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Cochin Seafood

Visitors to cochin tend to think that food and drink in cochin means the famous fish, curry, rice. And for most cochin these are indeed the three basic necessities of life -- fish, curry and rice.

They combine to make a heavenly daily meal for an average Cochin native. But cochin cuisine, like the land itself, has many flavours and tastes with its vast treasure trove of culinary delicacies.The long period of Portuguese rule, besides that of the Dutch and Hindu kingdoms, has left an indelible influence on the original style of cochin cooking and this has led to an exotic mix of truly tasty and spicy cuisine. Most people who sample cochin cuisine, enjoy this different and unique style of food which has a distinct and unique combination of spicy flavours. A cochin values his food as much as he does his daily siesta (break). And in his daily meal, seafood always has a pride of place is some form or the other. From fried fish to exotic concoctions like ambot-tik, sea food is usually a must on the menu, except for the occasional break for some religious observance. People here take pleasure not only in what they eat, but also how they cook it. Although modern conveniences have almost completely taken over in urban areas, the traditional way of cooking in clay pots on firewood continues in most rural areas of cochin. This style of cooking adds an additional smoky flavour to the food, highly valued by cochins.

Despite the two schools of cuisine traditions influenced by the respective religions of Hinduism and Christianity; there are some meeting points that present an interesting harmony. This blend of various cooking styles and influences is what makes cochin food so unique among the cuisines of India. With a wide variety ranging from prawns to sausages, chicken to beef, and numerous vegetarian dishes, cochin cuisine is able to satisfy even the most finicky gourmet appetites. cochin has some magnificent culinary delicacies like the prawn balchão and sorpotel which have become famous around the world. While Hindu cochin food does not seem to have picked up any major Portuguese influence, the Christian food has been influenced not only by the Portuguese, but also by its overseas colonies. Traditional cochin cooking calls for plenty of muscle and time. Grinding is always part of the recipe and the nicer the dish the longer it takes to make. cochin food is simple but most, though not all, of it is chili hot, spicy, and pungent. Items made from rice, fish, and coconut abound in nearly every cochin meal. Seafood such as prawns, lobsters, crabs, pomfrets, clams, ladyfish, mussels, and oysters are used to make a variety of curries, fries, soups and pickles. Besides fresh seafood, dried and salted fish dishes are also highly prized by people here..

If you are travelling to cochin don't forget to pack a healthy appetite, If you are interested in Cochin Seafood recipes Just Visit Recipes.

A word of caution for those uninitiated to Kerala cuisine: Be prepared for that ubiquitous nut-- the coconut -- in practically everything. When added to fish and meat, it is either roasted and ground to form a thick masala or squeezed into a milk to form a thin curry. In vegetables it is added, grated and coconut oil is used to season the veg. In appams or rice pancakes it does a great tandem with toddy. And in desserts it crops up as roasted chunks or its milk is incorporated. It would be safe to say that in Kerala, perhaps the only item that does not contain coconut in some form or the other is rice!

Which brings us to the next topic. Forget boiled rice, the staple of India. In Kerala, the cereal has been transformed into such myriad versions that no meal is complete without its presence. What, rice at breakfast too? Yes. And not as flakes in a package! To take a sample, there's idiappam, a noodle like concoction... Puttu, a bamboo shaped product... Palappam, a lacy bread fermented with toddy... Vattayappam, toddy at work again but quite different in taste and looks from the palappam. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. So if you want to know where to gorge on Kerala's culinary specialties while in Cochin, read on.

One of the best places to visit not just for food but also for its atmosphere is Fry's Village restaurant on Chittoor road. Note: the word is atmosphere, not ambience. Because, though Fry's has the typical tiled roof and appearance of a traditional structure, it is not a contrived look as in 'ethnic'. Fry's is exactly what it appears to be, a traditional homestead that has been converted into a restaurant.

The three gazebos and a long hall are the backyard of an original home, while the air conditioned restaurant is the home itself. From four benches placed in the courtyard of Alin Hassaier's home in 1987, Fry's has expanded to its present seating capacity of 96. And in case you're wondering about the name, the initial idea had been to serve up fast food Kerala-style, fried bananas ad such like. But then popularity took over and Fry's changed its course. Though not its name.

At lunch time the biryanis are a frequently ordered item, while at dinner it's the snacky fare like parrotta (the popular bread from the Malabar region; different from the North Indian paratha) with chicken roast, kothu parotta and beef fry, puttu with kadala, ari pathiri with mutton or vegetable stew.

Though the menu contains some Chinese dishes too due to popular demand, fortunately, Fry's has remained true to its original concept and retained authentic dishes for its more discerningpatrons. Aripathiri (very fine chapati-like bread made of rice flour) they serve, for instance, is rarely served commercially. The best news of course is the prices, which are in the lower range: a meal for two costs approximately Rs 100 to Rs 150!

In the same cost category comes Ceylon Bake House, popularly known as CBH. Located on MG road, it is actually a branch of the smaller one situated at Broadway which was established in the early 70s. With its USP of catering to local tastes, this tiny eating house proved to be so popular that another CBH, larger and more modern, popped up on the main road of the city in 1979.

Somewhat similar to Fry's, CBH's menu has a wider range. Again Chinese keeps rearing its head on the menu. But just one taste of CBH's soft, crusty Malabar parottas and all else can be forgiven! The motta (egg) curry marries equally well with the parottas as it does with the appams. However, from customer reports, it is CBH's fish curry with rice that wins hands down. Second on the list comes biryani, especially the mutton variety that is often sold out within a short time. And despite the numerous takeaways that are catered to each day, you will have to wait for a while to obtain a table during peak hours.

Much of this can be attributed to the management's customer relations. Immense popularity notwithstanding, prices have been remained within the scope of ordinary clientele and complaints on food, if any, are addressed constructively. By the way, do not be fooled by its laid-back attitude and a stuck-in-the-70s decor. CBH has a sharp eye for that competitive edge. In its early years the place opened at 7 am and shut by 10 pm. Noting that there were no eateries in the vicinity keeping late hours, the restaurant began to close its doors later and later. Today you can walk in at 1.30 am for a meal. Well, the man who thought of the idea certainly knew what he was doing when he came to Cochin 25-odd years ago from Colombo (now you know why there's a Ceylon preceding the Bake House! Not so sure about the origin of the 'Bake' bit).

Yet another name that crops up in conversations between food aficionados is that of Bharat Tourist Home or to put it more aptly, the totally vegetarian BTH. This place did not exactly begin life as an ethnic eatery. But like so many other entrepreneurs form his hometown of Udipi, B G Rao embarked on a little venture in 1934 and over the years built it into an empire. Today the original boarding and lodging house on D H road (off MG road), has expanded to encompass a hotel with two restaurants, three branches in various parts of the city and a centralised kitchen.

As at all Udipi born eateries, BTH has plenty in the idli, dosa, vada category. But it is the Kerala breakfast buffet that would be of interest to the gourmet. Priced at Rs 50, it contains an assortment of rice cakes/ appams and their accompaniments and is great value for money.

At lunch, the demand is for meals, ordinary and special. Served on banana leaves -- in the traditional manner, it is an experience by itself. You can eat as much as you want for Rs 30. Well, Rs 40 if you are a hog and order the special leaf meal. But if you want to go the whole hog and sample two types of payasam and even more variety, visit BTH in August-September, when they serve up their Onam sadya or feast. Another good place to go to for a traditional Onam meal is Dwarka on MG road where, for three days before and after the festival day, you can get your fill for around Rs 100.

At the upper end of the scale are two eateries, both belonging to the star hotel category. One is Pandhal, the Casino group's 'family restaurant' on MG road. Around 14 years old, Pandhal's interior is on the lines of chain restaurants, trendy but impersonal.

However, it is well known for its quality fare. Though much on the menu is continental stuff, there are some interesting traditional favourites like the fish moilee or fish curry and chemmeen olathiath or spicy sautéed prawns. With 60 per cent of the clientele being families, Pandhal has a steady bank of loyal patrons who keep coming back for their favourites such as crab chilly fry, karimeen polichathu or fried or broiled pearlspot fish and konju or scampi roast. Each dish is around Rs 100, so be prepared with your wallet if you are dining en famille.

Even higher on the price range is Taj Malabar's specialty restaurant -- Rice Boats -- located within the hotel, which is at the far end of Willingdon island. Your wallet's going to be sadly depleted here, for most dishes hover just below the Rs 200 mark. Not to mention delicacies like tiger prawns which are much, much more. Launched as a multicuisine restaurant a dozen odd years back, Rice Boats has since changed its avatar.

At the beginning of the 1990s it became a seafood restaurant, a clever move in a city known internationally for its sea treasures. Seating in the restaurant is in two valloms or fishing canoes and the 'Ethnic Delicacies' section on the menu is right on target. With its peera patthichathu (small fish cooked in a tangy coconut masala till it is almost dry), Alleppey fish curry (mullet and sour green mangoes in a coconut gravy), fried sardines, Rice Boats could be a winner all the way if only alien names like lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail, crab au gratin and crepe suzette did not intrude into the authenticity.

However, if what you are looking for is authenticity on a shoestring budget step into any one of the many poky eateries that dot the city. They have no air conditioning, no ambience, no liveried waiter speaking English. Ergo, no overheads that will be passed on to you. The best way to eat a cheap... a delicious lunch of fish curry and rice or beef fry and parrotas or a vegetarian thali will set you back by as little as Rs 15 to 20. If you are even more adventurous, try a toddy shop. Locals swear that the best pork, beef and fish are to be had in these shanty-like structures with a sign on the outside proclaiming 'Kallu'.

There's much to be said about these kallu shaaps which appear to have existed in Kerala since time immemorial. But then, that's another story!

Sea Food - Where to get it in cochin

Avenue Regent, MG road. tel # 0484-2372660, 2372661: A pathira thattu, or to translate roughly, a midnight roadside stall. Food available from 2000 hours 0100 hours. Rs 150, all inclusive. Liquor available.

Ceylon Bake House, in a narrow lane off M G road, next to Kera Bhavan, tel # 0484-367081: A bewilderingly mixed menu, but the Keralite specialities are good. Reasonable prices. No liquor.

Copper Chimney, in the Ravipuram area on M G road, tel # 0484-2368232: No relation to its famous namesake in Bombay or elsewhere. Authentic ethnic food. Pungent and tasty, except for the excess oil. Very down to earth prices. No liquor.

Dwarka, MG road, opposite the Kottakal Ayurveda Pharma, tel # 0484-2352916: One of the oldest places in Ernakulam for wholesome vegetarian Indian food. Hearty north Indian fare ensures a faithful clientele. Mid range pricing. Liquor not served. You cannot miss this towering structure on MG road.

Fry's Village Restaurant, at the far end of Chittoor road, next to Mymoon theatre, tel # 0484-353983: Located in an old fashioned tharavad or family home. An interesting menu that offers ethnic specialities. Prices: middle of the road. No liquor.

The Fort House, Calvathi road, Fort Cochin, tel # 0484-2226103, 2225785: Only two years old, family run, and well-known for its food. Mainly 'Latin Christian' fare. Cooked to order so ring up if planning a visit. Prices: mid range. No liquor.

Indian Coffee House, Ernakulam: There are two branches of this traditional Kerala fast food eatery located in Ernakulum. One is on Cannon Shed Road near the Main Jetty. The other is at Jos Junction on Durbar Hall Road. Typical south Indian snacks. No liquor served.

Rahamthulla Hotel, New road, in the Muslim quarter of Mattancherry at the junction, tel # 0484-2226080: A small dingy place in a bylane but justly famous for its biriyani. Prices: extremely reasonable. No liquor.

Rice Boats, Taj Malabar Hotel, at the far end of Willingdon Island, near the Port Trust headquarters, tel # 0484-2666811, 2668010: The fish curries are not a patch on what you might have eaten in a Kerala home. But it is still good seafood. Request for spicy, Kerala fare. Authentic ethnic fish dishes as well as some great continental seafood available. The ambience of Malabar is lovely. The restaurants consists of long rice boats/canoes or valloms and one dines inside the boats. Expensive.Liquor served.

Seagull, Calvathi road, Fort Cochin, tel # 0484-2228128: Old place that could do with some renovation. The view, however, is terrific and the Indian food has been adapted for foreign palates. Price: mid range. Liquor served.

Sulabh, DH road, off M G road, tel # 0484-2353501, 2361415: Pure vegetarian. This is Bharat Tourist Home's south Indian restaurant. Though the general fare is Udipi-style, check out the Kerala breakfast and the lunch time thali. Price: reasonable. No liquor.

The Travancore Restaurant, at the beginning of the road leading to Marine Drive, close to the KTDC office, tel # 0484-2351026: Separate menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a vegetarian lunch thali that's good value for money. Popularly known as Four Foods. Very reasonable prices. No liquor.

Woodlands, at a major junction on M G road, tel # 0484-2368900: Totally vegetarian and like Woodlands elsewhere in India, well known for its fluffy idlis and crisp dosas. Prices: little high. No liquor.

Multi cuisine restaurants

Pandhal, M G road, tel # 0484-2367759, 2380561: Marketed as a family restaurant, this restaurant is also owned by Casino Group. There also have an attached pastry counter. Expensive. Liquor served.

Renaissance, M G road, tel # 0484-2372660, 2372661: This is Avenue Regent's multicuisine restaurant. They offer quite a bit of continental food and also have Chinese and Thai food apart from Indian dishes. Lunch is buffet style, dinner a la carte. Liquor served. Expensive.

Tharavad, on Willingdon Island, close to the old railway station of Cochin Habour Terminus, tel # 0484-2668221, 2666821: This is Casino hotel's coffee shop. A variety of cuisines are available throughout the day. Expensive. The buffet lunch is not too expensive. Liquor served.

Utsav, Taj Residency, at the beginning of Marine Drive, opposite the KTDC office, tel # 0484-2371471: A wide range of food available; mainly Indian cusisine. Expensive. More economical lunch buffet also available. Liquor available.

Waterfront Cafe, Taj Malabar Hotel, at the far end of Willingdon Island, near the Port Trust headquarters, tel # 0484-2666811, 2666010: The location of the restaurant is reason to visit it. Situated on a lagoon facing the sea, across the way is Mattancherry and on the other side is a channel through which large ships use to reach Cochin Harbour. The large tankers and vessels pass close enough to the restaurant to give the impression that they are practically careening into the cafe. Mixed cusine and quick bites are available. Continental food available, but the accent is on ethnic dishes. Lip smacking fare. Expensive. Liquor served. Great spot to while away a few hours over coffee. Fairly reasonable buffet lunches.

Sea Food

Chinese Fishing Nets: A string of seafood stalls line the waterfront at Fort Cochin under the shadow of the cantilevered nets. For the adventurous, various types of seafood are available to be fried in a pan right in front of you. Fort Kochi, on Willingdon Island, close to Cochin Harbour Terminus station, tel # 0484-2668221, 2666821. Hotel Casino's seafood restaurant. Showcases Kerala's coastal cusisine. A platter of fresh seafood brought to the table to choose from. The food here is quite close to the real thing. If you are unable to venture anywhere else for Keralite cuisine then land up here. Expensive. Liquor served

Rice Boats, Taj Malabar Hotel, at the far end of Willingdon Island, near the Port Trust headquarters, tel # 0484-2666811, 2668010: The fish curries are not a patch on what you might have eaten in a Kerala home. But it is still good seafood. Request for spicy, Kerala fare. Authentic ethnic fish dishes as well as some great continental seafood available. The ambience of Malabar is lovely. The restaurants consists of long rice boats/canoes or valloms and one dines inside the boats. Expensive.Liquor served.

Chinese

Chinese Garden, Warriom road, the lane opposite Kottakal Arya Vaidya Sala, tel # 0484 2363710: An old haunt that locals continue to frequent though standards have slipped a bit in recent years. Prices: high. Liquor served.

Jade Pavilion, Taj Malabar Hotel, at the far end of Willingdon Island, near the Port Trust headquarters, tel # 0484-2666811, 2668010: Authentic Chinese. Good seafood. Expensive. Liquor available.

Meenachil, off Manorama junction, in the residential area of Panampilly Nagar, tel # 0484-2315709: A fairly new place. Very basic decor. Excellent reasonably priced food. Liquor not served.

Continental

The Bubble Café, at the beginning of Marine Drive, opposite the KTDC office, tel # 0484-2371471: Taj Residency's new international eatery. Fusion cuisine. French, Italian, Mexican cooking with a touch of ethnic flavour, resulting in some marvellous 'marriage'. Interesting decor. The best of wines available.

The Malabar House Residency, Parade road, Fort Kochi, tel # 0484-2221199: Fairly new. A small restaurant with excellent continental cuisine. Prices on the higher side. Liquor served.

Kashi, Burgher Street, Fort Kochi: No frills, simple café, Kashi is run by an enterprising couple. Hearty, filling food. Good value for money. A favourite with foreign tourists. No liquor served.

Fastfood, savouries, pastries and confectionery

Best Bakers, outlets at Kacheripady, Vytilla Junction, Kadavanthara, Thevara, tel # 0484-2395709: Great patties, cutlets and bread loaves.

Bimbi's, on Marine Drive, opposite the GCDA complex, tel # 0484-2355191 and another branch in a lane off M G road, : Western and Indian fast food. Hot favourites are Indian items like bhel, chaat and pau bhaji. Favoured stopover for youngsters.

Cookie shop, Chandrika building, ground floor, M G road, tel # 0484-2368255: Trendy and upmarket. Rolls, burgers, pizzas, pastries and the like available. Expensive.

La Pizzeria, GCDA shopping complex, Marine Drive, tel # 0484-2371331: Only pizzas. Newly established but already a hangout for Western tourists. Prices are reasonable. Home delivery available.

The Oven, Marine Drive, near Shridhar theatre, tel # 0484-2360578: Western fast food and wide range of sweets and pastries available. Some good milkshakes. Extremely popular with families.

Regal Bakery, Thevara junction, tel # 0484-2311823: Excellent pastries. Very good birthday cakes at reasonable prices.

Swastik Sweets, Pallimukku, M G road, tel # 0484-2374149: Every type of north Indian sweet and savoury available here. Fabulous stuff even if the prices are on the higher side. Great place for those with a sweet tooth.

Sweet House, M G road, not far from Cookie Shop, tel # 0484-2366855: A good stopover for banana chips. You can get them fresh and warm if you ask for it.