Keralan Food from Kappa Stories, a Ghost Kitchen Concept in Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Although they had already existed prior to the pandemic, ghost kitchens rose in popularity during COVID-19. Now, you may be asking, what is a ghost kitchen? In short, ghost kitchens are concepts where one kitchen might be shared among chefs preparing any number of cuisines, specifically for take-out or delivery … in other words, no on-site dining space.

The key fact about ghost kitchens that eluded this food blogger was that they lack a dining area. So, when I was in Trivandrum (also known as Thiruvananthapuram), Kerala, India, scoping out the internets for a nice place to try local Keralan foods, I took Uber to a place called Kappa Stories, part of the Chilli Pepper Kitchens ghost kitchen concept.

Lo and behold, no dining tables:

chilli pepper kitchens signage
Visiting the Ghost Kitchen of Chilli Pepper Kitchens, Trivandrum, Kerala, India

In the case Chilli Pepper Kitchens, they offer three different “food choices:” Pan-East Asian at Samurai Hanzo’s, Pan-Indian at Khao, and local Keralan food at Kappa Stories; kappa, meaning tapioca in the Keralan language of Malayalam, is a very popular ingredient in the cuisine.

I wanted South Indian food, and I wanted as local as possible. I’m talking about coconut, tapioca, fish curry, and dried fried beef?

Really?

Thanks to the generally peaceful melding of Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism in Kerala, beef is a common addition to menus.

Fortunately, the COO of Chilli Pepper Kitchens, Mr. R. Swathi Krishnan, happened to be at the helm, assisting me translate “realllly spicy” to the chefs. When I told him that the Google Maps mentioned nothing about Kappa Stories being a ghost kitchen, he kindly drove me to Poojapura Roundabout so that I could eat seated at one of the park benches.

Keralan dinner Kappa Stories kitchen
A Delightful Mix of Flavors and Textures at Kappa Stories, Trivandrum, India

Want to dine with me? Check out my ad hoc review of Kappa Stories:

Kerala Set My Mouth on Fire, Part 1: The Fish Dish of Kovalam

After a 16-year hiatus, I revisited India, spending one week in the South Indian state of Kerala.

Although it sounds like a short trip, I was able to cram a lot of different meals into those days, spread out over three primary locations: Kovalam, Trivandrum (aka Thiruvananthapuram), and Kochi (aka Cochin).

south indian set meal
Truly One of the Best Fish Dishes I’ve Ever Tried, Kovalam, Kerala, India

Starting with Kovalam, a beach-centric suburb of Trivandrum in the southern part of the state of Kerala, one particular lunch was a feast; I can gladly say that it was one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had, the bizarre presence of grape juice notwithstanding.

A typical South Indian set meal is called sadya (സദ്യ, in the predominant Kerala language of Malayalam), and is served with a variety of vegetable curries surrounding a heaping portion of white rice. You scoop it all up with your hands, and can even ask for refills!

If you’d like to see me embarrass myself struggling with the chilies while attempting to scoop up rice, check out the video below–

Although it’s much easier to find North Indian-influenced cuisine in the United States due to immigration patterns, I’d highly recommend seeking out sadya, or even try preparing one yourself … though banana leaves might be in short supply!

Raita (India)

If you enjoy sampling food from the Indian subcontinent, or something’s just a wee-bit too spicy for you to handle, you may want to try this Indian condiment.

Raita (रायता), or pachadi (పచ్చడి) in some southwest Indian states, exists for the hotheads (hmm, chili lovers?) and calcium-cravers in many of us. Primarily, it contains yoghurt, cucumber, mint, and garlic, with cumin and fried chickpea batter as bonus additions (per Times of India).

Singapore - Raita

The raita I’m used to eating- a more fluid variant with diced cucumbers- is not typically as generous as the carrot, red onion, cilantro, cumin, black mustard, and chili-filled one above.  As a matter of fact, raita can even count among its ingredients pumpkin, banana and peanut, though in my view, adding those denser foods makes it more of a snack than an accompaniment.  But look who’s talking, I ordered three extra side plates in Singapore, making it a second lunch- the only other thing I needed at the time was a naan-wallah.


Do you like raita?

Guatemala, the World’s Largest Cardamom Exporter?

Source: https://qtradeteas.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/cardamom/

Source: Qtradeteas

Cardamom, that pungent and fierce member of the ginger family, was likely first discovered in the Western Ghats of India.  It has been used for thousands of years as a breath freshener, tooth cleaner, and carminative. It is also one of the world’s most expensive spices, as it involves significant manual labor to process.

Although it is most popularly used in South Asian curries, you can also find it in Scandinavian desserts, such as Sweden’s semla, and for the amusement of food bloggers, in Guatemalan chocolate.

Antigua, Guatemala - Cardamom Chocolate (2)

Wow, cardamom really gets around.

Though the Vikings discovered cardamom in their voyages, how did this light green spice make its way to Guatemala?

Prior to World War I, German coffee farmer Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced cardamom to the fertile soil of Alta Verapáz.  Guatemala is currently the world’s largest exporter of cardamom, though hardly uses it on the domestic front, save for adding it to bars of local chocolate much to the delight of self-described food bloggers.  Most of it is shipped to the Middle East and India, where it is used in coffee and biryani.

Desserts: Rasgulla (India)

Dhaka - Rasgulla

Given Names: Rasgulla, Rasagola

 chhena*, maida*, sugar syrup, (lemon juice)

Background: Apparently, rasgulla is one of the oldest Indian desserts, arguably created in either Odisha or West Bengal (two present-day Indian states). According to legend, it was frequently used as an offering to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Verdict: Rasgulla is one of the more approachable Indian sweets.  Although it is soaked in sugar, I feel that the lemon juice and maida helped reduce the sugar’s potency.  Sometimes cardamom and/or rose water are added, as well as pistachios, though the latter serves more as a garnish.  Still, upon looking at that giant bowl of sugar syrup, how could you not want to go bobbing for rasgulla?

*chhena (Hindi)= a curd cheese made from water buffalo milk
maida= refined and bleached wheat flour, common in Indian breads and desserts
mithai= sweets/confectionery

If Food Had Passports: Guatemalan Cardamom

Source: https://qtradeteas.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/cardamom/
Source: Qtradeteas

Ever since I started raiding the breath freshener (and carminative) trays at Indian restaurants, I’ve been curious about cardamom.  Whereas my usual reason for diving into those trays was for the candy-coated fennel seeds, the inimitable aggressive and unique flavor of cardamom always stood out.  When else could I find the expensive pods in my food?  Atop biryanis, in milk and as a seasoning for teas.

And in Antigua, Guatemala, in chocolate:

Antigua, Guatemala - Cardamom Chocolate (2)Prior to World War I, German coffee farmer Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced cardamom to the fertile soil of Alta Verapáz.  Guatemala is currently the world’s largest exporter of cardamom, though hardly uses it on the domestic front, save for adding it to bars of local chocolate much to the amusement of self-declared travel/food bloggers.  Most of it is shipped to the Middle East and India, the latter of which frequently expressing sour grapes over one of its native crops.

If you’re curious about the history of cardamom – a distant relative of my favorite root, ginger – visit the Western Ghats of India to discover its origin.


Are you a fan of cardamom?  Have you ever been to Guatemala?

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