People in Kerala generally prefer 'heavy food' while dining out. Most of them wonder what was the use of eating 'vegetables and onions' and avoid salads altogether.
Cooked food is the overwhelming choice of the people in the state, but they are blamed for allowing all the nutrients in the food waste.
Though Kerala cuisine has found a niche of its own among food aficionados around the world, Malayalis are considered one of the least salad-consuming populations on earth. Keralites living abroad now try various salads, but none prepare the dish at home.
Meanwhile, Kerala's neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been relishing traditional salads for long. While in Tamil Nadu, salads called 'Thenga, Manga, Sundal' etc. are available at every beach, Karnataka has its own 'Carrot kosambari.' But Kerala has not even one native salad!
There are numerous fruits and vegetables belonging to Kerala which are ideal to make salads, but the state's chefs have never been able to concoct a single local salad recipe. Hog plum, mango, tamarind, ginger, gooseberry, 'elimbi' fruit and Indian coffee plum growing in Kerala could be turned into superb salads. In addition is the commonly available papaya.
In fact, Keralites have traditionally preferred pickles to salads.
However, some change is now visible on the dining tables of youngsters in the state who ensure that salads are also part of their meal.
Salads can be prepared easily at home, especially those using various leaves and vegetables. Protein-rich salads made from sprouted pulses and new varieties like 'Quinoa' are also available in the market.
People of Kerala urgently need to start making tasty salads in their kitchens considering the nutritional benefits. In the fast-paced lifestyles of today, salads can play a crucial role in maintaining health. Children have to be compulsorily given salads from a young age.
There are numerous types of salads, but the main attraction is the lettuce leaf. Sixteen types of lettuce leaves are available in the market.
While preparing salad, meat and pulses can also be included along with various vegetables. Kerala-style salads can include tender coconut, lemon juice, cucumber, onion, green tomato, pumpkin, raw papaya etc.
In western cuisines, serving roasted root vegetables along with meat is popular. Salads are made by roasting vegetables like carrot and beet root without peeling, salted and added to various leafy vegetables. Similarly, Keralites can also roast local vegetables such as elephant yam, colocasia, and tapioca and make salads along with other ingredients.
The biggest attraction of a salad is its dressing, which is usually prepared using salt, pepper, and honey. But a 'Malayali dressing' can include curry leaves, crushed lemon, and coconut oil. Keralites already have all the necessary ingredients to experiment with new dressings.
Sprouted green gram is the best source of protein for vegetarians. Apart from green gram, other grams and pulses like green peas can also be spouted. For this, keep the pulse wet in a cloth for some time. When it sprouts, add to the salad. The dish will be tasty as well as highly nutritive.
Many Keralites still believe salads comprise onion, tomato, cucumber and lemon served along with fish fry in restaurants. It is high time such myths are busted. We can make a wide variety of tasty salads with the readily available vegetables and develop a new 'salad culture' in the state.
(The author is Executive Chef, Hotel Raviz)