Keralan food with a unique twist

Food, travel and lifestyle writer Johanna Derry has joined the Kerala Experience to explore the colour and taste of South India’s culinary heartland in her final blog she sums up her food adventure.

And now, the end is near, and so I face… well, an expanding waistline, honestly.

Ten days of cooking and eating and taking sneaky tastes from the pan and then piling my plate high with seconds, and I’ve relished every moment. My trip has been so mouthwateringly delicious, a journey through the beautiful Keralan landscape – its mountains, jungle, lagoons, and beaches – savouring the variations in the foods in each place.

So what have I learned? That rather than saving garlic to the end, it is possible to start with the garlic and not destroy the flavour altogether; that coconut oil adds a roundness to the flavour that can’t be replaced by vegetable oil; that each spice has a medicinal value as well as a flavour value; that masala is just a name for a combination of spices; oh and a whole host of other things. I can’t wait to get back to my own kitchen and give everything a whirl and (hopefully) impress my friends.

Even if it’s not perfect, though, it will still be Keralan cuisine. Right at the start I discovered that, because of trade, Kerala is a province of cultural fusions. The starting points for dishes might be the same, but there’s no patented method for how it should be at the end. Learning the basic blocks of Keralan dishes, and then seeing how all the different chefs have added their own twists, personalities, and even histories into the food they prepare, has made me feel confident that I can do the same.

On the flight back to London I’ll be passing the time planning how to make my own Johanna Masala. My mouth is already watering at the thought.


Johanna is a freelance journalist, writing for publications including The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Financial Times.

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