The toddy shops of Kerala have long been a male dominated space where women and non binary folks do not feel comfortable. The fermented toddy, sizzling hot curries and spicy gossips were the privilege of the ‘chivalrous’ adult males although there were women toiling away in the inglenooks of ‘shappu’ kitchens. Well, not anymore.
The female invasion has now gone beyond the kitchens and many toddy shops have transformed itself into family dining spaces. One such local bar that metamorphosed into a family friendly, fancy food joint is Kakkathuruthu Shappu in Alappuzha.
Majestically located overlooking the Kaithappuzha lake, Kakkathuruthu is famous for its spicy duck and fresh-water fish plates with a coastal riff on it. The extensive menu also boasts a wide variety of seafood dishes such as crab roast, beef porichath, pork and koonthal varattiyathu.
With a redolent whiff of Alappuzha’s quintessential coastal cuisine, Kakkathuruthu offers private dining spaces in the form of bamboo cabanas. A couple of boats stand ready to get customers aloft to loose the sails as soon as they have them deck secured.
Settle down with rice for the main course as rotis would spoil the local finesse. Prawn roast, garnished by fresh red chilly flakes, coriander leaves and spice-mix prove to be an excellent dry starter. The cotton-ball prawns would squeeze out all its juice on your first bite. Twitching all your taste buds, it makes you want more flavors to relish. Duck curry comes first in the main meal. Keep chomping its well roasted pieces as you wait for the rice. Pork gravy, fish curry and a karimeen (green chromide) roast would make perfect side dishes for boiled rice.
The spicy brownish pork gravy with immense lard melts down in your mouth. All the recipes are loaded with extra spice to compensate the sharp taste of super sour fermented toddy. Fish and mango gravy is another attraction on the menu: the tart taste of raw mango beats the fuming chilly flakes and leaves a nostalgic tang on your palate. Once you are done with the rice, ask for the aromatic karimeen fry, wrapped in banana leaf. The leafy envelope seals in moisture and flavor and infuses the blackish red fish roast with a subtle, grassy aroma.
Kakkathuruthu isn’t a drinking mecca and passing trade is scant. Nevertheless, the shop is always bubbling away merrily. There’s no denying it’s an after-work place, or an if-you-happen-to-be-in-the-area place, but it offers delicious sharing plates and very easy-to-drink fresh toddy.