MUSTARD SEEDS : is widely used for the preparation of every dishes in Kerala. Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter. There are three main varieties of mustard. All three varieties grow plenty in India and some other countries such as Japan, Great Britain, and Chile etc… Mustard seeds grow well in temperate regions. It is a rich source of oil and protein. Seeds are available
as whole seeds, split seeds or powder and paste. Store mustard seeds in a clean and dry container or jar because it forms clumps when wet. Mustard is used in the tempering of spices. The procedure of heating oil and dropping mustard seeds and cooking them until they pop gives many dishes a distinctive flavour. Mustard oil is also a popular cooking medium in different regions of India. Mustard is really a preservative and they are also used for pickling.
CHILLIES (RED AND GREEN): There is no Indian food without chillies in it. Chillies are fruits of the Capsicum species. They are cultivated mainly in Tropical and Sub-tropical countries. India is the largest producer and exporter of chillies. Ripe chillies which are red in colour are picked from the plant and dried in the sun. Fresh unripe chilli comes in various shades of green and they are better for flavour. Both red and green chillies come from the same plant, it’s just that the peppers change colour as they ripen even further and they have a strong aroma. Chillies are available fresh, dried, powdered and flaked. Chilli powder will lose its strength after a few months but the whole dried chillies will last up to a year if stored in a dry place. Chillies have a higher level of vitamin A and C. We have to be really careful when preparing chillies. Try to avoid contact with the inside part of the chilli and wash hands immediately after use and keep hands away from the face. Chillies add more taste and flavour to the main dish.
CURRY LEAF: The curry leaf come from a beautiful tree called curry tree which grows well in tropical climate and which is native to India. Curry leaf is present in every dish in Kerala, the southern part of India. As the tree is widely grown the leaf cost very cheap price. Curry leaves are available fresh and dried. They are dropped into hot oil that is poured on top of many dishes to add flavour. It lends its lingering aroma to a dish but is not eaten.
TAMARIND: The tamarind tree is an evergreen which is long lived, medium growth bushy tree. Tamarind tree fruit is called Tamarind pod. It is crescent shape and brown with a thin brittle shell. It contains a fleshy pulp. When it is matured the flesh is coloured brown or reddish brown. Within this pulp there is a seed which is dark brown in colour. It is the pulp that is used as flavouring for its sweet, sour taste and is high in acid, sugar, vitamin B and calcium. It is available as a pressed fibrous slab or concentrates paste. Tamarind extract is used in some of the dishes, especially in fish curries to give a sweet and sour flavour to the curry. Tamarind slabs and paste store well and will last for up to a year.
KOKUM: Kokum is native to India and is endemic to the western seaward regions of South India. Kokum tree is of tropical evergreen origin. It is a sour fruit that resembles tamarind. Kokum is deep purple in colour when ripe and have large seeds. Fruits are pickled when ripe, the rind is then removed and soaked repeatedly in the juice of the pulp and then dried under the sun. The rind is used as the flavouring for food. It has a sweet and sour taste and gives some kind of purple colour to the food. Kokum are used to give sour taste to fish curries. It enhances coconut based curries and also added to some vegetable preparations and pickles as well. Kokum is available as a dried rind or fruit. Deeper the colour, better the kokum. It has to be kept in an air tight container, so it last up to a year.
TAPIOCA: In India tapioca represents the root of the plant. The name derived from the ‘Cassava’ or ‘Yuca’ plant. It is often used to thicken soups and sweeten the flavour of the food. Kerala is one of the states in India which use tapioca as staple food. Tapioca is gluten free and almost completely protein free. Fish curry goes well with tapioca.
RED BANANA: is a variety of banana with reddish-purple skin and is smaller in size than other bananas. When comparing to other bananas the red banana is sweeter and softer. Redder the fruit the more taste. It is higher in vitamin C. Red bananas are eaten in the same way as yellow bananas and they are available year round.
BROWN RICE: It is partly milled rice and is a whole, natural grain. Brown rice is nutritious than white rice. This rice is now more expensive because of its low supply and difficult of storage. Brown rice has a shelf life of approximately six to seven months. In Kerala most of the families are using brown rice and rice is the staple food of kerala.