The Panni Curry Tradition Of The Ezhava Community, Kerala
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The spring equinox festival of Vishu – which is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Medam – means ‘equal’ pertaining to the Sanskrit word visuvam. Following the Vishukanni on the morning of the festival, a grand sadhya feast is one of the things that people look forward to most on the day. Served on a banana leaf, the meal consists of various components that follow Ayurvedic principles of including the five primary types of tastes. When looked beyond the all-vegetarian spread that is delicious and legendary in its own right, parts of central and southern Kerala are dotted with many communities that consider it special to consume meat during festive occasions.

As a major b**f-eating state, the number of pork consumers in Kerala vary from region to region. Besides some of the Christian communities for whom including pork preparations is part of traditions, the Ezhava community are known to have a tradition where an erachi panni curry is prepared on the eve of Vishu. Hailing from central Kerala, the community – which was considered to be socially backward – upheld the tradition of cooking pork a few times a year, especially during festive occasions. A long-lost food tradition due to the stigma that continues to surround the meat and its eaters, the panni curry is a spicy and aromatic, slow-cooked stew that sits overnight to develop flavours.

What makes the curry special is the use of a freshly-ground spice blend or garam masala, which adds complexity to the non-fussy preparation. To add bulk to the curry, potatoes were added so that it could feed a larger group of people and the curry was consumed with a variety of locally cultivated short-grain rice. As we approach the eve of Vishu, you could also revive a valuable culinary tradition that highlighted the communal differences that divided access to great food.

Ingredients [For Curry]

  • 500 grams curry cut pork
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 15-20 garlic pods
  • 3-inch piece ginger
  • 6 green chillies
  • 2 stalks curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon smoked red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 teaspoons black pepper powder
  • 1.5 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt, to taste

Ingredients [For Garam Masala] 

  • 2-inch piece cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 pieces mace
  • 1 bay leaf

Also Read:

Exploring Sadhya Feast: The Flavours Of Kerala's Rich Cuisine


  • Toast the ingredients for the garam masala in a dry pan before grinding to a fine powder.
  • Grind the ginger, garlic and chillies to a paste and add it to a large pan along with the spice powders.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and sear the pork pieces before setting aside.
  • Toss the seared pork into the aromatic spice mix and coat liberally with your hands, before adding the potatoes and salt.
  • Add in the onions and curry leaves to the pork mixture and allow it to simmer in the kadhai with some water over low heat.
  • Cover with a lid and stir occasionally, allowing the pork to cook for a minimum of 3-4 hours.
  • Once the fat renders and the liquid has evaporated, sprinkle the reserved garam masala on top and toss it around for another 3-4 minutes.
  • The curry should have a thick, scoopable consistency which you can dilute with some hot water if you prefer a gravy. Let the curry rest further for 6-7 hours before you can enjoy it.