From 'Asiad' to Pidi – Idukki's flavoursome local dishes

kappa with chatni
Photo: Manorama/Rijo Joseph

 The cuisine of Idukki is a burst of flavours. The spicy and sour flavours of the unique dishes from Idukki perfectly represents the struggles and the great will power of the farmers of the hilly Kerala district.

Beef is the most popular meat that takes a major position on the dining tables in Idukki. ‘Ellum kappayum’ which is popularly known as ‘Asiad’ or kappa biryani (beef and tapioca), ellu curry and idiyirachi are some of their unique items. Besides, delicious curries and dishes cooked with country chicken, home-grown pork and rabbit are in the list of Idukki’s favourite dishes. Freshwater fish cooked with tamarind is the star among the fish dishes. These spicy and mouth-watering curries pair well with chendamuriyan kappa (boiled tapioca).

Koottu puzhukku is a special dish that is enjoyed by the people of Idukki during the harvest season. To make this wholesome and nutritious dish, tapioca, Colocasia, Bengal gram and long beans are cooked in a rich and aromatic mixture of grated coconut, bird eye chillies and fennel seeds.

The iconic combo

The ordinary farmer of Idukki cannot begin their day without having the heavy and refreshing breakfast of pazhankanji (left over rice gruel) mixed with bird eye chillies, curd and shallots. The older generations call this iconic combination the secret of their incredible energy and strength. They say that they hardly felt fatigue or exhaustion, even after working hard in the fields for hours, on the days they have pazhankanji. In the evening, a few pieces of chendan kappa are enjoyed with spicy bird eye chilli chutney and hot black tea. The bird eye chillies are freshly plucked from the garden and are ground on the traditional stone grinder with some rock salt and shallots. A dash of coconut oil is sprinkled if the chutney is too spicy.


The jackfruit season

The jackfruit season is when every backyard in Idukki gets filled with the aroma of both raw and ripe jackfruit. There won’t be a day that goes without having a jackfruit dish until the season gets over. During these days, jackfruit seed and raw mango seed curry takes the spot of the curd and bird eye chillies in the pazhankanji. As a pre-meal snack, raw jackfruit cooked in a mixture of coconut and cumin is served with bird eye chilli chutney. The jackfruit seed curry is served with rice too. During the monsoon, when the farmers aren’t busy in the fields, they would roast the jackfruit seeds and enjoy as a crunchy snack. Another popular snack was roasted jackfruit seeds powder mixed with jaggery and grated coconut. Interestingly, the roasted seeds were powdered in the traditional ‘ural’ or stone mixer.

Pidi and kozhi

Pidi (rice balls) and country chicken curry is a timeless dish that is enjoyed by both the kids and the old alike. Dry roasted raw rice powder is used to make pidi. Crushed coconut and cumin too are added in the dough that is mixed by adding hot water. The tiny rice balls are then cooked in boiling water. A dash of salt and rice flour too is mixed in the water to give it a creamy consistency.

The rice balls get cooked in this creamy mixture. When the broth begins to boil rapidly, a sprig of fresh curry leaves is added for aroma. A heap of pidi along with some broth is served on fresh plantain leaf. The flavoursome country chicken curry is then served on top of the pidi.

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