Cochin A Travel Through Time

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You can dive into a pool of romance and still be left surprised. The nature of ones life take twists a turns for the better at the best of times. The journey called travel takes each twist and turn with aplomb and what more than coupling it with food. The plan journey has been done with and the airport at cochin is the first solar powered airport in the country. So its with pleasant surprise to see a series of vegetable patches under the solar panels. It makes for a good trend this urban farming and the possibility of some good food change at the airport in the future.

Checking in to the Trident at Willington Island, a man built island that’s grown over the decades. As I sit by the pool of the hotel, decades of history are read upon in a book on the city. The traders who came in the early centuries of sea travel. The spice traders and the cattle and horse traders. So great was this exchange of spice that the wars are done with and the birth of legacies has happened. Its great to sit away from the buzz of a restaurant once in a while. The sense of nature beckons with sitting on the verandah and the close comfort of ones camera.

Its only when you have seen cardamom pods grow close to the ground and held tendrils of pepper vines in your hand, rubbed it together to imbibe the fragrance that you realize its value and importance. The coming together of cultures and the hints of spice and the dozen or so wonderful cuisines of the island have enmeshed to make this state one of the most enviable of states.

A drive to the Wayanad country or to Munar or Kodai Kanal makes me want to build a house here, maybe just a vacation home. The subtlety of an avial or a fish stew is not to be missed. The Kari meen or pearl spot fish is delightful to behold and equally delicious. The journey of the day starts with an exquisite breakfast buffet at the restaurant in the Trident. The quaint coffee shops on the island no longer exist since the airport has been moved. The old airport being used by the Navy and for arriving dignitaries.

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The three main hotels on the island are the Taj Vivanta, the Trident and The Casino. The simplicity of textural lines of the Trident is calming on ones soul after the run through the busy streets of cochin. The old colonial style houses beckon and I think of the past glory it must have had. So glad that the city hasn’t turned into a concrete jungle yet. The warm sun basks over ones shoulder, the monsoons and winter are the best times to visit this state. I watch a pair of hornbills fly over and as ones mind turns to breakfast one thinks of the myriad of fermented breads that this state has to offer. The appams, the idlis, the mild stews all take me back to a visit to Cochin as a kid when the wife of TKG Nair would make idli after idli and a sweet concoction served with a fine seviyan and dusted over with powdered sugar. The journey never seemed to stop for hardly was breakfast done with preparation stated for snacks for elevenses.

Elevenses or Tiffin which is the big word in these parts mean a series of murukku, fried snacks made from either rice flour or wheat flour, the intricate shapes of the murukky are pretty mind boggling. One of my favourites is the rose cookies, sweet delicious and crisp and dusted with black sesame. Another sweet is the payassam washed down with an equally strong clove scented tea. Another breakfast snack item that’s turned into a meal of sorts is the Puttu. It’s steamed rice powder that done so accurately as to not be too dry or too wet. This has a series of fillings from jerky to fruit and vegetables. There was even a curry which had bits of cooked banana

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Lunch is a simple affair of rice and a variety of rasams. But there is nothing to beat the kerala rice. This roundish-grained rice is eaten by the moundfuls by the locals. I manage a small bowl that been drizzled over by a watery peppery rasam. Dishes like Chicken 65 a dish created by the Keralietes in Singapore is spicy and flavoured with fried curry leaf. The peppery fried beef or lamb is a yummy and has a strong coastal flavor of fried coconut chips served with it. The dry roast chicken chilli can move mountains with its heat quotient, but when once one has moved beyond the chilli there is a unique calm through ones system that only the flavor of well cooked chilli can bring on.

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The moplar black tea with mint to the strong coffees from the Wayanad district have its own aromas and several restaurants serve up a tad oversweet Sulaimani chai. Unlike the filter coffee of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh there is no equivalent in Kerala and yet the burgeoning tea cafes makes one wonder about the teas and coffee culture of the state.

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Besides the array of rice breads like the idlis, appams, iddiappams there is another famous bread of the region is the Malabar parota which is made with heaps of oil, its crispy layers freshly had off the griddle makes for a good accompaniment with ones food. It was the Dutch who introduced the creation of oven cooking to India and the old dutch ovens fired up with clay have created some signature breads like the jam buns, the sweet parotas and the famous Dutch Berger bread that’s almost as heavy as a brick and its dense molassey sweetness is a easy accompaniment for tea.