Kerala Food in Singapore
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
The Mango Tree Indian Coastal Restaurant serves both South and North authentic Indian food in sunny Singapore. In this article, we narrowed our focus to the exotic and breathtaking Kerala cuisine. While many may know Kerala (or South Indian) food to be mainly for the spicy lovers, get ready to learn more about the Kerala style of cooking and surprise yourself with some interesting fun facts. Appam, Dosa, Avial, Ishtu and Kerala style curries; we are coming for you!
Kerala Food in Singapore
Kerala’s history and culture has deeply influenced what we know as Kerala cuisine today. It is no surprise that its abundance of exotic spices has impacted its fare of flavours. As early as 3000 BC (5000 years ago), Kerala has been established as a significant spice trade hub - attracting traders from all over the world to its port towns. Thousands of travelers journey to the Muziris port in Kerala to obtain high quality spices with impeccable aromatic properties and medicinal value. Hence, its flair for spices would inevitably be the cause for Kerala’s distinct and mouth-watering flavours.
Where is Kerala?
Surrounded by the sea, rivers and streaks of beaches, Kerala is an Indian state situated at the south-west edge of the subcontinent. Kerala’s unique geography consists of coastlines that stretch over 580 km along the Arabian Sea. This allows the people of Kerala to have easy access to fresh produce in these large water bodies. Hence, the availability of seafood has influenced a large proportion of the population to consume seafood frequently.
The top three ingredients commonly used in Kerala style cooking is rice, fish and coconut.
A trip to the state of Kerala is sure to surprise your palate with a multitude of delicious dishes. With ample varieties for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, you would be spoilt for choice. Vegetables, poultry, seafood, red meat? You name it.
The top three ingredients commonly used in Kerala food is rice, fish and coconut. For vegetable dishes, plantains (also known as cooking banana), coconuts and gourds are a favourite. Authentic Kerala style cooking intensifies the flavours with alluring spices such as cocum, chillies, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon.
Popular Kerala Dishes
Think of Appam as bowl-shaped pancakes. This delicacy is made from fermented rice flour and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It has a distinct texture and look - white, fluffy and soft in the middle, with crispy golden-brown laces around its edges. Appam and Ishtu is a perfect combination! Although commonly eaten with curry, Appams taste amazing on its own too. Just like Idiyappam, Appams also go well with sweet alternatives. One important point to note - Appams should be consumed fresh because they can lose their subtle yet distinctive taste once cooled down. So dine in to have your Appams warm - savour its aroma and dip its fluffy goodness into a bowl of spiced Ishtu!
#2. Ishtu (Stew)
Kerala stews, also known as Ishtu in Malayalam, is made from coconut milk, cloves, shallots and can be cooked with vegetables or meat. Vegetable Ishtu and Erachi Ishtu (mutton stew) are available at The Mango Tree Indian Coastal Restaurant. Many will find this dish particularly interesting because unlike most of the spicy dishes in Kerala cuisine, Ishtu is mild in spice level and has a sweet flavour from the coconut milk. Ishtu and Appam is a classic combination that must simply be tried!
#3. Kerala Mutton
Kerala Mutton is a spicy mutton curry made famously with coconut milk, spices, chillies and curry leaves. This spiced gravy goes well with both rice and bread. Simmered in coconut milk, the mutton cubes absorb the bold flavours immensely, resulting in a hot specialty!
#4. Kerala Fish Curry
For those craving a spicy and tangy dish, Kerala fish curry is a must-try! Fish curry is famous in Kerala. Whether in their hometown, or hotels and restaurants all over the world, Malayalees love their spicy fish curry. The essential ingredient to this popular dish is Kodampuli, also known as Malabar Tamarind. Without this dried fruit, Kerala fish curry would not have its authentic sour flavour. Although this traditional dish is usually made without coconut milk, there are versions of this curry with coconut milk added as well. With mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger, garlic and other spices added to the curry base, this curry is famously eaten with rice to soak up the flavour.
#5. Kerala Paratha (Parotta)
Kerala Paratha is a flaky, crispy layered flatbread that is both sweet and savoury. Made from maida flour, the Parotta’s delicate crisps melt in your mouth as you peel layer by layer. A quick dive behind the scenes will explain the beauty of its flaky nature. First, the dough is flattened and cut into strips. Then the dough is repeatedly slapped and stretched before it is folded into layers. The layered strips are then rolled together and flattened again to create a spiral pancake with multiple layers. When cooked on a flaming hot Tawa, the crumbly flakes gradually appear even more distinctly as they become golden brown. Yummy!
Avial is a thick vegetable curry with a compelling flavour. What makes Avial unique is the presence of curd and grated coconut, which gives the dish a very refreshing and sourish twist. At The Mango Tree, we add raw bananas (plantains), carrots, snake gourd, drumsticks and long beans to add texture to our Avial. Although most would agree that Avial is best eaten with rice, its composition and texture is so versatile that it can be eaten with all sorts of bread too.
#7. Meen Polichatu (Fish)
Meen Polichatu is a traditional delicacy in Kerala. The fish is prepared with a generous amount of spicy masala marinade and a drizzle of freshly squeezed lime juice. The juicy piece of fish is then wrapped in a banana leaf to seal up the flavours while it sizzles on the tava. As you unwrap the charred leaves, the spiced aroma is certain to fill the air. This rich-flavoured, exotic dish will leave you craving for more!
#8. Erachi Ularthiyathu
Non-vegetarian and mad for spicy food? You will absolutely love Erachi Ularthiyathu - a classic Kerala style dry meat dish bursting with spices and flavour. In Malayalam, ‘erachi’ means meat and ‘ularthiyathu’ translates to roasted or dried with Indian masala. For the meat lover, this is an authentic dish that simply cannot be missed! The roasted mutton cubes soak up all the beautiful spices (garam masala, diced coconut, curry leaves etc), tantalising your taste buds with every bite!
Commonly referred to as ‘Noolappam’ or ‘String Hoppers’ in Kerala cuisine, Idiyappam is a textured staple made from rice, flour, salt and water. The thin strands of rice noodles are intertwined and steamed to form this textured dish. Similar to Appams, you can have them sweet for breakfast with sugar and coconut or with any savoury spiced-curry. The best of both worlds!
#10. Tava Dosa
Dosa (also spelt as Thosai) is an extremely thin and lightly fried pancake. Made out of fermented rice and lentils, it has a savoury flavour and goes well with savoury curries. The most popular combination is to have Dosa with Sambar and various chutneys. Simply a match made in heaven.
Kerala food at The Mango Tree
As Kerala cuisine takes up a significant part of our menu at The Mango Tree Indian Coastal Restaurant, a large proportion of our patrons hail from Kerala. Whether you are a regular or new to Kerala food, our authentic selection of Kerala dishes will leave you craving for more. Dine with us to experience traditional Kerala food and appreciate its unique blend of exotic spices.