Traditionally, Iyers are vegetarians. Rice is the staple food. The dishes commonly eaten with rice are Sambhar, RasamSambhar, Rasam, Pitla, Moru koottan, Vattal Kozhambu, Poricha Kootu, Kootu Kari and on special occasions, different Payasams. Their style of cooking depended on the use of til oil or Groundnut oil and mainly consisted of the liberal use of Tur Dal. Rice powder was also used as thickening agent by them in most of their preparations. For pungency they added green chilies or dry red chilies.
The Kerala vegetarian Cuisine was that of the Namboodiris and their famous dishes were Kalan, Rasakalan, Olan, Eriseri, Pulungary Mulagoosiam, MolaguVellam, several Upperis and a host of prathamans. Their major stress has been on the liberal use of coconut, coconut oil and pepper.
The Kerala Iyers modified their traditional dishes based on the knowledge gained in the Namboothiri houses. The result was a really divine cuisine, which was the mixture of both styles of cooking and balanced use of the important ingredients. Recipes for many of their style of cooking are available in several web sites. Outline of some of the recipes of their great dishes are given below.
Sambhar - Unlike the Tamil Nadu style of preparations, Tur Dhal, fried coconut along with Dhania and chilies are added to the Sambhar. In most cases all available vegetables are used together instead of the practice of Tamil Nadu of individual vegetables.
Mezukku Puratti - This is a simple side dish with no spices at all. After boiling the vegetables preferably Plantains, elephant foot yam and edible coleus; they are coated with coconut oil.
Avial - This is possibly a great dish originated by Kerala Iyers. The principle underlying is the use of several vegetables as are available, boiling them together with a souring agent, add ground coconut along with green chilies and later seasoning with raw coconut oil. Depending on different areas of Kerala the souring agents differed. Some of the common souring agents were tamarind, buttermilk and mango. There is a story that the Great Ramaiyan Dalawai formulated this dish when he was employed in the Ootupurai (free mess for brahmins) of Travancore king. In Travancore a special Aviyal is prepared using red amaranth leaves, mango, drumstick and jackfruit seeds.
Kalan - In the traditional Kalan of Kerala the pungency to this was added by the liberal use of ground pepper but the Kerala iyers substituted a part of the pepper with green chilies.
Mulugootal - This is another special Kerala iyer dish, possibly a variant of the Poriichha Kootu of Tamil Nadu. Here the pungency was completely avoided. This is a highly recommended dish if you want to avoid too much spices & tamarind.
Puli Inji - This is a variant of the puliyodarai paste normally prepared in Tamil Nadu and consists of a boiled mixture of Tamarind, Green Chilies and Ginger.
Podithuvals - These were the new side dishes invented by them and consisted of addition of lot of coconut to vegetables.
Podipodicha Pulingari - This is again a variant of traditional sambhar of Tamil Nadu and Pulungari of Kerala. A super variant is the Puducode Pulungari prepared only on all days of Navarathri in the temple at Palakkad.
It is a very interesting fact that the coriander leaves and tomato were rarely used in Kerala and during the rainy season the entire Kerala used to depend on stored vegetables like Ash Gourd, Elephant Foot yam, Cucumber, Colacasia tubers etc.
Needless to say, there exist some differences in the cuisine of Palakkad Iyers, Trichur Iyers and Trivandrum Iyers.
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