Unnakaya: The Plantain Dessert From North Malabar In Kerala
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As is the case in many Indian communities across the country, tea time rituals form a significant aspect of how communal eating is perceived in a culture. True to this, Kerala’s tea time is not just centred around the beverage, but also what is typically eaten with it. Chaya kadas or tea shops aren’t simply makeshift settlements that provide refreshments, but also where many locals find themselves dining during breakfast and evening hours. Like the pothi cake and pazhampori have proven, sweets shape the experience of sipping tea in Keralaite homes, as well as in eateries.

One of the lesser-known specialties to emerge from this gamut of delicious preparations is the unnakaya – a steamed plantain delicacy that is stuffed with coconut, sugar and dry fruits. With its roots in Malabar cuisine, North Malabar to be more precise, the scrumptious dessert dish is enjoyed along with a cup of tea as well as prepared during special occasions like Eid or weddings. What makes this plantain delicacy special is the amalgamation of textures – from the soft outer cover of steamed bananas to the syrupy centre that is bursting with coarse, crisp textures of the coconut and dry fruit.

Also Read:

Coconut Chronicles: The Significance Of Coconut In Kerala Cuisine

Made with a local variety of plantain known as the nendra pazham, the unnakaya is also eaten during the month of Ramzan, as part of the indulgent iftar meal. What also contributes to the brilliance of this preparation is the technique which is a time-tested practice that takes a few tries to master. Known by various names like the kai ada, kai porichathu and unnaka, this tea time snack can also be replicated with sweet but firm bananas. When served as a dessert course, the unnakaya is eaten traditionally with a sago-based sauce-like accompaniment, which adds richness and enhances the silky, soft textures.


  • 4 ripe bananas
  • ¾ cup freshly grated coconut
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour, optional
  • 4-5 raisins
  • 5-6 cashews, broken
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ghee
  • 2-3 teaspoons coconut oil


  • Heat the ghee in a pan and toast the grated coconut and cashews until aromatic and golden-brown.
  • Turn off the heat and mix in the cardamom powder, sugar and raisins to set aside.
  • Meanwhile, steam the bananas with their peel on for 10-12 minutes.
  • Remove the outer cover and mash until you have a smooth mixture. If your bananas are too mushy, add the rice flour and make into a dough-like mixture.
  • Grease your palm with coconut oil and divide the banana mash into equal portions. Take a portion and flatten in between your palms.
  • Spoon the coconut mixture in the centre and fold the edges inwards to form a spindle-shaped parcel.
  • Repeat the process until you have enough, while you heat some coconut oil in a pan.
  • Shallow fry the stuffed plantains on both sides until golden-brown and serve when still warm.