Having visited Kumarrokom and Munnar earlier in 2014, a trip to Thrissur (Trichur) though only for a wedding celebration got me really excited; little did I know what was in store for me.
We were going to stay in a friend’s house during our trip unlike the usual hotel rooms which make you over-spend and leave you without a true local experience. Two hours away from Kochi airport, Anthikad (pronounced as Andhikad) is one of the many villages in Thrissur where my friend is from.
We reached in time for lunch and were served a delicious meal on a banana leaf; the meal consisting a mound of red rice, sambar, pineapple and coconut curry accompanied with a typical Kerala preparation of cabbage and coconut with lime pickle. The flavourful meal gave me the first hint about Kerala’s obsession with coconut, the second hint came only few hours later when chicken was being fried in coconut oil while the aroma of coconut wafted through the house windows; it also set the tone for the pre-wedding program the same evening.
Houses in Anthikad village are spaced out over every 50 metres with each house having its own porch and backyard marked by shrubbery.Staying with the locals also gave us the chance to learn words in Malayalam like Accha (Father), Amma (Mother), Chetta (Brother) and Chechi (Sister); I already knew numbers from my previous interactions with people from Kerala or ‘Mallus‘ as they are fondly called, by the rest of the country.
Over the four days, we had a variety of food that would make even a non-Vegetarian change his opinion about vegetarian food. A typical Kerala meal is had on a banana leaf with small portions of side-dishes in the top half and rice in the other half. We started with a simple meal of fat red rice, sambar, pineapple and coconut curry, a dry dish of cabbage and coconut with lime pickle. The sambar made typically made with drumsticks was a little sweet and spicy. The yellow pineapple curry had a sweetness that was balanced with coconut and was clearly my favourite; the dry cabbage dish had a coconut flavour that we all liked.
The evening got better with spicy long orange chips and sweet Appams (round brown balls made from jaggery, rice flour, banana and coconut). The pre-wedding celebration is one where the bridegrooms family invites all the villagers and neighbours for dinner.The people in Kerala like to drink a lot and so in no time the men were drinking while the women and children ate at long tables arranged outside the house. This celebration had fried chicken, a spicy chicken dry dish with rice, sambar, pappadams (papad), a tamarind-based tangy pickle and a variety of other coconut based dry accompaniments with Mor (chaas-like drink) that completed the meal and celebration.
Wedding day celebrations started as early as 7 am as we made our way to Guruvayur Temple (Krishna Temple) is considered one of the most revered temples in Thrissur. Ideally people visiting the temple for the ceremony wear a knee-length silk kurta with a a gold-bordered Mundu (pronounced as mund) – a version of the popularly worn lungi. After the ceremony at the temple, an official ceremony (like a reception) is held in a hall before guests are served lunch which is a real treat and consists multiple dishes on a banana leaf that include Avial (a popular Kerala dish), pappadam, chutneys, mor and payasam.
Breakfast on the three days after our visit included typical dishes eaten in a Kerala household. On the first day, Savoury upma was served with boiled bananas – the bananas are supposed to be mashed with the upma to get the sweet and spicy taste. The next day was Putte (pipe-like food) made from rice powder, coconut, onions and jeera had a rich flavour of coconut and jeera; it was served with boiled bananas too; it is also eaten with papaddams. My last meal in Kerala was Idiyappams for breakfast. The loosely-bound rice noodle preparation is traditionally served with coconut milk but also tastes good with chicken curry.
As Thrissur is known for its different temples, the small market usually has supplies required for temple-goers and different keychains with god-faces among accessories. A vehicle is the best mode of transport if you do not wish to get cheated by the auto-drivers. The tourist attractions closest to Anthikad is the Snehatheeram beach that is pure bliss for anybody. Popular drinks apart from toddy in the town are a sweet and salty Sherbet (a lime and local juice mixture) and the popular Sharjah Shake (Banana and Chickoo milkshake with a generous amount of peanuts), the latter is a must-try while in the town.