Lesser | Tastes | Kerala | 20th July 2022 | Virtual Wire
It was the monsoon season and I had just come back home from school in the pouring rain. I was shaking off all the water and getting into the house when it hit me in full force.
The aroma. My mother was cooking one of my favourite dishes in the kitchen, and I could already hear my empty stomach growl in response. Trust me when I say I couldn't possibly have run into the house any faster. So suspense aside, please allow me to further elaborate on this lesser-known Kerala dish that I've come to love so much - Kappa biriyani! Kappa biriyani is a widely adored local dish that is special to the state of Kerala in India. Kappa is the Malayalam term for what is generally known as Tapioca or Cassava. The dish is primarily a combination of Tapioca along with some kind of meat like beef, mutton or chicken. Beef, preferably with a bit of both fat and bones, is most popularly used among Keralites. With the dialectical and cultural differences that exist within the state of Kerala, the dish is interestingly known by different names in different regions.
Ellum kappa, kappayirachi and kappa biriyani are some of the more common names given to this dish. The recipe may also have some minor variations as we go from one district to the next. What makes kappa biriyani special is the way in which it is prepared. Grated coconut is fried along with special spices like garam masala, and added to the diced and cooked meat. When all of this is thoroughly mixed and mashed with the cooked tapioca, the dish with its heavenly aroma is guaranteed to have your senses singing. It is usually served hot and doesn't need any sort of side dishes. Oftentimes it is served and eaten from banana leaves instead of plates. This is more of a cultural thing than anything (this way, you won't have to do the dishes either!). On a more personal note, there is an item that I consider indispensable after a hearty meal of kappa biriyani. Black coffee! Of course, this is a matter of personal preference but I've always loved a hot cup of black coffee afterwards.
It's the perfect way to wash down the kappa biriyani which can be quite a heavy dish. However, this is not the classic black coffee I'm talking about. There's a native Kerala twist added to this hot cup of goodness in the form of a unique ingredient - Jaggery! The taste that it lends to the black coffee is wonderful and quite distinct from that of sugar. There are different types of jaggery. So for this purpose, in particular, I'd suggest what is known in Kerala as karipetti chakkara (palm jaggery). The hot and spicy kappa biriyani followed by the sweetness of the black coffee can be described as a very exhilarating and cathartic combination of flavours. On an overall note, kappa biriyani is a people's favourite item across Kerala and is also one of the most popular street foods. However, unlike the other widely popular dishes from the state, there's barely anyone outside of Kerala who has heard of kappa biriyani. You're missing out! So make sure to try out this great Kerala dish when you get the chance!