“Are there any vegetarians in Kerala?” asks Vikrant. He knows my lifelong distaste for greens because he’s been at the receiving end of many a non-vegetarian restaurant, on the many road trips we have been on. His question is a valid one though – Kerala is one of the last bastions of beef in the country and he’s worried about having to live another road trip on rice and dal. To alleviate his fears, we start our new gastro adventure in Kochi.
Now, there are two things you should know about me. One, I’m no foodie and two, I grew up in Kochi. These two unrelated facts are significant to this story because I love Mallu food and I don’t have a clue as to where to get good food in Kochi. I left the place over fifteen years ago for god’s sake!
Café Cinema in Cochin is a great place to start a Mallu food trail
Yet, I’m keen to show Vikrant’s stomach a good time and a friend recommends a small restaurant called Café Cinema, off Bannerjee road. It’s a clean, delightful little restaurant that’s got Malayalam movie posters all over its walls and a sign that reads ‘production room’ over the kitchen door. The owner is a big fan of Malayalam movies and therefore his restaurant looks and feels the way it does. Vikrant is expecting the usual dosa, vada and idli combo, but I convince him to try the puttu kadala. Now, for those living north of south India, puttu is a combination of steamed rice powder and coconut, and kadala is a curry made of black chana. Vikrant loves it but finds the combination too spicy for his palate. I don’t blame him – Kerala is known as the land of spices because well before Vikrant and I got here, the state traded spices with the Europeans, with the earliest records showing trade with the Sumerians from 3000 B.C. I settle for an appam (a crispy edged pancake made from rice flour) and egg curry. We wash it down with some kickass filter coffee and can’t quite believe it cost us only `85 for the pleasure.