Saturday, April 18, 2015

Following the Appam trail

What do you do, when you 
a. Want to vacation during the Christmas/New year time 
b. Are on a limited budget
c. Hate long flights 
d. Love seafood

You go to Kerala.

My very own Kerala postcard picture 
Our decision was also largely influenced by a kick ass ticket deal on Air Asia which took care of points b and c from above. Our trip was about 9 days long with 3 days each in the hilly Thekkady, the backwaters of Alleppey and the charming city of Cochin.

When it comes to vacation planning, my type A personality is unleashed in its full glory. I read up on the destinations, call up the hotel to find out the amenities, pour over tripadvisor, make an hour by hour itinerary with back up options, pre-book activities that get sold out, in short, I go all out. Having a 2.5 year old has not dampened my spirits, I know plan keeping her in mind (a separate post on travelling with kids perhaps).

Food is a big part of travel for us (husband and I) and we love making wishlists of things to eat and on this trip we wanted to eat the best prawn biryani and appam that Kerala had to offer.

The food trail started as soon as we left Cochin airport to drive down to Thekkady and stopped at a small place on the highway called Malabar palace where we had the best bony fish fry and small white rice flour rotis.
I made my way through a zillion bones to eat this spicy fish at Malabar Palace
In Thekkady, we stayed at a home stay that was run by a vegan couple who made the loveliest breakfast each morning, freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh baked bread with amazing jams and spreads.
Clean plates -pretty much every breakfast in Thekkady
For lunch we started on our biryani hunt and tried the most famous restaurant in the town of Kumily – Thekkady Cafe The place was packed with tourists, dishes flying around, paneer and dal for the vegetarians, fish fry on every other table, biryanis, chicken curries served in narrow oval stainless steel dishes that are only seen in restaurants. I love people-watching at such places, looking at families and groups who have traveled far and wide for a holiday. The large Bangladeshi family who were critical of the fish in Kerala, the couple from Maharashtra who were relishing the new flavors, the group of friends from Karnataka who had probably driven down and directly landed to eat. Unfortunately as fascinating as the microsm of people was, the food was bland, the prawn biryani was particularly bad.
Some average food

The next day we set out to try appams at another popular restaurant, whose name I do not recall, the appams were amazing with a lovely mutton stew. The biryani was a let down again.

For dinner, our hosts at the home stay decided to make an amazing vegan Mediterranean meal with falafel, babaganoush, some lovely salads and this great bread, as it was 31st December. So we literally rang in the new year in a food induced coma.
Amazing Mediterranean dinner 

The next day was spent on the road going from Thekkady to Alleppey , we took a lunch stop at this place called Avees puttu house, you know a place is a legit foodie haven when you see different kind of patrons, locals, tourists, people who have specifically driven and come to eat here and you see people who know exactly what to eat. I’m not a big fan of Puttu which is a classic Kerala dish so we decided to eat what else but Appams a choice that we would rejoice for days to come, the Appams at this place are something else, they have this amazing soft texture and a sweetish after taste eaten with the perfectly flavored chicken stew. We hunted down another branch of Avees puttu house in Alleppey to savor the best appams ever.

On reaching Alleppey, which is much more touristy place than Thekkady, I had a longer list of places to eat at and boy we were not disappointed. The roasted prawns in coconut was amazing at Choola restaurant so was the food at Cassia restaurant and the Italian food at Dreamers Cafe and Restaurant was welcome change (by this time we had given up on finding good prawn biryani).

My love for sea food just escalated

The last leg of our trip was the city of Cochin or rather the twin cities of Cochin and Ernakulam. I had done the least amount of research on this place partially because we had some family staying there who had agreed to show us around. I realized how little I knew about this small city that was actually less than 500 Kms from Bangalore. Charming cafes, lovely small markets filled with artsy goodies, a relaxed way of life and a beach, Cochin is lovely. I’ve heard of how people travel to someplace and instantly feel that they could live there. I’ve never felt that way in any place in India, but in Cochin I did. Barring the sweltering heat and a very complicated language I loved this city. In fact, I was most amazed as to how clean everything was and how little plastic was used.

The fort Kochi area is one of its kind, old Portugese and colonial style architecture that has been amazingly restored and the cutest cafes that one could see. The 3 month long art and design festival called Muziris biennale was going on and I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits. I never thought I’d say this but one of the highlights of the trip was visiting a supermarket, the Lulu supermarket. A near replica of the Dubai branch of the same supermarket was massive by Indian standards. Long aisles of cheese, a massive dry fruit counter and an amazing deli section with Kerala, North-indian and Arabic food. We picked up some paneer with a middles eastern bread called khubbus that landed directly from a conveyer belt onto our plates we paired with a spicy sweet date pickle. With an oriental meal, a middle eastern lunch a few more coffee cups and some great marble cake from Anne’s bakery our Kerala trip came to an end.

Quirky Kochi

More quirk

The science nerd in me loved these exhibits 

Vertebral column made out of tar

I’m writing this post exactly 3 months after the vacation and I’m surprised as to how vividly I remember each of my food related experience. Such is great travel coupled with amazing food.


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