#Cooking, Travels

Thenga.. Maanga..Chakka… "Kerala Masala"

If you haven’t realized by now, I’m an Indian. I grew up in Texas, but my heritage is
Asian Indian. I am from a place called Kerala, which is located in the southernmost
tip of India. Kerala is known as “God’s own country”. Kerala is a tropical coastal
region and all around you’ll see lush foliage, rivers, and lagoons. Usually kerala-165347_1920people will go to North India to visit the Taj Mahal, Golden Temple, the different palaces in Rajastan, etc. Kerala used to be a hidden gem, but has become a popular touristic destination. One popular attraction is riding a houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala.  These boats look old school from the outside, but inside it is fully modern and equipped with AC. They come with a chef who will make you authentic Kerala meals. They boat staff will catch fish and shrimp from the water and cook it right in front of you! I haven’t had the chance to go on a houseboat, but it’s on my bucket-list and I am looking forward to doing this on my next India visit! Kerala is rich in culture and full of traditions, which I don’t really know much about. Here’s some pictures of my last India trip form 2010, this trip was long over due because I went to India 16 years before.

(Just click on the picture and you can see bigger images) 

I don’t really relate much to Kerala, but my  association with the Kerala culture comes with food. I love Kerala food. Kerala food is nothing like the Indian food you get at North Indian restaurants. It’s not the typical Butter Chicken or Tandoori Chicken – Kerala cuisine is more intense than the westernized Indian food that pops into our head when we hear Indian food. Kerala food is so wonderfully complex that in every bite, you have an intense flavor that is revealed layer by layer. The food is full of spices and bold flavors that makes each morsel you ingest to be tasty and delicious.

Since we’ve have come to Kuwait, we don’t get many home cooked Kerala meals like
before. When we were in Toronto, every Sunday we would go over to my in-laws and mom
would have a huge spread for lunch each Sunday. After Kuwait, both The
Husband and I have come to miss this! This year I thought I’d try and get over my fear
of Kerala cooking and try at least once a month to make a dish. I’ve never ventured into
Kerala cooking because it’s always intimidated me…

The title of this post says “Chakka.. Maanga..Thenga… Kerala Masala” The first three words mean Jackfruit, Mango, Coconut. These are three important and delicious delicacies of Kerala! Every corner you go to there’s a Coconut tree, Mango tree, or Jackfruit tree! These three are also an important factor in Kerala cooking. Coconut can be used in gravies, thoran’s (vegetable dish), desserts, etc. It is a versatile fruit!

What I’ve learned after cooking all the different dishes- In most all dishes you need a base of chopped or sliced onions, minced garlic and ginger, green chilies and curry leaves…. and sometimes tomatoes. The spice combination to make Spicesmeat dishes are: Coriander, Garam Masala, Chilly powder, Turmeric, and Smoked Paprika.

When making Chicken/Beef/Mutton Curry- I first sauteed sliced onions, added the minced garlic, ginger, green chilly combo and let it brown without getting burned. Once this is nicely browned I would add the spices and let it all toast for about a minute then add the tomatoes to make a nice paste. Once this is done I would add the meat and water and let it cook on slow heat. Pretty simple!

When making a thoran ,chopped steamed vegetables with a little bit of coconut, you basically cut up whatever veggies and keep aside. Add some oil to a pot, add mustard seeds, then add onions and green chilly let it saute up a bit and then add the veggies with some chilly powder and turmeric and steam it. Also pretty easy to do! These are the basics of Kerala cuisine.

Below are the dishes I’ve tried to make.. They all turned out well, but I need more practice for making the meat dishes. Hope you enjoy browsing through my pictures.

(Just click on the picture and you can see bigger images) 


2 thoughts on “Thenga.. Maanga..Chakka… "Kerala Masala"”

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