Apart from nature and culture , my 4 day monsoon trip to Kerala was also about the taste of the land. The best way to explore any place is to indulge in food specially in local hideouts, ask for dishes that the guest in the neighboring table ordered and eavesdrop on conversation just so that you can pick up a tip or two for the next pit stop !! I did just that during my Foodie Trail in Kochi and surrounds.
The first two days in Fort Kochi were eventful with all the rain, sightseeing and not to forget the food in the street corner eateries, cafes and restaurants !! The mornings were slow with a plate of idli or idiyappam generously served with chutney laced with red chilly but not so spicy to set my stomach on fire. I plonked on a rickety plastic chair at the street corner eatery, drooling over the chutney, the radio blared peppy Malayali numbers and men and women with neatly oiled hair grinned at me enjoying my monsoon in their land. I also tried it with vegetables stewed in peppery coconut milk.
I spent most of the day walking around in the beach, through the bazaar in Matancherry and finally in Jew Town. Crafters is a huge handicrafts store which seemed to have multiple outlets including ones that dealt with cashews and spices but what caught my eye was the pretty hanging balcony on top with promises to be a quaint cafe. After a short climb through a narrow staircase, I was warmly welcomed in. I found my seat in the hanging balcony with my plate of prawns, batter fried to perfection. It is a little expensive by Kochi standards but for that view and the me time I enjoyed, it was acceptable !!
I rounded off with coconut water from the orange one generally found in this part of the country which was a tad bit sweeter than the green ones. I paid more for coconut water in Kochi compared to Bangalore 🙂 Tourism!! I am told
Visit to Kochi is incomplete without a visit to the famous cafes in Fort Kochi near Rose Street, Princess Street and some near the waterfront. Many like the Solar Cafe were closed due to off season and so I stepped into the perennial favourite Kashi Cafe. Everything about this place is impressive, the installation art, the natural ambience, peeping sky and the fusion menu. I ordered a slice of chocolate cake not realising that it will be drenched in chocolate sauce. Would have preferred if the sauce was served separately.
That evening while strolling down the Chinese Nets area, I thought of experimenting with some freshly cooked fresh catch. I bought a few prawns and some sea fish and was let to a street side eatery who offered to cook for a charge. The fish was overpriced to say the least and specially when they know you are an outsider and the preparation, less said the better!! May be I was simply unlucky with my choice !!
I was a little bit cautious the next day and the Fish Meal at lunch complete with all the curries and chutneys and payasam in a restaurant in Vypeen island was very satisfying. Dinner was at the much acclaimed Fusion Bay near Santa Cruz Basilica. I ordered their signature crab dish with appam. The crab was cooked with excess onion and tomato that I had to actually hunt for crab or yearn for the taste of it. Disappointed by the dish and even more disappointed by their adhoc pricing on the dish.
I spent the next day in Alappuzha navigating through the backwaters, lazing on the beach and ambling around in the busy market area. After a little bit of navigation and a couple of web searches later, I zeroed in on Hot Dishes for lunch. I assumed it to be a restaurant but turned out to be an extension of Snehadhara Homestay. The host and hostess very kindly welcomed me in and offered a fish meal complete with brown rice, avial and sambhar. The unforgettable banana chutney tempered with curd had a unique taste and I have not been able to dish it out at home for want of that perfect banana and the skill of course. The last meal on this trip had to be put to rest with a glass of the Kerala special Pineapple juice.
However, the best experience was frying chips at Malabar Chips next to the boat jetty in Alappuzha. I was ushered in while they found me aimlessly roaming around the area with a camera around my neck. Before, I realised, I was served a plate full of different kinds of chips and halwa and half way through I remembered to click a picture. Next, I was turning the big ladle frying banana chips which was kindly packed for me to bring home.
The variety of chips is awesome ranging from banana, potato, tapioca, jackfruit, ginger etc and the variety of halwa (pista, dates, cashew etc) was fresh, sweet, tangy and awfully tasty. I burped my way out a few kilograms heavier having purchased a little bit of all varieties to relive the trip back home in Bangalore !!