Chris has been really enjoying all of the southern Indian food, and we signed up for cooking instructions to help bring some of the food home with us.
Our cooking instructor was Sreelakshmi. She had been on MasterChef India!
She welcomed us into her beautiful home and gave us a private cooking lesson in her home. The first dish was coconut jeera rice. It was made with the local short-grain rice variety. The coconut flavor came from fresh shredded coconut, not dried. We also tempered some fried whole spices (black mustard seed, cumin, curry leaves) and roasted garbanzo beans.
Next up was a dal (legume soup). This was made from toor (pigeon pea). The legumes were booked with turmeric and curry leaves; salt is not added to ensure they soften. The seasoning included asafoetida powder which has a funky smell! The soup was delicious.
We also made a southern India style curry: it included cocnut milk (made right on the spot), fried mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves, fenegreek, ginger, garlic, and shallots. The spices were used whole, but fried for a few minutes on low heat to brown them.
It was really great to learn how to make these dishes in a regular home. We ate the dishes while talking with Srilakshmi about her time on MasterChef India and family.
Sreelakshmi also walked us to her local Hindu temple, although we could not enter. It had some beautiful orange streamers for a festival they had recently had. We later saw a church using similar streamers in silver.
Kerala is an interesting mix of cultures; there is a significant Hindu and Muslim population, but also a large Christian population from both a Portuguese influence, as well as earlier immigration from Syria. They have a beautiful Santa Cruz basilica in town that we walked by on our way to a show, although we did not have time to go in.
Kathakali is a classical dance/play form of Kerala; it historically was performed at Royal court. It involves elaborate costumes, makeup, and stylized hand and eye movements. We attended a Kathkali play performance that reenacted a scene from the Mahabharatha (Sanskrit epic), the slaying of Dussasana. There was intense drumming that accompanied the acting. Before the show started we were able to watch the actors put on their stage make-up. It was a very detailed and extensive project. They are extremely talented.