Citizens, behold in wonder at the fact that we are now on day 3 of our Indian culinary tour, and are now visiting one of my favorite parts of the country – the great Southern state of Kerala!
Nicknamed “God’s own country”, the cuisine of this region is heavy on spices (especially the region’s renowned black pepper!) and coconut and this curried egg dish is a specialty of the region. I have one other egg curry here on TFD, but it is from a different state – this one from Kerala is also incredibly delicious, but with a different flavor profile.
The cuisine of Kerala, a state in the south of India, is linked to its history, geography, demography and culture. Kerala cuisine offers a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using fish, poultry and red meat with rice a typical accompaniment. Chillies, curry leaves, coconut, mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind, and asafoetida are all frequently used.
Kerala is known as the “Land of Spices” because it traded spices with Europe as well as with many ancient civilizations with the oldest historical records of the Sumerians dating from 3000 BCE.
In addition to historical diversity, cultural influences, particularly the large percentages of Muslims and Christians, have also contributed unique dishes and styles to Kerala cuisine, especially non-vegetarian dishes. The meat eating habits of the people were historically limited by religious taboos. Brahmins eschew non-vegetarian items.
However, most modern-day Hindus do not observe any dietary taboos, except a few of those belonging to upper castes who do not consume beef or pork. Most Muslims do not eat pork and other items forbidden by Islamic law. Alcohol is available in Kerala in many hotels and over a thousand bars and liquor stores, but state authorities plan to close the vast majority of these outlets in a ten-year plan, beginning in 2014, to combat problem drinking.
One of the traditional Kerala dishes is vegetarian and is called the Kerala Sadya, which is an elaborate banquet prepared for festivals and ceremonies. A full-course Sadya, which consists of rice with about twenty different accompaniments and desserts is the ceremonial meal of Kerala eaten usually on celebratory occasions including marriages, Onam and Vishu. It is served on a plantain leaf.
Because of its rich trading heritage, over time various indigenous Kerala dishes have been blended with foreign dishes to adapt them to local tastes. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, so grated coconut and coconut milk are commonly used for thickening and flavoring. Kerala’s long coastline and numerous rivers have led to a strong fishing industry in the region, making seafood a common part of meals. Rice is grown in abundance along with tapioca. It is the main starch ingredient used in Kerala’s food.
Having been a major production area of spices for thousands of years, the region makes frequent use of black pepper, cardamom, clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Kerala also has a variety of breakfast dishes like idli, dosa, appam, idiyappam, puttu, and pathiri.
The vast majority of Kerala’s Hindus, except certain communities and ovo-lacto vegetarians, eat fish, chicken and beef. Some communities, on the other hand, are famed for their vegetarian cuisine consisting of milk and dairy-based dishes, especially various varieties of sambar and rasam. In most Kerala households, a typical meal consists of rice, fish, and vegetables. Beef, contrary to the outlook of the remaining Indian society, also plays a prominent role in Kerala cuisine. The meat is featured in Hindu, Christian and Islamic communities of Kerala.
As further noted on xyuandbeyond.com:
Southern Indian or Kerala cuisine tends to be lighter and less spicy than Northern cuisines, a main feature of cooking is the curry leaf and the coconut, and frying is always done with coconut oil. Kerala was known as the spice capital and along with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, tamarind, and ginger they sent items like tapioca, coffee and cocoa to other European shores.
The cuisine of Kerala is characterized by the use of coconut, either chopped or grated and used as garnishes, coconut milk or paste is used to thicken gravies and coconut oil is used for cooking. Though one can’t imagine Kerala food without chilies, curry leaf, mustard seed, tamarind and asafoetida (which is a very pungent spice used to replace onion, and garlic in Indian cuisine).
Vegetables such as beans, cabbage, beetroot, carrot, onion, potato and yam form part of the cuisine of Kerala. Bananas and coconut are available year round and are also a staple of the Kerala diet. Seafood is also very popular as some of the freshest fish and shellfish are available year round in Southern India.
Kerala cuisine features both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods equally. The non-vegetarian dishes are characteristically very hot and spicy while the vegetarian food is flavored mildly and not as heavily spiced. A great deal of Kerala cuisine is based on seafood and shrimp with some incredibly layered and complex curry dishes found in India.
This is a straightforward egg curry recipe in the ovo-lacto vegetarian tradition of Kerala and certainly one possessing great savor – the more unusual ingredients such as fresh curry leaves and Kashmiri chili powder can be purchased from the links. TFD has a great and abiding fondness for curried eggs in all their myriad forms – perhaps you too will become an egg curry convert after trying my recipe, Citizen!
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