Arabian delights and Malabari déjà views (guest post)🌴🥘

Salt-baked recipes are an ancient theme as early as the 4th century before the common era, which has always been the outcome of functional cooking methods. The salt-crust encapsulation protects the food from direct heat and ensures even cooking and the possibility of drying out. It is a popular method for cooking all meat products; to wrap them as a tight parcel using foil that encompasses the natural flavours of meat and retains moisture. The meat cooks in its juices and is incredibly tender and succulent, while the flavours and aromas are distinct.

Further, nutritional research has shown that this process with salt crust baked at 180–200 °C and cooled down to room temperature before being uncovered results in lower carbohydrate levels and nutrition (protein) values increase due to the slow heat transfer to the food. 

The salt layer acts as insulation and helps cook the food in a homogenous and gentle fashion by locking in moisture, cooking evenly, and enhancing the flavour. The crust uses adequate amounts of finely-powdered salt to cover the wrapped food. Water is sprayed on top to help it form a hard crust.

Qahwa in Kollam, Kerala

Our visit to  Qahwa , an Arab-Kerala Restaurant in Kollam, Kerala, was revealing. It specialises in several exotic Turkish and Arabian menus with the services of two chefs from afar. We sat down to a delicious lamb recipe on the table served in a flambé style and cooked with parsley, a sprinkle of herbs, chilli flakes, coriander, rosemary, garlic, and a dash of olive oil. The meat is quite soft that it just falls off the bone. On cracking opening the food parcel, it is full of juices, sweating and cooking from within.

Another Arabian-Kerala conjugate dish, currently a rage among south Indian gourmands, is kuzhi
manthi (Kuzhi, in Malayalam, is a pit used for baking, and Mandi in Arabic means dew, a manifestation of the ‘dewy’ texture of food or meat) is a concoction of basmati rice spiced with mandi masala (a mixture of dry-roasted whole spices to add flavour) and slow-cooked (2–4 hours) in a pit in the ground (tandoor) while, the accompanying chicken is cooked over it, allowing the juices to drip down and flavour the rice further. A close cousin of biriyani, the rich and inviting manthi format is considered healthy due to the less oil applied.

Kuzhi manthi

If a container is used, it is hermetically sealed and, sometimes, a layer of maida (dough) is applied to
prevent any steam from escaping. Wood coals are placed on top to ensure this containment and to add extra flavour to the meat. This dish is little known outside the state of Kerala but remains remarkably popular among Malabarians and carries the legacies of the merchant traders who visited the region centuries ago.

A Middle Eastern dessert of fame is the Kunafa made using shredded dough (flour, water, vinegar, and oil) that is crispy, with a crackly effect when layered and baked. It is spread on a pan, stuffed with cheese or cream, garnished with butter and pistachios, and stacked. It has a crunchy exterior with a viscous and cheesy interior and is best eaten with sugar syrup when hot. The young owner and partner at the La Maison Du Kunafa, a sweet hideout downtown, revealed the secret of know-how and ingredients in this tasty but filling delicacy.



Our sojourns took us to the north-central region of Kerala state, in Thrissur (or Thirusshivaperoor), a name that rhymes as the Abode of Lord Shiva. A melodious slang of Malayalam is sweet and discernible among folks here, albeit not impolite, but often confuses. It is a celebrated cultural centre of Kerala where novel art and festivals associated with Onam and Vishu have sprung forth, Onam Sadya and Puli-kali, to name a few. The annual temple festival of Thrissur Pooram captivates both locals and tourists alike and is a living testimony to the religious harmony that has always existed in the district. The unique mood in celebration reflects the unity of major religions that exist in comparable proportions. 

Thrissur is a city of many faiths and home to some of the oldest temples, mosques, and churches. Among the well-known shrines, the ancient Vadakkumnathan Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva), Our Lady of Dolours Catholic Basilica (the largest Indian christian church) and Cheraman Juma Mosque (the first mosque in India) are prominent. 

It is said that Maharaja Sakthan Thampuran of the Kingdom of Cochin attempted to modernise and urbanise the city by rehabilitating many Christian and Brahmin families during the 18th century, which yielded excellent results. The spirit of enterprise and business is unique among Thrissur folks, which resulted in a prosperous and flourishing economy. Thrissur today is a lively hub of culture, a centre for jewellery manufacturing, and is known as the Banking and Finance Capital of Kerala.

Sakthan Thampuran perceived the idea and invited the Christians of Thrissur to build a church in 1814. As an aftermath of religious ascendancy and supremacy, they had to vacate the same and initiated the present church in 1925, for which the HH Rama Varma Maharaja of Cochin issued an order. The Catholics of Thrissur completed the present Puthan Palli (New Church) in 1940 and consecrated as Our Lady of Dolours Catholic Basilica. The Basilica can accommodate 30,000 worshippers at a time and is the 3rd tallest church in Asia due to its twin front towers and the 260-foot-tall central tower. The interior decorations and finely painted murals on the walls are complemented by icons and statues of saints and scenes from the Scriptures that depict several phases of Christ’s life. As one walks through the interiors, a pleasant and sacred feeling begins to fill in. The Gothic style and curvilinear forms of the Sagrada Familia, the large unfinished catholic church in Barcelona, came to mind.

Our Lady of Dolours Catholic Basilica at Thrissur, Kerala
Our Lady of Dolours Catholic Basilica at Thrissur, Kerala


Nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats and about 60 km east of Thrissur town is Athirappally waterfalls, the largest in Kerala. The water in the Chalakudy river flows from 80 feet high in a marvellous cascade around big rocks and flows with turbulence toward the Arabian sea. The frothy waters and plumes make this a spectacular backdrop against green rainforests, mountain peaks and blue sky for movie and music scenes. The pool above the falls allows you to picnic, unwind and venture into the waters.

Athirappally waterfalls

As we returned, a pleasant sense of déjà vu set in and was embellished by hope and a spirit of adventure. And, with it, feelings of existence, gratitude, and submission to the forces of the universe.

Athirappally waterfalls


The author Saji can be reached at

Till next post, take care !!


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