So today was one of our tourist days. Our homestay organized a trip to the backwaters for us. These are small water channels throughout the region – beautiful locations and a chance to see a little bit of village life. Foodwise, this meant that we were only given a small breakfast as we had to leave early. We were pretty happy about that as our breakfast the day before wasn’t much to blog home about. So just toast, fruit and hard boiled egg and we were on our way. We had fantasies of having fresh seafood cooked for us on board our boat for lunch, which we had heard stories of, but the boat we were on was small and crowded and had no cooking facilities and basically just took us out to a random snack shop along the backwaters (M had Lays Magic Masala chips, B had a coconut water – from an actual coconut). Then the boat went back to where we started (we were not pleased with this part of the trip) and there was a lunch waiting for us – another curry buffet. All vegetarian. No seafood. Sad. But there were three new things on our lunch buffet: a strange, fibrous, vegetable we’d never seen before called a drumstick; a pineapple tomato curry; and a porridge like thing the name of which was lost in translation. It was all fine, but not quite what we had hoped for out of our boat trip.
Fortunately, the afternoon part of the tour was more interesting in that we were taken in a canoe/punt through some narrow canals flowing among the homes of a rural village. So we got to see people doing various types of work along the canal. The Communist Party has done particularly well in Kerala during the past few decades, so this part of India has a great many workers cooperatives, and we were able to see some people making rope and coconut milk at their homes. Really interesting. But you read this for the food, so also know we got to see many spices and fruits growing naturally along the way – all pointed out to us by our ‘gondolier’ and guide. Nutmeg is particularly big here and we were able to buy some right from the nutmeg farmer, but we also saw things like cacao trees, vanilla vines and tamarind trees.
When we got home we were exhausted (not really from the boat but from the 3+ hours we spent in the car to and from) but we gathered ourselves together and walked over to the Mattancherry area where we went to Kayee’s Hotel (remember, hotel means restaurant) to partake of two things for which they are renowned. One is Biryani (we had chicken and it was great) and the other is Chicken Fry. This dish might be our favorite of the trip so far. It was small pieces of chicken, fried twice, seemingly, with a heavy coating of explosive spices, most notably star anise, cardamom and clove. It was so delicious that we ordered another dish and almost got a third! They were seriously small portions – we could have eaten them all night. We also ordered Keralan porota (flaky parathas – very similar to what we had in Malaysia) and ended up getting an extra helping of those as well. On the side we were served a tamarind chutney (sorry, no photo) that was much thicker than the usual stuff we get back home with our samosas. It had a sweetness that contrasted nicely with the sour tamarind. M thought the sweet came from raisins. He was very close! It was actually dates – we were in a Muslim establishment and we were told they often use dates in their chutney. A great meal overall, and we are excited to try to figure out how to make chicken fry.
On the way back to the guesthouse we stopped for banana chips (made from the long banana, which is very starchy like a plantain) and a sweet (not really to our liking – grainy this sugar wrapped in a thick icing, with very little additional flavoring).