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Kerala is a popular tourist destination for its backwaters, yoga, Ayurvedic treatments and tropical greenery. Kerala has the highest Human Development Index in India, comparable with that of first world nations but with a much lower per capita income.
Cuisine in Kerala has roots in the history, geography and culture of the land. These can be classified under the two standard headings - vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. While the non-vegetarian dishes are all heavily spiced, the vegetarian repertoire is mildly spiced and feels especially easier on the non-native tongue.
Sadya is the traditional vegetarian feast of Kerala. Usually served as lunch, it consists of par boiled pink rice, side dishes, savouries, pickles and desserts spread out on a plantain leaf. Tradition insists that the tapering end of the leaf points to the left of the seated guest. Rice is served on the lower half of the leaf.
The feast begins with the serving of Parippu, a liquid curry made of small gram and ghee. The second course is Sambar, the famous South Indian vegetable stew in which any available combination of vegetables is boiled in a gravy of crushed lentils, onions, chillies, coriander and turmeric and with a pinch of asafoetida.
Avial, an unavoidable side dish is a blend of vegetables, coconut paste and green chillies. It is seasoned with a spoonful of fresh coconut oil and some raw curry leaves stirred in immediately after the dish is taken off the stove.
Some of the other important side dishes include Thoran, and Olan. Thoran can be minced string beans, cabbage, radish or grams, mixed with grated coconut and sautèed with a dash of red chillies and turmeric powder. Olan is a bland dish of pumpkin and red grams cooked in thin gravy of coconut milk.
The savouries include Upperi, Pappadam, Ginger pickle, Pachadi and Kichadi. Upperi is deep fried banana chips. Pappadams are fried creamy yellow, sun-dried wafer of black gram flour. The Ginger pickle is a rich brown, hot and sweet ginger chutney while the Kichadi consists of sliced and sautèed cucumber or ladies finger in curd, seasoned with mustard, red chillies and curry leaves in coconut oil. Pickles are usually mango and lime.
Desserts are served mid-way through the meal. The Payasam is a thick fluid dish of sweet brown molasses, coconut milk and spices, garnished with cashew nuts and raisins. There could be a succession of Payasams, such as the Palada Pradhaman and Parippu Pradhaman.
Pazham, a ripe golden yellow plantain, is usually had along with the payasams. After the payasams, rice is served once more with the spicy Rasam. Rasam is a mixture of chilly and peppercorn powders boiled in diluted tamarind juice. Kaalan, seasoned buttermilk with turmeric powder and green chillies, and plain sour buttermilk that comes salted and with chopped green chillies and ginger, are also served before the feast is finally wound up.
Kerala speciality dishes, Vegetarian dishes, Non-vegetarian dishes, Combination Dishes
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