Kozhikode is like a huge biryani pot of umpteen flavours and delicacies. Food, for the people of Kozhikode, is an emotion and a great bonding factor which brings people together. They dream about tasting the unbelievably soft halwa in myriad flavours or walking through the waves in the beach enjoying fizzy sarbath and chilly ice orathi, or relaxing at Mananchira after having a fulfilling meal of delicious dum biryani.
Actress Surabhi Lakshmi who has charmed the Malayali audience with her natural acting skills calls herself the perfect ‘Kozhikottukari’, who loves everything about her district. The national award winning actress, who hails from Narikuni, shares her most precious food memories associated with Kozhikode, which is touted as the food haven of Kerala.
“My eldest sister Subitha is the most amazing cook in our family. She can whip up something delicious in just a few minutes. Cooking is in fact her biggest craze. It would take only minutes for her to prepare amazing food whenever all of us are at home. I love local dishes and cuisines. Be it meat or fish or just a simple chakkakuru – manga (jackfruit seed and mango) curry, I prefer having it cooked in the local flavour. I too am a cook and can manage a few dishes. Though I really enjoy cooking, I don’t often find time. I don’t eat too much, but I eat everything. If I get something that I haven’t had for so long, then I would gobble it up. My diet would take a back seat when my sisters are cooking something for me. My other sister Sumita is an expert in cooking dishes from different cuisines,” says the chirpy Surabhi Lakshmi.
Food, a celebration
For the people of Kozhikode cooking and serving delicious food is nothing short of a grand celebration. The hotels would be busy even late into the night as everyone including families would throng these eateries to bond over delicious food. From the small wayside eateries to the flashy restaurants, every hotel assures minimum guarantee when it comes to the taste of the food served there. Surabhi loves to try the special dishes at the Paragon, Rahmath, Nanma, Ambika and Amma. Besides, she is also a great fan of the porotta and beef curry and chicken at the Brother's Hotel near her house.
“I revere food like God. After all it is for food that we work hard. Our true colours would be revealed when we go hungry or thirsty without food or water. I cannot stand disparities shown while serving food. Both the rich and the poor should get food equally. I am someone who genuinely wishes none should go hungry for lack of food. While travelling at night, I would stop at the wayside eateries to have a black coffee and hot omelet. If I am with friends, I would make them eat as well. I love the tea and oil-fried snacks served at the small tea shops,” says Surabhi.
Kanji and payar at school
“I have lots of vivid memories of good food from my childhood. I especially love the food served during the holy month of Ramadan. I still have the incredible taste of the non-vegetarian dishes that my neighbours cook during Ramadan, in my mouth. Aminathatha’s thari kanji, the special mango dish prepared by Ammana Amma, the green gram thoran and kanji (rice gruel) that I had from school were all my favourites. I really like to have the navadanya kanji (herbal porridge) during the month of Karkidakam,” notes the actress.
Surabhi reveals that she never gets bored of having a nice omelet, which is amazingly easy to cook as well. Another unique dish that is close to Surabhi’s heart is pana. Pana is a special dish cooked using the dried and powdered core of the date palm. Surabhi explains that the old Malayalam saying ‘payye thinnal panayum thinnam’ (those who wait with patience would be rewarded) comes from this dish as it requires great patience to prepare the pana. Though the actress loves to try out different dishes and flavours, Surabhi confesses that she prefers the amazing flavour of the Indian cuisine.
Chinese in America
Surabhi discovered the real taste of Chinese cuisine while on a trip to the United States of America. She ordered Chinese dishes thinking that it would taste exactly like we have in India. However, she was shocked to realize that the chicken, fish and prawns dishes tasted rather bland and not spicy at all. Even the fried rice that she ordered wasn’t flavourful enough to impress her. Ironically, it was the US trip that gave her the biggest revelation that the Chinese food that is served in India is not exactly Chinese but ‘Indian Chinese’, with a good hit of spices.
“I don’t really have any special memories of the location food. The food at every location almost tastes similar. When we eat something at a location, we could immediate recall its taste from another location. I haven’t had anything so extraordinary or unforgettable from any shooting location. Maybe I feel so because I have the location food quite often. It may seem special if I stay away from the shooting locations for some time. As I am regularly having the location food, I haven’t felt anything special about it,” admits Surabhi.