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A project under Responsible Tourism will serve tourists local cuisine

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A land and its food: Two thousand homes will serve local cuisine to tourists as part of a project under Responsible Tourism

Back to the roots Staples such as sadya and fish curry meals are the popular lunch options, top right, the training session that was held in Ernakulam

Back to the roots Staples such as sadya and fish curry meals are the popular lunch options, top right, the training session that was held in Ernakulam  

The day begins at 3 am for Manju R Kumar. She is to prepare a traditional Kerala sadya for a group of tourists who would visit for lunch. She had bought the vegetables the day before, organised the ingredients and readied the kitchen. All that has to be done is cooking.

Manju has hosted groups of foreign tourists for sadya at her home in Udayanapuram, Vaikkom, in September and recalls how they loved her pineapple pachadi. “They relished it and kept asking for more.”

Over 2,000 women like Manju in the State would be opening their kitchens to tourists as part of the ‘Experience Ethnic Cuisine’ project mooted by the Responsible Tourism Mission of the State Tourism department. Under this project, which would be launched in December, home makers through would host lunches for tourists. The idea is to promote healthy, safe food options and provide income generation opportunities to home makers.

The first phase of the project, held recently in Ernakulam, had 2,018 women participating. Though the project is aimed at involving the family as a whole, 95% of the people who attended were women. From Ernakulam district alone, 412 women attended the session. By next year, the project aims to have at least 6,000 people under the scheme.

In its initial stage, the project aims to showcase local cuisine as an integral part of getting to know a place, says Rupesh Kumar Co-ordinator, State Responsible Tourism Mission. “The homes would act as food stops where simple, local meals could be had,” he says.

The larger idea, he says, is to package the experience of food. Take a local staple such as kappa, for instance. For a tourist, it would be fascinating to see how the tuber is procured, cleaned, prepped and finally cooked before it is relished. The same could be applied to a fish curry—starting with locally-available fish such as mathi, which is made into a curry with thick red chilli paste, or just fried in oil after being marinated in turmeric and red chilli powder. “The project has been conceived in such a way as to encourage homes to welcome tourists and let them enjoy the entire process of cooking,” says Rupesh.

The initial phase, which is on now, involves training the women on identifying and listing out traditional cuisines that they can prepare, steps to be taken while cooking, hygiene, etiquette and how to communicate with the tourists, whether international or domestic. The homes should have clean wash-room facilities and a space to rest, if needed. Designated officials from the RT mission would be conducting training sessions.

A project under Responsible Tourism will serve tourists local cuisine

“Foreign tourists like to know what has gone into the food and how it was made. I try to explain to them what each dish is. I also use spice sparingly,” says Manju. “A traditional Kerala sadya has nothing that is too spicy, except perhaps the pickles, but I still try to reduce spice in sambar and other curries. I also inform the guests what each dish would taste like before they eat it.” She makes two payasams, which the guests seem to love.

The project is also about branding Kerala’s local cuisine. “Kerala has a unique food culture and cooking style, which is slowly being taken over by fast food joints. Even small-time hotels in rural areas are now offering foods that are not indigenous. Today, there is a growing breed of food enthusiasts who travel to places to explore and understand local cuisines and learn how to cook them. Local food is a very important element in tourism and it is the best way to get to know a place,” says Rupesh.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 6:21:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/kerala-homemakers-to-offer-homely-meals-to-tourists/article30097038.ece

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