Would you travel halfway across the world just to satiate your taste buds? Twelve connoisseurs of food from UK, US, Switzerland, France, etc have done just that. They have embarked on a 10-day tour of Kerala - organised by UK-based cultural tour company Martin Randall Travel - to learn about its diverse culinary ecosystems and experience Keralean food, while also enjoying varied scenery from the lush backwaters in Alappuzha to cloud-kissed hills in Munnar.
“It’s a well known fact that India as a nation has strong culinary traditions, but Kerala is a gastronomic treasure trove. A lot of the spices that are currently being used here are not indigenous to the region, they were brought down by the Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, Romans, Persians and Jewish merchants who came looking for Pepper aka Black Gold. Therefore, the connections between it is regional food and history is immense. It is the perfect spot for a food-centric tour,” shares tour manager Hubert Giraud.
The group who began their appetising and educational journey in Fort Cochin (by sampling Jewish fare prepared by Brunton Boatyard’s executive chef Ajeeth Janardhanan) will travel to Munnar, Thekkady, Alappuzha and Kumarakom. “These folks aren’t here to eat their way through Kerala,” explains food historian and author Dr Lizzie Collingham, continuing, “Yes, there are tasting sessions, private lunches/dinners prepared with local produce and cooking demonstrations but there’s much more. In Munnar, I will speak to them about the British/Scottish connections to the tea plantations in the region. Next, they will experience the healing touch of Ayurveda, living on a houseboat and indulge in a vegetarian sadya at Alappuzha and Kumarakom. While spice plantations will be the major highlight of the journey to Thekkady.” Though they will not be venturing into Northern Kerala, the group won’t miss out on Moplah cuisine as the tour company brought down expert chef Faiza Moosa for a private lunch session on the lawns of Fort Kochi’s David Hall Cafe. “Besides teaching these 12 foodies to prepare Moplah-style neymeen biriyani, I will be serving them a three-course meal which includes beef-stuffed Petti Pathiri alongside tamarind and jaggery sauce, fish biriyani and sweet, cardamom-infused mutta mala,” concludes Faiza.
Faiza Moosa’s expertise in Moplah cuisine stems from catering to a long line global travelers, who’ve been constantly flocking to her 153-year-old colonial style homestay ‘Ayisha Manzil’ in Thalassery since 1997. Considered one of the foremost authorities in this unique North Keralean cuisine - which minimises the usage of coconut oil and creates delectable fare primarily by incorporating specific mixtures of spices like cloves, cardamom, cumin, aniseed, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and caraway seeds - this 58-year-old English literature graduate has also penned a popular cookbook titled ‘Classic Malabar Recipes’. Faiza is heading to Sharjah this weekend, to promote her book at the Sharjah International Book Fair.