'Shaap' delicacies in Thrissur as part of food festival

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Thrissur: Never been to a Kerala toddy shop and enjoyed the drinks and 'touchings?' More so from those Thanneermukkam joints along the quaint old countryside by the Vembanad lake? Don't worry, that celebrated brand of ethnic dishes you get along with the ethnic alcoholic beverage in those shops of coastal Alappuzha district has reached this city, 120 km north of Thanneermukkom.

They are here as part of a festival, and hence available only for a specific time period. Take a break from the run-of-the-mill burger and noodles; instead rush to Hotel Luciya Palace here. That is, after 5.30 pm.

Of course, fish reigns the set of dishes. From karimeen (pearl-spot fish), varaal (mackerel), avoli (sailfish) and bral (striped snakehead) to pallathi (cichlid) and natholi (garlic fish), any variety of such fish exists aplenty across Kerala, but the condiments that go into them as masala make all the difference. It's here that the Thanneermukkom brand of dishes stands a cut above the rest.

The Thanneermukkom stall at Luciya sells delicacies such as burnt pearl-spot, fried mackerels, crayfish, and mussels. The famed prawns (chemmeen) come in both watery and dried form. Their masala may look the same, but the difference in the time-span for their cooking and the amount of coconut oil that goes along make defining difference in the tastes. In fact, this is the basic chemistry involved in the preparation.

Chicken is not in that much demand at Luciya, courtesy the influx of beef. The beef can be eaten even in the fried form. Only that the material, called idiyirachi, comes from the high ranges (Western Ghats) of Idukki; the cooks are also from that hilly terrain.

Then there's the special Thrissurian combo: beef, pork, raw banana, and koorka (Chinese potato). It's often served on the wedding-eves as a delicacy, but not many know its origin has been in toddy shops. Only that in such shops, the dish is hotter and is also called koorka peralan. Again, the masala's condiments matter a lot.

Vegetable curries are, predictably, unimportant. Peas and potatoes make curries for the vegetarians opting for items such as pathiri, appam, or poratta.

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