Kerala Diaries - Moonu

It has been around eight months here back in Mumbai and Mumbai keeps you busy; so busy that I didn't even care to write more on the Kerala Diaries.  A few weeks back, I was going through the notes in my phone and I found a note named Moonu. This note contained pointers to all the things that I wanted to include in the concluding part of my diaries. So, that got me started.

I can never get the picture of the Cochin International airport out of my mind – it’s vintage. I did not pay any attention to it at first. When I boarded my pre booked taxi to the hotel and the taxi was on its way out, I just happened to turn back and I saw this. Isn’t it retro?

The Cochn International Airport
The airport was way out of the main city. It took almost 90 -100 minutes to reach Ernakulam. On the way, there were Mammoottys, Mohanlals and Vijays on huge hoardings, advertising gold, exotic sarees, scooters and also their movies. Mohanlal’s movie Loham was due that week and at a theatre near our hotel; people were celebrating its release by beating drums and dancing outside the theatre. This scene made me understand the reason why celebrities are called ‘celebrities.‘ 

jab neend khuli to laga ki me apne hi ghar par hu
aakhe khuli to dekha ki
ghar hota to maa jaldi se nahaaneko kehti
kitchen se khusbooyein aati
tadke ki awaaz aati
thodisi neend bhi shayad... aur aati

My weekends would be late, slow and only one – Sunday!  I got bored of the food here because it is monotonous – or maybe I failed to find good places for variety. You get idly; the same dough with some more water - dosa; the same dosa with a fluffy centre - appam. I don’t have a problem with these but I would never mind a vada pav or a missal pav, poha or a quick onion bhajjiya plate. There was an aunty near our office who used to sell medu wadas, egg pakodas, mirchi bhajis, daal vadas and chai; everything at Rs. 6 per piece!

I love the medu vada. So, before office, I would go hunting for places that would offer good breakfast or good medu vada.  After having some bad and some overpriced breakfasts, a new shop opened up! Chariot – was the name and I would go there very frequently with my team-mates to eat their scrumptious and quintessential fish thali (I drool as I write!) This restaurant opened up its breakfast special outlet! They made good medu vadas and good coffee. When I ordered medu wada for the first time, the woman attendant reacted, “What vada?” She understood only when I pointed out the vada to her. Medu vadas are called Uzhunnu vada in Kerala. Now, Uzhunnu is not as easy to pronounce as it seems. There is a curious case of syllable ‘Zh’ here in the malayalee land. Yes, you pronounced Kozhikode wrong your entire life. Learn how to pronounce ‘Zh’ in this video. I also came across a nice article in the Deccan Herald which humorously describes how difficult it is to pronounce ‘zh’, both for the malayalees and the non-malayalees.

‘Meals’ is the thali equivalent jargon but not quite literally. In this thali there is rice and sambhar and the Kerala papad (appadam) - no chapaati - no various types of bhaajis - wonly sambhar and rasam and some chutneys and pickle to go with.  I loved the rice that they eat there; nice, round and soft. And when you put these rice morsels into your mouth with some sambhar or fish curry, you will be the happiest and the most satisfied living being on the planet. But this staple food of Kerala will make you fat; very fat. You won't even realise your fatty acids until an evening when you are super bored and you go to a mall; enter a lift with mirrors on all sides and have a look at yourself from every possible angle.

Beef is very popular in the God's own country... err this God is not Hindu... maybe. Every non vegetarian menu has beef in it. The water served along your main course is pink and luke warm– they mix some jeera in this water which helps in digestion. Typically on every table in a restaurant, there are two jars; one has rasam and the other has the classy buttermilk. But amidst, the sambhars and rasams, I wonder where bhindi, methi, mutter, baingan, gawar, gobi, paalak, batata went missing. Only at handful restaurants, I saw bhindi, baingan and gobi; and the gobi was chilly gobi from china - not the aloo gobi from dilli. Even for snacks; I miss pav bhaji, misal pav, vada pav, samosa, poha, sabudana khichdi.

We also used to get Parotta with a double-T. It’s quite popular – I never tried it though. A Parotta is nothing but a Paratha made up of maida and you have to witness how it is prepared – quite a process. But why use maida; please leave maida for the muffins.

I used to go to a fixed restaurant for dinner and most probably had Chinese veg fried rice and a paneer tikka gravy to go with it as suggested by the attendant. He was a very friendly, so once I requested him to show me his recipe. He agreed quite reluctantly. When I entered the kitchen on the floor above, it was not as clean as I expected to be – may be the reason why the guy was reluctant in the first place. There was a very old man cleaning utensils in one corner and a pahadi guy cooking. He showed me his ingredients and pre-cooked masalas. I appreciated him for the fried rice that he cooks every day. He was a hindi guy, so we also spoke how people do not speak any hindi in Kochi. I came back with a plate of fried rice in my hands and attendant brought me the panner tikka. As I came down, the rest of the families looked at me. I thanked the attendant guy for allowing me to have a look at my order being cooked live.

While starting to write the post, I thought this would conclude the Kerala Diaries series but it looks like there will be a Kerala Diaries – Naalu. So tiriccuva!

For the rest of the posts of Kerala Diaries, please click here!


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