Kerala Part Deux – The drive towards destination
The next morning, we left from Bangalore.
Before I give you more of a detailed account, let me elaborate, I love or actually loved Bangalore. About 5 years back, I would have moved to this city at the drop of a hat. Literally! But now, even though the roads are quite good, the traffic can drive you up the wall and make you claw your way to the other side, wishing you were never there. I mean really, even Google maps asks you to take a right on a flyover, which would mean, you either jump off it or continue to survive the ordeal that the traffic throws at you.
Okay, enough of a rant. Now for the good part (there is always, always, a silver lining guys. Have faith!). From the beautifully shaped rocky mountains of Karnataka, to the luscious green forest lined highways of Tamil Nadu, to Kerala where the sands bordered with coconut trees are laced with some pristine backwaters; the drive needless to say was a visual and aesthetic treat to the senses.
Along the way, because it’s a national highway, you spot very few vendors of local produce. But, when you do hit the highway stalls by the roadside, they offer the comfort and delight of food that would just keep you going for another 1000 kilometres.
While on the topic of food, though we were four hours from our destination (read home), salivating over the thought of home cooked food, our stomachs rebelled for some immediate recourse. On the highway (NH544) near the Tamil Nadu and Kerala border (somewhere around Walayar), we came across a rather swanky place to have lunch. Though this stretch is dotted with “biryani” joints, the lavish parking lot is what tempted my husband to stop here (my bad, I forgot the name of this little collection of food joints).
Now, when we are in a hurry, I can be very annoying when it comes to picking the food I want to eat. Simply because, too many options throw me off the track. But well, thanks to the prudence of the place we went to, they had 4 options, viz: Biryani, Chicken curry, Veg curry, rice or parotta. Without doubt, I chose the biryani (and so did my husband). And boy Oh boy, it was a culinary orgasm to say the least. First up, came the banana leaf, which was quite a surprise, given the swankiness of the outlet, I expected Chinaware, but I was not at all disappointed with the basic banana leaf (the hippie in me was happy). Then, we were graced with a generous helping of curd that seemed homemade. The curd was nice, thick, well-set and delicious. Along with that came a tamarind spiced curry of sorts, which I think is what the chicken curry would be made of. Spiced with very South Indian spices and curry leaves, the tamarind curry was more of a delicious palette cleansing accompaniment. Then came a tangy lime pickle. Quarters of lime, marinated over a period of time, in oil, salt, robust spices and tons of chilli, was just the right accompaniment.
And finally, the “biryani”. Wow! Now, this was very different from most biryanis we had ever had, or are used to. You know how when you say biryani, you expect Basmati rice, a punch in your face of spice covered meat and white and saffron infused rice? Well this one broke all those stereotypes and still emerged a winner, with a double gold medal.
To begin with, the rice used was kolam, which is a naturally fragrant rice, with each grain that is kind of thick but packed with flavour. The spices used to make the biryani, were very, very, basic and was more flavoured with whole spices, than a spice paste that we are more accustomed to. And the distinct difference was, that it didn’t have layers. It was one serving of a delectable and mildly spiced rice dish, that had the most succulent chicken (I am sure, they didn’t pre-boil the chicken, because it just boosted the spiced rice and added to it, instead of standing out.), served with a hearty helping of curd and spicy curry. It made for a very sumptuous meal, best eaten with your hands (I am very desi like that). Served on a banana leaf in all its’ glory, I couldn’t ask for more. Of course, the resident Gordon Ramsay (my husband, who is a food critic par excellence and par patience), had a few bones to pick, but, I chewed on those bones happily enough, and was a happy carnivore by the end of the meal.
But it didn’t just end there. For dessert, we had a steaming cup of filter kappi. Both of us are lactose intolerant, but a strong cup of filter kappi is not something even the strongest resolves can resist. A thick, dark and full-bodied concoction of freshly ground coffee beans, permeating to make a strong liquid reduction that would make the sleepiest of souls have their eyes wide open, with a dash of milk and sugar, is one of those delights that one looks forward to every morning. Hell, I love it so much, I don’t mind taking an antacid to combat the lactose intolerance, but I will always and forever stay loyal to this cup of filter kappi.
Foodgasm satisfied, we proceeded to renew the journey. But the smell of filter coffee successfully tempted us to stall a bit. The “filter coffee” journey would need to be treated in all its exclusivity since we over the whole journey had quite an eclectic sampling of “filter coffee”.
Once we hit Kerala, thanks to our friend Google maps, we took a rather narrow and winding road towards Trichur. I can’t complain, because the road was beautiful as a picture postcard. But the speed, well, let’s just say you win some, you don’t quite the others.
We reached Thrissur at about 4.30 PM. And I couldn’t wait to get home and be pampered. Yes, yes, for all those people who think ‘sasural’ is a trying visit, mine isn’t. Mine is almost like a relaxation spa, where I get pampered more than my husband. Touch wood, I am lucky to have in-laws who are the best.
In the next post, which will be long, I will detail out the gastronomical and aesthetic pleasures while in Kerala, with a lot of personal anecdotes. Oh I will also share recipes and show you pictures of all things gastronomically delectable. Wait for it.