Kasaragod, the district in the northern end of Kerala is unique in many respects. Whether it is food, culture or language, Kasaragod stands apart from the other areas of Kerala. This difference is so pronounced that the people from the southern districts of Kerala sometimes find it difficult to understand the typical Kasaragod dialect of Malayalam. Proximity to Karnataka has contributed to the distinctiveness of this district to an extent. Kasaragod has a rich culinary history. Many traditional recipes of Kasaragod remain hidden from the outside world. Let us try to get an idea about a few of the unique food items of Kasaragod.
Kalathappam is one of the most popular traditional recipes of Kasaragod. It is a regular breakfast item in many houses. Kalathappam is one of the unique food items of Kasaragod that has gained popularity in the other parts of Kerala as well. Kalathappam is a rice snack. For making Kalathappam, we need to soak rice, and grind it along with grated coconut. Heat oil in a hard-bottomed flat pan, sauté onions and chilies, and add the rice batter to this. Pour a thick layer of batter so that we get the thick and crispy Kalathappam. Cover the pan with a lid and cook well.
In the traditional cooking method, a layer of cinder is spread over the lid. So the Appam cooks well and turns crispy from both sides. In such Kalathappams, there is no need to flip the sides while cooking. But these days, people resort to modern cooking methods. As it is difficult to find cinder from burnt coconut husks in modern kitchens, many people have modified the technique of cooking Kalathappam. Instead of putting a layer of cinder over the lid, they simply flip over the Appam so that both sides cook well. A Kalathappam looks enormous when we take it out from the pan. Cut it into small pieces and serve! We have the traditional Kalathappam.
2. Chellan Pollichathu
Not many people know about the dish called Chellan Pollichathu. This is another one among the unique food items of Kasaragod, but comparatively less popular. Chellan Pollichathu is very distinct in its ingredients, way of cooking, and taste. In appearance, it looks like a white Dosa folded into a roll. But you will be surprised when you know about its ingredients. Want to know what it is? Just one ingredient, the egg white! Method of preparation of Chellan Pollichathu is also quite interesting.
Whisk the egg whites thoroughly till they turn soapy or foamy. Take this foam from top of the whisked egg white and spread it over a heated flat pan, just the way we spread Dosa batter. In a while, it will thicken. Just roll it from the sides, and take it from the pan. The dish becomes complete only when we have a mixture of coconut milk and sugar as an accompaniment. Keep a Chellan Pollichathu on your plate, and pour the sweetened coconut milk over it. Let the Chellan soak the coconut milk completely. Now you can take a piece and taste it. It tastes heavenly. Those who taste it for the first time often wonder what its ingredients are. They feel surprised on hearing ‘egg white’. The dish tastes nowhere close to eggs.
Another Kasargod recipe to fill your tummy, Kadumbu, is a kind of rice dumplings. It is one of the unique food items of Kasaragod that has different versions. Some people make the dumplings with whole rice, while some make it with rice powder. Traditionally, Kadumbu is made with boiled rice. Soak the rice overnight, and grind it along with grated coconut to form a coarse mixture. You can add cumin seeds or fennel seeds, but it is optional. Shape this rice dough into small balls, and steam it. Kadumbu is as easy as this.
There are other versions of Kadumbu. Using rice flour in place of ground rice is an option. If you are using rice flour, the dough will be fine, and not coarse. Texture of Kadumbu made with rice flour will be different as well. Koi Kadumbu (Kadumbu with chicken gravy) is one of the popular combinations of Kasaragod. Kadumbu or rice dumplings are popular in other parts of Kerala as well, but in different names. Popular Kerala snacks such as Pidi and Kozhukkatta are also variations of rice dumplings.
Ottupola is a regular breakfast dish of most houses in Kasaragod. This is one of the unique food items of Kasaragod that does not require many ingredients. It is easy to make as well. It requires only three ingredients, soaked raw rice, cooked rice and grated coconut. Well, it goes without saying that we need salt too. Soak raw rice for a few hours and grind it well in a mixer. Along with raw rice, we have to grind some cooked rice and grated coconut also. Dilute this batter to the required consistency, and make the Ottupola over the pan.
Ottupola gets its name from the special pan used for its making. An Ottuchatti or clay pan is what we need to make the Ottupola. Grease the clay pan with oil, and pour a large spoonful of the batter over it. Spread it over the pan, close it with a lid, and allow the Ottupola to cook. There is no need to flip sides. We can take it from the pan when the sides turn crispy. Clay pan can sometimes become messy to handle. So some people use non-stick cookware in its place.
This is yet another Kasaragod special snack. Ingredients of Pulivalam are almost the same as that of Ottupola. It needs soaked raw rice, cooked rice and grated coconut for grinding. But Pulivalam needs an extra ingredient which is egg. Add egg whites and yolks along with the other ingredients while grinding. But unlike Ottupola, this is a fried snack. It requires some skill to get in the perfect shape. Pulivalam is a special dish that the people of Kasaragod make for special occasions.
For making Pulivalam, we need a thick batter. So while grinding the ingredients, add water in very less measure. Once the batter is ready, heat oil and pour handfuls of it into the hot oil, moving your hand from end to end, so as to get it in long shapes. What is important here is the shape. Pulivalam looks like Puli (tamarind pod) after frying. This is how it got the name. You may require some practise before you can make the perfect elongated Pulivalams. If you ask whether we can pour the batter as round balls, well, you can. But it won’t become Pulivalam unless it is shaped like a tamarind. This is one of the unique food items of Kasaragod that asks for time and skill to become perfect.
Now let us move on to some Kasaragod special street food items. Charumuru is one of the most popular snacks of Kasaragod. You will find many shops that exclusively sell this. It is an easy and light snack. In fact, this is quite in demand in parts of Karnataka also. Charumuru is made with puffed rice. It does not require any stove or heating, and can be done in a jiffy. Take a bowl full of puffed rice, add a few ingredients to it, and mix them well. Ingredients that we add to Charumuru are finely chopped onions, tomatoes, carrots, coriander leaves, coconut oil, chili powder and pepper powder. Mix them with the puffed rice and Charumuru is ready!
We find many new and improvised versions of Charumuru in the streets of Kasaragod. The basic ingredient in all the versions is puffed rice. Although we consider Charumuru as one of the unique food items of Kasaragod, it is not exactly so. We find the same street snack in many parts of India in different names. As we move from place to place, the same recipe gets regional twists. So if you are in Kasaragod, this is one of the must-try street food items.
7. Kadala Kachiyath (Kadalachiye)
Kadala Kachiyath is yet another interesting Kasaragod snack. In local slang, the people of Kasaragod call it Kadalachiye. It is a fried snack made with chana daal (split Bengal gram). All the snacks that we mention here are very special to Kasaragod. The fried items like Kadalachiye and Pulivalam are not for daily breakfasts, but for special festivals. For making a Kadala Kachiyath, we need to soak and grind raw rice. Add coconut milk, eggs, sugar and salt to the rice while grinding. Grind this well to form a fine paste. Some people add grated coconut in place of coconut milk.
The next step is to add a few handfuls of chana daal to the rice batter. Soak the daal in the batter, and fry it in oil. While frying, we should just sprinkle the daal in the oil, and let it spread all over the surface of the pan. Expert home chefs suggest that the batter should be loose so that we can sprinkle it evenly in the oil. The idea is to get the fried daal with a light coating of batter over it. Individual grams will stick together due to the batter, but the final product will be in bits and pieces. This is how Kadalachiye should come out. Isn’t this one among the unique food items of Kasaragod that the outside world does not know much about?
Among the Kasaragod special snacks, there are a few items which are popular in the neighbouring areas such as Kannur and Thalassery. Muttusurkka is one such. Though it is one of the unique food items of Kasaragod, we do find Muttasurkka in the other Malabar regions. It is an important snack for any festive occasion. As in many other snacks we saw till now, rice is the major ingredient in Mutasurkka also. There is one more essential ingredient which we can guess from the name. It is an egg.
Mutta in Muttasurkka is the Malayalam word for egg. For making Muttasurkka, we need soaked raw rice. Grind this rice along with cooked rice, eggs, and salt. The batter should be neither too thick nor too loose. So far, the process is similar to many other snacks that we saw previously. The difference is only in the shape in which it is fried. For making other fried snacks such as Kadalachiye and Pulivalam, we use our hands to put the batter into oil. For Muttasurkka, we use a ladle. Take a scoop of the batter using the ladle, and pour it into the heated oil. The advantage of using a ladle is that you will get a perfectly round shape.
Neypathal or Neypathiri is one of the most common snacks in Kasaragod, and generally in all Malabar regions. People of these regions make this delicacy for breakfast or dinner. This is a fried snack, and resembles a Puri. But there is a difference. Puri uses wheat flour whereas Neypathal needs rice dough. For making Neypathal, we need to soak raw rice for a few hours. Grind the soaked rice along with other ingredients such as grated coconut, shallots or onions, and salt. The batter should be thick. Add semolina or rice flour to this batter, knead it well, and make it into a dough form. The process requires precision. Dough should neither be too soft nor too hard.
When the rice dough is ready, we can make small lemon-sized balls of it. Flatten the balls into round shape using a Puri presser. Experienced home chefs simply use their hands to flatten out the dough. Heat oil, and fry the Neypathals one by one till they turn crispy. Although the name of the snack is Neypathal, there is no need of ‘Ney’ or ghee for making this. Neypathal has many versions. Some people add eggs while grinding rice, while some add Maida. But the basic ingredient in all versions is rice.
Among all the Kasaragod special snacks that we mentioned till now, Unnakkaya may be the one which is most time consuming. Unnakkaya is a sweet snack, and is delicious. It is made with ripe plantains. When we say ripe, it means that plantains should have turned yellow, but should not be too ripe. Steam the plantains using a steamer, and peel off the skin. Now mash the peeled plantains to make fine paste. Removing the inside thread will make the Unnakkayas look prettier. We have a part of the ingredient ready.
Next step is to make the filling. There are many versions of fillings. The most common one is with coconuts. Sauté cashews, raisins, and grated coconut in a dollop of ghee. Add sugar for extra sweetness. You can also add any dry fruit of your choice. Once this is well-sautéed, your filling is ready. Make small balls of the mashed plantain, flatten it in your hands, and keep the filling inside. Close it without any cracks, and fry in oil. Unnakkaya is ready.
These are just a few of the unique food items of Kasaragod. To know more about Kasaragod and its tourist attractions, please read our Kasaragod Destination Guide.