Chasing the Monsoon: Tongue Ticklers from Kerala

We picked some local dishes that spice up the plate in God’s own country.

Divya Sreedharan

Tucked away in the bustling little town of Kozhikode, is Abida Rasheed’s home. One of the best known practitioners of Malabari cuisine, this passionate culinaire travels across India and the Middle East, to cook, feed and conduct food festivals. At home in Kozhikode, she treats guests to a day-long culinary experience, complete with food of Kerala and heritage walks. “We begin by discussing what the guests would like to savour. And then I take them to the harbour so they can inspect the day’s seafood catch. We come back home to cook the seafood together, along with the other dishes. Later in the evening, I take them to local chayakadas (teashops) or if they so prefer, they go on to experience an Ayurvedic massage,” she says.

Here, Abida Rasheed shares some of her popular Malabari snack items and dishes:

Chatti Pathiri (Sweet)

Chatti Pathiri (Sweet)


100 gm maida
7 eggs
6 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ghee
40 gm coconut scraps
30 gm raisins
3 tsp khus khus or poppy seeds
A pinch of cardamom


  • Knead the dough with maida, warm water and salt. Roll out into six or seven paper-thin chapatis and bake lightly on a tawa (of 8-inch diameter). The size of the chapatis can vary depending on the size of the vessel.
  • Mix four eggs with 3 tbsp sugar and two tsps ghee, to make scrambled eggs. Keep aside. Beat the remaining eggs with three tbsps sugar and cardamom and again, keep aside.
  • Take a non-stick pan, spread 1 tsp oil or ghee all around. Keep one chapatti as the first layer. Dip the second chapatti in the egg-and-cardamom mixture and place it on top of the first chapatti. Add a portion of scrambled eggs and a share of the nuts and khus khus.
  • Make a new layer with another chapatti. Keep adding the liquid at each step and pour the remaining egg mixture over the sides and a little on the top so that all gaps are covered.
  • Garnish with cashew nuts and raisins and bake in an oven for 10 minutes or so. You can also bake on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes.

bread nirachathu

Bread Nirachathu (Stuffed bread cubes)


For the stuffing:
1/2 kg meat, boiled
2 large onions, diced
4 green chillies
1 ginger
1 tsp oil
1 ½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp chilli powder, salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
A handful coriander leaves
2 or 3 boiled eggs
2 loaves of bread
For the coating:
2 eggs
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp ghee


  • Heat oil, sauté onion, green chilli, ginger. Now, add the cooked meat, coriander powder, turmeric and chilli powders. Cook till the mixture is dry. Add the coriander leaves and boiled eggs.
  • Make a hole in the bottom of both loaves. Fill in the meat-and-egg masala stuffing. Cover the bottom of both loaves with pieces of bread. Do this for both loaves.
  • Now, roll the stuffed loaves in the egg-sugar mixture. Shallow fry in ghee. Make sure all sides have a nice brown crust. Serve as a snack.

Mutton Ishtu

Malabar Mutton Ishtu


1/2 kg mutton;
1 potato, large
3 onions, big;
4 chillies
1 piece ginger;
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp peppercorns, crushed
1 cup coconut milk (thick)
Bunch coriander leaves (cut)


  • Sauté onion, green chillies and ginger. The colour of the onion shouldn't change or else the colour of the stew too will change.
  • Then add the meat, potatoes and salt and sauté till the colour becomes white.  
  • Add enough water to cook or pressure cook. When done, add the coriander leaves.
  • And lastly, add the coconut milk. Do not boil, just heat.
  • Serve hot with bread or pathiri.

Nalumani Palaharams

 by Nimi Sunil Kumar

Nimi Sunil Kumar, a blogger and culinary teacher lives in the hill station of Munnar and loves experimenting with food. She is also a chronicler of vanishing culinary traditions. “Every dish and snack item in Kerala has variations according to the region and the communities they are popular in,” she says. And some are lost because no one makes them anymore, she rues. Kumar has tried to document traditional tea-time palaharams in her cookbook, 4 O’Clock Temptations of Kerala. The book won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for 2015-16 in the Best Indian Cuisine Cookbook section.

Here are two recipes from her book:


These are small, round fried snacks made using either mashed banana or jackfruit preserve.


2 cups rice flour
¼ kg jaggery broken into pieces or ½ cup brown sugar
1 or 2 cups mashed bananas (small ones are preferred)
½ tsp sesame seeds
3 tsp coconut pieces roasted in ghee
½ tsp baking soda
Seeds of 3 cardamom pods slightly pounded
¼ tsp dry ginger powder
A pinch of salt
Oil for frying


  • Heat jaggery pieces in a pan with ½ cup water and let it melt to make a jaggery syrup. Strain the impurities out and keep the melted jaggery aside.
  • In a bowl, mix rice flour, melted jaggery, sesame seeds, cardamom, mashed bananas, baking soda, salt and dry ginger powder with the required amount of water to get batter of dropping consistency.
  • Heat oil in an unniyappam pan (an iron pan with small depressions, resembling an idli steamer). Once the oil is hot, pour the batter into each of the depressions in the pan. Cook on medium flame, then turn over the unniyappams with a fork so that both sides get evenly browned. Take them out.
  • Follow this procedure for the remaining batter. Drain/wipe off excess oil and serve hot.

Ottada (rice pancakes)

For the dough

1¼ cup rice flour
Warm water to knead the dough
1 tsp coconut oil
Salt to taste

For the filling

1 cup scraped coconut
½ cup jaggery syrup
1 or 2 cardamom pods crushed
2 tsps ghee
Banana leaves cut into rectangular shapes


  • In a bowl, knead rice flour into a soft dough with salt, coconut oil and just the right amount of water.
  • Heat a pan with ghee, add the scraped coconut. Fry the coconut for a few minutes, then pour the jaggery syrup. Add crushed cardamom. Keep stirring this mixture, till the jaggery syrup thickens and coats the coconut completely. Take it off the flame.
  • Take a banana leaf, pinch a portion of the dough, and flatten this pinched portion onto the banana leaf with your fingers. To ensure that you flatten out the dough as thinly as possible, dip your fingertips in oil and press out the dough. (Once you have used one leaf, take more of the dough and press it out onto another leaf. Repeat till all the dough is used up.)
  • Spoon in some of the filling onto one half of the banana leaf on which you have pressed the dough. Fold the other half and pinch the edges closed with your fingers.
  • Heat a flat-bottomed clay pot or pan, place the folded banana leaf on the pan and cook. Once, one part of the Ottada is cooked, it will start browning, and you can see brown patches. Flip it and cook the other side till it too has roasted and has slightly browned spots.
  • Once done, transfer onto a plate. Continue till you finish cooking the rest of the dough/leaves.

Image credit: Abida Rasheed for Bread Nirachathu and Mutton Ishtu.

Image credit for Chatti Pathiri :


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