Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kerala food: Kappa (cassava or casava, yuca, manioc, Manihot esculenta)

A banner of Kerala - kappa, shrimps, kallu
Image provided by Narayanan Thampi, Cochin

In Kerala, kappa is a favorite of the people. This root is a secondary staple food that is consumed at breakfast, lunch, dinner or as snack. It is a native of South America. There is a story behind its arrival in Kerala from where it has spread to other parts of India.

Vishakham Thirunal Rama Varma Maharaja (1880-85) of Travancore heard about the properties of this woody shrub and realized its potential. He wanted to popularize it among his people and imported some planting material from Brazil. They were planted in a fenced area. A royal proclamation was made stating that the root of the plant had great qualities and was only for palace use, and any one interfering with the plants would be severely punished. According to the story, all the plants were stolen overnight. Thus the Maharaja achieved his objective of spreading the cultivation of kappa.

But for a long time the carbohydrate-rich kappa remained a poor man’s food. One popular method of cooking it is to cut it into drum shaped (chenda murian) pieces, boiling with salt. It is delicious with chutney made of crushed small red onions, green chili mixed with coconut oil.

Then there is kappa and meen (fish) preferably sardine, curry. This excellent carbohydrate-protein mix became extremely popular and found its way into the homes of the rich as well. It goes well with toddy that is tapped from coconut trees and fermented. Kappa also goes well with meat and shrimps.

The food items made with kappa include biriyani, puzhukku, puttu, pakoda, bondas, chips and puddings. Sago is also produced from it.


Also see:

Kerala food: Peechappam, a forgotten item?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just reading about Kappa and meen curry makes my day!!!Anu.