My birthplace in India is a stunningly beautiful, historically fascinating, and utterly delicious sliver of the world! The traditional dishes of Kerala are born of its unique geography, a slender stretch of the Malabar coastline, blessed with abundant seafood, agriculture, and spices. Rice, seafood, and coconut dominate our cuisine, in dishes enhanced with the spices for which Kerala is also famous: black peppercorns and mustard seeds, curry leaves and cinnamon, chiles, cardamon and cloves. But our state’s cuisine is also a product of a long history and rich religious diversity. Hindus, Muslims, and Christians have co-existed in harmony in Kerala for centuries and each faith community contributes to the big, wide table. The routines and rituals of what and when we eat, in what combination and order, are complex. They depend on who you are and from where you come, where your parents and grandparents (and their grandparents!) are from, and certainly which faith you follow. It is a tiny state blessed with many cuisines and it is my pleasure to introduce them to you… anytime!
It would be impossible to imagine my life without spices and nowhere is the spice garden more vibrant than in Kerala. My childhood home in Thrissur was surrounded by trees – coconut, mango, jackfruit, breadfruit, plantain, pomegranate, cinnamon, guava, clove, allspice – and by curry leaf plants and pepper vines. It was a garden filled with life and fragrance, and I took it all for granted…until I moved away. This was when I discovered how the scents of my childhood, the memories of the brilliant peaks of color in the spice markets, the essential tools of my trade in the kitchen were all so hard to find in Canada! But over the years that has changed, and though it’s not quite the same as plucking curry leaves from my mum’s trees, I can now find all those essential tools in my new backyard.
I grew up in the mid-sized town of Thrissur, about two hours north of the port city of Kochi. Considered the cultural capital of Kerala, celebrations and festivals are a big part of life there. Family, friends, and food are fundamental to that life.
We’ve loved bringing some of these Kerala celebrations to our restaurants. We supply the food; you bring family and friends!
Joe's Garam Masala
Every cook has their own recipe for garam masala. Once you make it, you will never go back to buying what goes for garam masala in the supermarket. Highly aromatic, it is used to bring extra flavor to many of our dishes, such as grilled steak or chicken, and it can be added to any stir fry as a fragrant finish.
Makes 1/2 cup
- 3 Tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 Tbsp cloves
- 1 Tbsp green cardamom pods
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick,
- 2-star anise
- In a frying pan over medium heat, dry-roast all spices for about 2 minutes, until toasty, crispy, and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Using a spice mill or mortar and pestle, pound into a fine powder.
- Store in an airtight container in a dark place for a couple of weeks. After that, it starts to lose its perfume.