A food lover’s guide to Kozhikode

From sweet and spicy pathiri and chicken vadivelu to fried ice cream and frothy green Tsunami, the seaside city offers a blend of new-age restaurateurs and old-world chefs

Updated - July 03, 2016 03:48 pm IST

Published - July 01, 2016 06:22 pm IST - Chennai

“Every sulaimani must be made with a pinch of love. When you drink it, the world should move slow… and then pause,” says the old restaurateur to his grandchild in the 2012 film, Ustad Hotel . He couldn’t have been more right.

One glass of this lemon tea feels like a million hugs. The piping hot sulaimani at Zains kick-started our food walk around Kozhikode beach. A favourite adda for authentic Muslim delicacies, during Ramzan, the place teems with people. Pazham nirachathu , deep-fried nendran pazham (raw banana) pieces stuffed with coconut and sugar, is the most sought-after evening snack. Chatti pathiri , a sweet, layered pastry stuffed with raisins, nuts and fruits, is my favourite. The spicy version, irachi pathiri , comes with a chicken stuffing. Not to forget the mutta mala — yellow strings of egg yolk mixed in sugar and water — and varieties of biryanis.

The restaurant, headed by Zainabi Noor is a favourite haunt of Mollywood actors like Mohanlal, Jayaram, Suresh Gopi and Asif Ali.

Zainabi and her husband started this restaurant when they moved here from Dubai, as she wanted to give people a taste of Persian delicacies. “We are happy when people tell us they find the food healthy and the place hygienic,” says Shirin Mustafa, Zainabi’s daughter, who supervises the hotel.

A participant in reality cookery shows, Shirin enjoys fusing the naadan (local) with the global. In one of her many inventions, pav chicken, she makes pav bhaji the Kozhikode style, stuffing the bread with coconut-based chicken gravy.

History lurks in every eatery in Kozhikode. Like the French Bakery, which was frequented by the French and British in colonial times. The café was the first to serve cakes and cutlets in the city. The chicken cutlet and mutton liver here are worth waiting all day for.

One of the customers says the area used to be frequented by Anglo-Indians. “It was relatively the more liberal part of Kozhikode, where girls and boys used to hang out.”

Many European and Arab traders used to come to the city’s valiyangadi (big bazaar) for trading spices and pepper. Aneez Adam, a foodie from the city, has recreated the concept in his new restaurant, Adaminte Chayakkada. In the place of cushions on seats, you have sacks just like the ones that used to be unloaded at the bazaar. The boards are in Malayalam with a Malabar accent. Like Kazhicholee (please eat), Kerikkolee (welcome), Selfie mukku (selfie corner), Qitab mukku (recipe corner), Ummummante Sarbathukal (grandmother’s sarbath) and so on.

An investment banker and an MBA graduate, Aneez wanted to promote traditional cuisine among youngsters. “I have grown up on my ummumma’s cooking. Food served here is just like it is cooked at home: We take care to not use MSG or additional flavours,” he says. Chicken pottitherichathu (bursting chicken), chicken cheeripanjathu (racing chicken) and chicken vadivelu (fried chicken)... it’s heaven for non-vegetarian lovers.

Then there is Aalibhai’s Thattukada in a quaint 200-year-old building where Arab traders used to stay. The ceiling resembles that of thatched huts and dim yellow lights remind you of Petromax lamps.

The dishes are quirky and modern, like a sizzler-inspired beef variyellu roast served on a bed of carrots and beans, or the ice cream porichathu (a batter-fried vanilla scoop drizzled with chocolate sauce). Round off the meal here with kava , a special tea made of spices, dried ginger, pepper and cardamom.

Around the beach, there are many eateries offering everything from shawarma and mussel fries to local cool drinks and ice creams. However, when dusk sets in, young boys sporting mohawks and spikes make a beeline for Sidhanandan chettan’s Dhanalakshmi Cool Drinks, a small shopfacing the sea.

His USP is Tsunami, a frothy green drink made of coriander and curry leaves, green chillies, vinegar, green salted mango, and garlic. “Look at the froth that rises like waves! Isn’t it apt?” he laughs.

Also try his sweet kulukki sarbat , refreshing lemonade, with sugar syrup and khus khus . “The quality of the drink depends on how well you shake it for the ingredients to mix well,” he says.

My childhood memories of Kozhikode are always flavoured with the scent of roasted peanuts and sliced mangoes. But now, Kozhikode teems with both new-age restaurateurs and old-world chefs. As a fervent foodie from the city once told me, “If there is a food heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”

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