Kozhikode's heritage of culinary delights is largely the fallout of foreign influences, of those hordes of seamen who landed on its coast over the past several centuries. The Europeans, the Chinese and the Arabs thus bequeathed a food culture to the place which blended with and enriched native flavours.
Apart from this foreign contribution, the land became home to diverse people who came in from the northern parts of India and other southern states. Hence, Kozhikode became one of the rare places in India where a multicultural food platter came to be served. It's this plurality of cultures and their food heritage that's made Kozhikode so splendorous a place for the best bites one could ever get. It's a veritable foodie paradise.
Of all the cuisine, there’s perhaps nothing to match the diversity and identity of traditional Mappila cooking, a lot of which came from the ancestral kitchens of the “Thekkepuram” tharavad that stood overlooking the waters of the Kallayi river and the Arabian Sea. The aroma of these dishes wafted across the seas and is a culinary power to reckon with today, with such Mappila delicacies like Kozhikodan halwa, pathiri and biryani conquering global palates.
This romance with food that emanated from Thekkepuram has seeped into every sphere of Kozhikode’s life, be it while celebrating the grand entry of the “puyappila” (new bridegroom) or the feasting before Ramadan morning fast.
Thekkepuram still retains its exclusive rights to provide a variety of “appams” for the Idiangara Sheikh mosque’s “appa vanibha nercha”, a four century-old celebration during which people in their hundreds, irrespective of caste and creed, join in; and also for the pre-fast Ramzan feasting. These specials take us to the unknown flavours and mixes of Thekkepuram, the secrets of which are the special prerogative of the ancient family.
There’s a delectable list from Thekkepuram to choose like chattipathiri, neriya pathiri, kannuvecha pathiri, meen pathiri, irachi pathiri, chippiappam with clam, unnakkaya with ripe bananas, kadukka nirachatum paal vazhakka, poricha pathiri, bun nirachathu, pazham nirachathu with scraped coconut, bananas, and kismis, and a chicken-wheat combo called aleesa. The list is endless.
Kozhikode has egg specialities aplenty like “muttamala” wherein the egg yolk is fried and then made to form thin strips like in idiappam. The muttasurka is something that looks like the thick icing on cakes. The muttamarichathu is a thickly beaten mix of eggs, sugar and ghee.
There’s yet another deadly combination of goat, goat-head and leg with chicken and eggs. This is how it’s done. The chicken innards are removed and the insides cleaned. The hollow is then stuffed with masalas and boiled eggs and the opening stitched up. The outside of the chicken is then smeared with masala and stitched into the inside of a goat shorn of its intestines and head. More masalas are added inside and the complete part is sewn up. This is then deep fried and served when a whole lot of people sit down together to partake of a meal. This again is an exclusively special-occasion dish.
Thari kanji, samosa, cutlet, kilikoodu, kaypola, momo, macroni and cake are all Ramzan season savouries.
The Mappila touch is evident in their special fish curries. A lot of chillies, coconut milk, ground coconut and tamarind are used. Of special mention are the prawn dishes.
Kozhi mulakittathu, beef varatiyathu, kozhi nirachathu, kozhi stew, kozhi korma, goat head curry, mutton stew, liver fry, brain fry, diverse biryanis, kafsa and manthis are part of a kaleidoscope of Kozhikodan dishes.
The after-meal “kawa” served during Muslim celebrations is one delicious brew high on its sweet-strong combination. Aval (rice flakes), water and the very famous Kozhikodan suleimani are also served on these occasions.
Other special dishes
There are other typically traditional Malabari veg and non-veg dishes. Of these, the sadya served with dishes aplenty holds pride of place. The true Adivasi Theeya and Paniya food deserves special mention. These again are exclusive to Kozhikode.
Some of the very delicious and very special Theeya dishes include puttu, puzhukku, shark curry, eenthupidi, thirandi mulakittathu, sharkara payasam, ari unda, elavan thenga arachathu, chammanthi, matta rice dosa, koorikappam, neyyappam and kozhi chuttathu.
Some of the Paniya dishes are mulayari payasam, thina payasam, chama payasam, dry ginger coffee, kappa-kanthari-chammanthi, kavath puzhukku chammanthi and kumbil appam, chappu curry, thali curry, crab curry-kappa, crab chammanthi, kalakal appam, kanthari chammanthi, idichakka thoran, kappa, ragi puttu, naadan kozhi curry, fresh water fish curry and dishes with kappa, colocasia and purple colocasia.
Dishes from alien shores
The Gujaratis, Bhatkalis, Anglo-Indians, Iyers, Bohras, Gowda Saraswat Brahmins, Syrian Christians, Goan Konkanis, Pathans, Marwaris, Sindis and Iranians lend their particular flavors to Kozhikode, the land they accepted as home. A lot of them have lost their purity and have melded with local flavors and mixes. They are today’s fusion food. But they cannot be termed vintage Kozhikode.
Some of the very popular Gujarati-Kozhikodan dishes include paani puri, bhel puri, dhabeli, chappathy, dhokla masala, mohanthal gandhiya,ladva, masala muthiya, masala kichdi kadhi, khandvi, thepla, patraveliya, basanthy, ghodpadi, sev khamani and a few others.
As for the Anglo-Indian contribution, the popular dishes are coconut rice, ball curry, devil chutney, beef mince-patties cutlet, braised ox tongue, hearty oxtail onion soup, beef flank roast, fish croquettes, liver fry, chicken roast, pork vindaloo, marrow bone soup, arrack shop beef fry, greg shop beef fry, pancakes, meat-puli fry and grape vine. They are some of the tastiest additions to Kozhikode’s heady menu.
Among the Bhatkali recipes are bafakki poli, masala poli, khubwa poli,tharia poli, shayya biryani, chicken biryani, shinona nowra, madkaliya, saathpathar, masala idey, beef maas, chicken koyla, dry roti, kichdi, haldi para nowri, pawan-poli koosske-chicken curry, kaila halwa, wheat halwa, godhan, red chilly paste, one bite, showpa pana pudding, chana battana, appa gadiyo and kote.
Of the popular Gowda Saraswat Brahmin recipes Kozhikode has openly accepted are kotta, undi, surnali, patrovodo, adsara polo, kirla polo, mushti polo, dudni panna fodi, gode kananka fodi, kadgi fodi,biscot roti, gulla fodi, goli bajji, baboos, and paanak.
From the Bohras have come mutton curry chawal and dhansak from the Parsis.
Every street and corner of Kozhikode is a foodie’s nook. There are trays of sweets to choose from and fusion food for the hep crowd. The sweets street, the beach and those vendors with their carts selling peas masala, pickles, ice urathi and sherbet make Kozhikode a live canvas of food freaks. There’s a medley of food everywhere, rich in history and high on taste. This is the stuff of Kozhikodan food.