What should be my food in Kerala? What basics should I know to keep safe from dreaded tummy issues that bog down a lot of people visiting the sub-continent?
You will not have any difficulty in spotting an eating place
anywhere in Kerala – cities, town, village junctions, highway bypasses – you name
At the same time, you will find it quite challenging to find
a clean place inside out. While many eateries look spectacular on the outside,
their toilets and kitchen are truly shocking. Even many locals find it hard to
eat in some of those places. So, what about visitors?
Luckily, there are many restaurants that serve tasty Kerala food
while keeping an overall high standard in cleanliness, service etc.
One of the advantages of staying in a good homestay is home
cooked meals. Nothing beats the love and care of the mother. You get authentic
Kerala food prepared fairly clean. In many cases, you get to eat with the host
family. Not all homestays are alike, so take time search online and find a good
In Kerala, the words Hotel and Restaurant are used interchangeably. A Hotel just means a food serving outlet. So, you will find small tea shacks with the board ‘Hotel ……” on them.
How well a restaurant keeps its wash rooms give an indication of how well the kitchen is kept as well. There can be exceptions. Sudden employee absences, for example.
If you are new to this part of the word, even eating may feel like an adventure. If that is the case, stick with simple veg food in the beginning and slowly start experimenting with other items.
I know what you are just about to ask – which Kerala style foods can I safely eat? For breakfast, Plain Roast Dosa or Ghee Roast is an ok choice. Idly is good too. The other item I can suggest is Puttu and Kadala curry. If you find Kadala curry a bit challenging, try bananas instead – raw or steamed.
Items such as Masala Dosa and Porotta, though very yummy, are burden to the tummy. Avoid them during the early days or while traveling.
Sandwiches and breakfast cereals are available widely. If you fear foreign food may let you down, why not stick to the trusted stuff, at least for a day?
For lunch, rice with veg curries is a no brainer. That is because additives such as MSG are usually not used in making traditional food in Kerala.
Biriyani is a huge temptation for anyone non-veg. The aromatic and complicated rice dish is one of the special foods in Kerala. Most big cities such as Trivandrum, Cochin, Thrissur and Calicut have popular Biriyani places. Eat from there only, even if it means a bit of hassle. Stick to Chicken Biriyani unless you truly trust the outlet.
While traveling within Kerala, you are better off sticking to traditional Kerala food. Often you will find sign boards advertising Chinese Restaurants. They have nothing much to do with real Chinese food. They heavily use MSG, which could cause issues if you have a sensitive stomach. North Indian Cuisine places, on the other hand, err on the side of oil.
Unfortunately, there is a perception among many cooks that more oil and additives enhance the taste of food. How wrong.
Before traveling to a new town, do a small look up about good food outlets there. Read reviews and short list a few good places where you could eat. It really pays off.
A major cause of stomach problems is contaminated water. Try to drink bottled water only. In a restaurant, if you have no other choice, ask for hot water. No body is going to dip their finger into hot water. What happens behind the scenes is sometimes shocking.
Avoid ice at any cost. Not just in Kerala, in many parts of the world, ice is prepared and handled unhygienic. Avoid milk shakes, juices etc that contain ice. You are better off with even a can of soft drink.
Restrict eating mutton and beef. Eat them at your homestay or trusted outlets.
In Kerala, generations survived by eating fish. Kerala has good variety of tasty fish dishes. Many visitors talk about the great fish dish they had while in Kerala. The best places to have fish is those where they prepare fresh fish in front of you. Fish preserved in formaldehyde and ammonia is doing a lot of damage to the health of Keralites.
For snacking, the best choice is banana chips. Tapioca chips and Jack fruit chips aren’t bad either. Avoid bakery snacks that has meat inside.