For foodies in Thrissur, the best of rural flavors is housed in 'shaapu’, aka toddy shop – a thatched cabana situated outside the busy city limits, often in the backdrop of verdant green vegetation. But quite unlike the usual toddy shops, Pullu Shaapu is a concrete structure camouflaged in the Kole landscape here.
It’s easy to miss the place unless and until you are determined to walk all the way across the narrow causeway along the paddy fields to reach this otherwise unnoticeable building, which lures you with the refreshing aroma of fermented toddy.
Experience the nostalgic scent of ripen paddy grains and the burbling sound of streams on your way up here, but be wary of the blazing sun, which might leave you sweat-soaked. So, as soon as you reach Pullu Shaapu, cool your system with a glass of less fermented, freshly sapped, sweet toddy, which will chill your head and satiate your thirst, all the while leaving enough room in your tummy to experience the wide range of delicacies the ‘shaapu’ has on offer.
Pullu Shaapu is famous for its fresh water fish, migrant oyster shells and common crabs - all found in abundance in the region. Ask for boiled tapioca as the main course and order a plate of 'kala chana' or black gram dry curry as a starter. Grab a handful of the hot, oil coated grams fried with mustard seeds, curry leaves and grated coconut and pop in your mouth; while the red chilly flakes will make your eyes watery, the flavor of red onion will soon dominate your taste buds.
In no time, boiled tapioca will arrive in a mighty platter, accompanied with a large glass of strong fermented toddy. You may go for a crab fry or an oyster shell curry as a side dish. The field-fresh oysters are soft and rubbery here, still carrying the odor of its water-life. The common field-crabs will be less fleshy, but a hundred times tastier that the farm-grown fleshy ones. The extra-spicy curry goes perfectly with the soda-sour toddy. We bet you cannot finish the tapioca dish without gulping down several mouthfuls of water. If you choose toddy to quench your thirst, you'll feel dizzy on your third or fourth gulp.
Stepping out to the sun with a stomach full of shaapu curry and a head full of fermented toddy, you may find yourself smiling wide and humming a tone. If so, burp like a boss and realize that you just had the perfect 'shaapu' experience.