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  Age on Sunday   05 Aug 2018  Culinary memories of colonial era

Culinary memories of colonial era

Published : Aug 5, 2018, 7:20 am IST
Updated : Aug 5, 2018, 7:20 am IST

Distinctive cooking styles have evolved in Fort Kochi from the intermingling of colonial influences and local ingredients.

Chingri macher jhol
 Chingri macher jhol

There’s a lot more to colonisation than just establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. It leads to the intermingling of cultures, traditions and even cuisines. Fort Kochi was a Dutch colony for more than a century and this, in turn, had many effects on the culinary landscape of the place. The distinctive cooking styles and ingredients of Fort Kochi cuisine were interestingly mixed with those of the Dutch cuisine, creating some lip-smacking delicacies that are found nowhere else in the world.  Legend has it that there were seven bastions in Fort Kochi, built by the Portuguese and strengthened by the Dutch.  Here are some recipes that will take you to the Dutch era yet keep every bit of the taste of Kerala cuisine very much alive. These include improvised versions of some old favourites, hand-picked from the ring of Indian Ocean spots that witnessed Dutch influence from the early 1600s. Eclectic as the cuisine is, it uses local ingredients, particularly the famed spices of Kerala and is a fusion play of a high order. 


Chingri macher jhol is a Bengali prawn curry with a Dutch influence. Preparation with panchphoran, mustard oil served with hing tempered yoghurt tomato.
(Yield: Four portions)

800 gm of deveined tiger prawns    
1/4 tsp turmeric powder    
12 gm chopped garlic    
10 gm chopped ginger    
125 gm chopped onion    
65 ml coconut milk    
½ +1 pinch scrapped coconut    
1 tbsp mustard oil    
1 green chilli    
1/4 tsp cumin seeds    
1/4 tsp mustard seeds    
1/4 tsp red chilli powder    
1 tbsp cumin powder    
1/4 tsp garam masala powder    
1/4tsp sugar    
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste


Marinate the prawns with salt and turmeric powder for 15 minutes.     
Heat 3 tbsp mustard oil in a non-stick pan. Add prawns and sauté for 1 minute. Transfer them to a bowl. Heat  remaining oil and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds. When they start spluttering, add green chillies, ginger-garlic paste and grated coconut. Sauté for a while. Add red chilli powder, cumin powder, garam masala and a pinch of sugar to balance the flavours. Mix well and cook for few minutes. 
Remove the pan from heat and grind the contents to a fine paste.
Transfer the paste to a pan; add enough coconut milk and the prawns. 
Cook it till the gravy thickens and prawns are done. 
Serve hot with cilantro pulao, hing tempered tomato and pineapple chutney.

Cilantro rice

180 gm Kaima rice    
125 ml ghee    
4 cloves    
4 cardamoms    
1/4 tsp peppercorn     
1/2 piece cinnamon     
50 gm sliced onion    
10 gm chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste


Heat ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and sauté the spices and onion. Add rice and stir for a while. 
Pour the stock and cook the rice. Add salt. When the rice is cooked and water evaporated completely, add coriander leaves.

Hing tempered tomato

125 ml curd 
5 ml oil
2 gm mustard seeds
1 whole red chilli
1 sprig curry leaves
1 gm hing
5 gm finely chopped coriander leaves 
Salt to taste
125 gm thick sliced tomato 


Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. 
Add red chilli, curry leaves and hing powder to the oil. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the contents to a bowl. 
Cool it in room temperature and add curd, coriander leaves, tomato and salt.

Pineapple chutney

125 gm pineapple chopped
12 ml mustard oil
1 gm panch phoron1 gm crushed red chilli
Salt and sugar to taste


Grind all the ingredients togther into coarse paste and serve.

Food of the settlers 

The colonial visitors to Fort Kochi brought many things to comfort them on their long trading spells away from their homeland. One such is the Breudher bread that is a Dutch speciality, which is the bestseller in the menu of East Indies. However, the recipe for this sugar-plum loaf that has its name derived from the Dutch word for bread ‘broodje’ is a long-kept secret. Authentic Breudher bread is baked only at the little-known Quality Bakery in Fort Kochi. The Anglo-Indians call it the Dutch cake and its close derivatives are still very popular in the erstwhile Dutch-colonised parts of Sri Lanka. Breudher has a distinct flavour and a lingering aroma. Its texture is more like bread whereas the flavour is more like a cake, especially the Kerala plum cake. Maida, sugar, eggs, butter/ghee, yeast and raisins are the key ingredients in this breakfast cake eaten on festive days, especially Christmas mornings. The recipe has many local variants based on minor changes in the ingredients used. The most unique and interesting part is the way it is eaten. Though it is still unknown if the style was introduced by Malayalees or the Dutch, in Kerala, it is enjoyed with the green Kerala banana. 



Frikkadal, also known as frikadeller, is one of the most popular national dishes in Denmark. Its a preparation of ground lamb, beef, lemon grass, fenugreek, tomato
(Yield: Four portions)


75 gm minced beef     
75 gm minced lamb     
25 gm breadcrumbs    
12 gm chopped onion     
7 gm chopped ginger    
2 gm cinnamon powder    
2 gm pepper powder 
Juice of 1/2 lime
Paprika powder according to taste 
250 ml oil for frying
Salt to taste



Eggplant and mushroom cooked in Indonesian coconut based gravy, seasoned with lemon grass

Soya and tamarind with lemon rice
Yeild: Four Portions

125 gm zucchini     
125 gm button mushroom    
125 gm eggplant    
3 star anise    
3 lemongrass stems    
2 kaffir lemon leaves    
5 gm chopped cilantro
3 tsp grated coconut     
125 ml coconut milk    
25 ml soya sauce    
13 gm crushed coriander     
5 gm turmeric powder    
2 gm paprika powder    
13 gm palm sugar    
25 gm tamarind pulp    
Salt to taste
65 ml oil    
200 gm boiled rice        
2 lemon



Pan fry the mushroom, eggplant, and zucchini.
Sauté the star anise in 1 tbsp oil and add crushed lemongrass stem, ground coriander, lime leaves, coconut, the spice powders, tamarind pulp and some water. Cook the contents in the pan for a while.
Take out the lemongrass stem and lemon leaves, mix coconut milk to the pan fried vegetables. Add chopped coriander leaves. Mix well and serve hot with lemon rice (mix the hot rice with cilantro, lemon juice and salt) and salad.

Mix salad

7 gm shredded spinach    
7 gm shredded lettuce     
7 gm shredded zucchini    
20 gm shredded bell peppers    
6 gm wedges of cherry tomato     
6 gm  coriander leaves chopped    
6 gm pomegranate seeds    
Salt and pepper    
Vinaigrette dressing
Mix all ingredients in a bowl to make the salad.

For the sauce

5 gm chopped garlic     
5 gm chopped ginger    
3 gm chopped green chilli     
25 gm chopped onion     
25 gm blanched and chopped tomato     
Salt and pepper powder to taste    
1/4 tbsp honey     
1/2 tbsp tomato puree    

For chips
1 raw banana     
25 gm dry shrimps powder    
Refined oil for frying

Season the meat with salt, pepper and cinnamon. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Make small meat balls each weighing 25 gm. Deep fry the meat balls until golden brown.
For the sauce, heat oil in a pan and sauté ginger, garlic, green chilli and onion. Once the contents change colour to a light brown, add chopped tomato and sauté well. Add tomato puree with little water or stock. Once the stock is cooked and thickens, add honey, sugar and seasoning.
For chips, deep fry the banana slices in hot oil, and dust with dry shrimps powder.

Recipes by Executive Chef Mathai Thomas, from the restaurant East Indies, in CGH Earth’s Eighth Bastion hotel

Tags: food and recipes, fort kochi