From Appams To Duck The Flavour Of Syrian Christian Table
- Ayandrali Dutta
Updated : January 20, 2022 05:01 IST
Christmas, a festival of togetherness is all about fun, food and family.
It was way in AD 52 when it supposed that Christianity came to Kerala with St. Thomas, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. His followers were supposedly started being called Syrian Christians. Their cuisine saw a strong influence from western world which was visible in terms of local spices, ingredients along with the traditional cooking method. The Kerala Syrian Christian Cuisine or the Syrian Christians cuisine is the distinctive culinary name that’s given to the food that’s cooked by this particular community. Mostly said to have living around the districts like Kottayam and Pala in Kerala, Syrian Christian are known for their most favoured stew. The exquisite spices of Kerala can be seen in the dishes cooked and the regularly eaten items like the Mappas, Stew, Molee, Roasts and Appams along with popular snacks like Alappuzha, Kottayam, Thrissur and Tharavu have made their way to gourmet table too.
The grand Christmas feast
Prima Kurien, who hails from a Syrian Christian family and is Fine Art Exhibition Designer along with being known and applauded for her cooking skills says “In our household it’s food that always takes the CenterStage. From variety of Appams to duck to more meat Christmas feast is a more meaty affair. This time my mom got her hands on 25 year old soaked dry fruits and I can absolutely vouch for the flavour and bold profile that the cake will have this season. From fish moilee to Chicken mappa to meat stew it’s never enough on a festive table”
In Kerala Kuttanad, in the Tharavu being the rice-growing region is known for a medium-spiced duck delicacy called the Tharavu roast, during Christmas. Cooked with fresh chilies, fennel, black pepper, cardamom and, of course the humble, coconut this makes for a much flavourful Christmas serving on the table. Zachariah Jacob, Co-founder/Partner, Mahabelly “Traditionally for Syrian Christians like us, the Christmas feast after the Special Church Sermon, marks the end of the twenty five day fast which starts from the December 1 every year. During the fast, we usually refrain from having non veg and alcohol which is the reason why the spread is rich in non-vegetarian dishes. There is the duck mappas (thick coconut milk gravy), pork varattiyathu (sautéed with onions), mutta roast (boiled eggs in thick luscious onion and tomato gravy), fish moilee (fish cooked in mildly spiced coconutmilk gravy) accompanied with kallu appams (flat breads made with toddy). In our house, the fish pie also has made its name. The grape wine, plum cakes rich in rum soaked dry fruits and Christmas puddings are also some of the must haves. My personal favourite would have to be the Kuttanadan duck roast. Being from a place close to the backwaters and though we have a lot of them quacking around, the only special occasions we actually get to savour the rich taste of duck meat (Kerala’s local substitute for turkey) is during Christmas or Easter. The appam we usually have Christmas is the flat kallu appams. Another must have dish I missed out is the Chicken / Mutton stew in coconut milk. This how our Holiday table gets decked up.
Apart from the heavy meaty affair, fresh catch is also pretty popular being coastal region. Though fish makes in presence in the plate all through the year but specially during Christmas there’s Meen Molee, Prawn Pollichathu, Fish Mappas Meen Vevichathu and more Some being spicy fiery and while others are mild with the effect of coconut milk each dish has a flavour profile of it’s own which is pretty distinct.
Ending the feat on a sweeter note this is also the season of annual plum cake tradition along with some Kuzhalappams and Achappams (rosette-shaped fried cookies) along with some Fruit Custard, Eggless white chocolate Mousse. This A festival of togetherness is all about fun, food and family.