and its strong fishing industry contribute expansively to the numerous sea and river-based dishes available here. People who don’t have a taste for seafood can also grab some Chinese or Italian cuisine also available here.
Unlike its neighboring states, Kerala takes pride in its wide variety of non-vegetarian food. Even though there are ample numbers of dishes using chicken, mutton and beef on the menu, it’s the seafood which is the center of attraction for the common Malayali man. Mussels, crabs, squids, clams, shrimps, tiger prawns, sardines, tuna, mackerel, pearl spot fish, and the awesome red lobsters are some of the tasty foods easily available in most restaurants in Kollam.
Savor these sea foods in the ‘the land of spices’ and you are assured of a long memory of exquisite tastes that will pull you back again and again to this coastal land. There are a few basic ingredients that are common to most of these dishes and the most popular are the coconut of course, which grow abundantly throughout Kerala. The dish may include coconut kernel in its sliced or grated form or as coconut milk when it’s needed to thicken the gravy. The flavors of the freshly made coconut milk in the dish are to die for! Other commonly used ingredients in these dishes are the curry leaves, dry red chilies and the dry mustard seeds used for tempering the dish. The locally available gamboges give added flavor and slight sourness to the fish dishes.
The most exotic varieties of seafood are available on the backwaters. You may even be lucky enough to watch your dinner being freshly caught off the lake. Most famous is the ‘Karimeen Polichathu’ which is the signature dish of the backwaters. Here, the delicious pearl spot fish is marinated before being wrapped in green banana leaves and broiled. The mild flavors of this fresh water fish dish leave you wishing for more…and more! Another dish called ‘Fish Moilee’ is also irresistible with its coconut milk-based gravy. It’s usually served with fresh appams (soft rice pancakes) or just plain rice. As Keralites are mainly fish and rice eaters, rice features big on most menus and goes well with the curries, roasts, and fries. Tapioca and spicy fish curry or ‘Kappa and Meen Curry is another signature dish of Kerala and devoured with relish by both the well-to-do as well as the poor all over the state. Other dishes include the prawn curry, crab curry, squid roast, ‘Meen Peera’, mussel stir fry, ‘Fish Mappaas’ and various types of fish fries.
To enjoy the lip-smacking authentic traditional flavors of cuisine in Ashtamudi, you need to first reach Kollam city. The city is well connected by both the railways as well as the Highways. The Trivandrum International Airport, which is just a scenic 70km drive away, is ideally suited for those traveling by air. So come and feed all your senses on your next visit to Kerala!