Why Coconut Is Synonymous To South Indian Cooking? Know Here

You might be taken aback by the overwhelming green that welcomes you as you approach the landing zone as you fly into Kerala. It is obvious why Kerala, or Keralam (as it is known in Malayalam), is called 'alam' meaning the country of and 'kera' meaning coconut since there is a sea of palm fronds that spreads as far as the eye can see. Coconuts not only rule the archipelago of the country, but they are also inextricably linked to the culture and mythology of the Malayali people. Every celebration includes it as a component of the foods made, as an offering to the gods, and to commemorate special occasions (by breaking a coconut). Its unique name of "KalpaVriksham" comes from its intimate ties to the palm tree. 

Protein and saturated fats, of which lauric acid is the most significant, are abundant in coconut kernels. The ability of lauric acid to prevent atherosclerosis has contributed to the increased global acceptance of this oil. But, coconut oil, or velichanna as it is known there, has long been the oil of choice in Kerala. It has a very distinctive, smokey flavour that has long been connected to Malay food. The coconut kernel must first be dried in order to produce refined, commercial-grade coconut oil. Later, mechanical pressure is used to extract the oil from the dried kernel (copra). The oil is subsequently packaged using a filtration procedure. While copra is used to make copra oil, virgin coconut oil is created from fresh coconut kernels. Because of this, the flavour is often less noticeable. 

Coconut oil is used in households to prepare a wide range of foods, from the intricate like a meen pollichathu to the straightforward like whipping up an omelette to eat with puttu. For deep frying parippu vada or banana chips for tea, its high smoking point makes it perfect. The specialties of Kerala frequently use coconut milk, which is a staple in many other cuisines around the globe. When added to curries, it plays the part of taming strong flavours, making them delicate, while amplifying the richness. It follows thus that the inclusion of coconut milk in a number of the region's most well-known characteristic dishes, such as fish moiley or payasam, gives them a silkier, more nuanced flavour. Extraction of fresh coconut milk is simple if you have fresh coconut kernels on hand. Grate the coconut and then grind it in a food processor until it resembles mulch.  

You may get the first extract, which is rich and creamy, by straining it through a muslin cloth or sieve. To obtain more diluted milk, the second extract, put the coconut solids back into the blender, add a little water, and process once more. Since too much heat tends to break down the milk solids, the more concentrated first extract is typically used at the very end of the cooking process to curries and payasams. 

Coconut sap is used to make coconut palm jaggery, which is a wonderful sweetener that gives payasams and other dishes a richer, more caramel flavour. A favourite use of jaggery however is in a cup of black coffee, with a pinch of cinnamon. 17% of the world's supply of coconuts is produced in India, with Kerala accounting for 45% of that total. The Malayali have a sweet relationship with coconuts, from using it as a nourishing oil that is thought to be the key to a Malayali woman's thick, black hair to being the secret ingredient in the finest fish fry you have ever tasted.