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Oct 8, 2002 06:43 PM

Kerala restaurants?

  • k

I am going to be in Chicago next week, and am wondering whether there are any Kerala (South Indian "Spice Coast") restaurants worth trying. Have heard a lot about them (including the fact that a PBS show was done about the region recently). Just wondering if there are any places to try what looks like some very interesting foods.

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  1. Hi!

    I'm acquainted with the Bruce Kraig who was the host of the PBS program on the Kerala region of India.

    He hosted a dinner prepared by the restaurant 'Monsoon'which recently opened. It is an Indian fusion restaurant which was the topic of thread posted below. It was reviewed in Chicago Magazine in advance of it's doors opening.

    According to Bruce Kraig, the indian restaurant Tiffin on Devon Avenue in Chicago also offers foods from Kerala region. If you do a search for Tiffen on this board, then you will find diverse opinions on its authenticity. However, I am simply relaying what I was advised.



    19 Replies
    1. re: cathy2

      I've seen little evidence of kerala food among tiffin's offerings though the folks who run it may be from kerala (I think they also own udupi palace)

      If you scan down the board look for info on two places that are mostly catering but also will prepare food for carry out - Malabar catering and banana leaf - both of these places offer food from kerala

      1. re: zim

        I know that Mysore India serves southern Indian vegetarian, not sure about Kerala though.

        1. re: dougk

          udipi (sp?) on devon ave. is "dakshin" in style but unless you are very sophisticated this is more similar to kerala than most other styles.

          1. re: dougk

            Mysore woodlands is not a kerala place. It features dhosas, uttapam and other foods which are from the south -the menu is very similar to udupi palace.

            A little bit of background - Udupi is a city in karnataka which is famous for "inventing" the dhosa and as such many places that do this and associated foods are named after it. In Mysore (also in karnataka but close to the border with kerala (and also andhra pradesh) there is a famous dhosa place named "Woodlands" hence the name of the other most common dhosa places.

            Keralan (also known as malayalee) food is different form these cuisines on a number of fronts. If you want a little more info look at recent threads about kerala, in those i put a link to some keralan recipes:

            there is more meat because of the presence of muslim fisherman and a christian minority. Some of the meat offered is beef. Fish is also common given kerala's geography on the coast. Though fish also plays a part in the cuisines of other s. indian states you won't commonly find it at dhosa places

            Rice is everywhere - folks form kerala have the highest per capita rice consumption in India

            The use of coconut and coconut milk in "curries" gives the flood a sort of se asian feel.

            There is one other regional s. indian restuarant that I'm aware of in the city but it features food from andhra pradesh not kerala named sizzle india- if you look down the board you'll see a little bit of talk about it (some dislike the atmosphere and service quite a few enjoy the food)


            1. re: zim

              I always screw up that name for some reason. And thaks for the geography, seriously. My regional knowledge of India is weak at best.

              1. re: dougk

                no problem,

                I have to correct my own geography though - when I said mysore was close to both andhra and kerala, I mispoke - its in karnataka close to tamil nadu and kerala


                1. re: zim
                  Vital Information

                  Zim, I love the maps. Great use of the chowhound image feature!

                  I am still learning much about Indian regional cusine myself. My question, how much do the Indian States match with Indian ethnic groups/regional food. In other words, does each state correspond to a unique type of eating, or do several states share the same kind of food.

                  Obviously, there could be broad generalizations, like the difference between northern/southern italian food, but does each state have its own dishes, the way each region in Italy has its own dishes?

                  1. re: Vital Information

                    First off I should say that I am by no means an expert, this is only stuff I've picked up through my family, curiousity and visits, and I would welcome corrections, amplifications, or folks chiming in from this board or any other.

                    I think that in terms of regional foods the cuisine follows the language lines more closely than official state lines. The language lines tend to more closely follow the pre-federalization of india.

                    Within these broad groupings there are differences in food, often associated with particular religious pospulations (as in the difference between hindu and muslim kashmiri food) or sometimes by the presence of a evolved "court" cuisine (delhi, lucknow, hyderabad). Most of the meat dishes/creamy sauces you see in restuarants are represantations of that "court" cuisine (mughlai).



                    1. re: zim


                      What does pradesh mean?


                      1. re: annieb

                        loosley translated -"state"

                        1. re: zim

                          What an awesome education in Indian cuisine, geography and culture! Thank you very much, all. By the way, if anyone is interested in a cookbook on Kerala foods, here is one: Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala, by Maya Kaimal. That's how I learned about Kerala foods in the first place. The book is available on Amazon, and apparently there is a way to order Amazon products, and get them to contribute a commission to Maybe someone can post that link.

                          1. re: zim


                            Thanks. I thought it might be something like that, but you never know.

                      2. re: Vital Information

                        Here is a link that I have had bookmarked for a while that has some explanations and recipes for regional Indian cuisines.

                        I have not tried anything from this site, but I also have a few couple of regional Indian cookbooks at home. If you do some hunting around on the google there is a ton of information out there.


            2. re: cathy2

              Thanks, cathy2! Tiffin is one of my favorite Indian places in Chicago, so if I go there while I am in town this time I will see if there are any Kerala dishes to be found. And I may try Monsoon as well.

              1. re: Kirk

                Hi Folks !.. I've been following this thread and I believe its high time to chip in with my thoughts...Here is my 2 cents.

                Frankly speaking, the kerala variety food offered by the above restaurants will come NO WAY near the authentic Kerala (malayaleee) cusine.

                As mentioned above Kerala cusine is entirely different from other South indian cusine with its true flavour of meat (beef) usage in the cusine and also the dominance in fish variety food combined with usage of coconut milk in curries. This is totally different from Idli and dhosa based other south indian cusines.

                If you want to experience true Kerala food, then I would strongly recommend finding an authentic Kerala restaurant instead of South indian restaurant. I strongly believe, the so called South indian restaurants cannot do justice to the food.

                I am not sure about Chicago, but in cities like NY and Boston, I believe there might be at least couple of Kerala cuisine specific restaurants.

                Cheers !

                1. re: mrjonie

                  High time is right, I guess.
                  6 yrs?

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    A website search on the words "Kerala Chicago" or "Malabar Chicago" or even "Malayalam Chicago" should yield dozens of very long, very detailed threads on Malayalam (i.e. Keralan) cuisine in Chicago. Here are two threads on Malabar which has since moved from the old Montrose location and is now in Glenview, offering exactly the same terrific food (which as I explained in the old threads is Christian Keralan) they cooked back when they were still in the city.

                    The new location is this:
                    Royal Malabar
                    911 Greenwood Road
                    Glenview, IL
                    (847) 998 5630

                    On the search, you will also finds old posts by ReneG probably from late 2002 on Banana Leaf, which is now closed but was located just south of Thai Aree on Milwaukee).

                    The Keralan grocery located not far from the old location of Malabar is also gone (I reported being able to find things like kodumpoli there). But there is a little store specializing in Malayalee stuff also in Glenview whose name escapes me at the moment. Royal Malabar should be able to tell you where it is.

                    In the old days of this website, threads do not jump to the top with each new post, so conversations on the board took place over the course of years on many many discontinuous threads. Just bec there was no information on THIS thread doesn't mean that there were no subsequent discussions or discoveries on later threads. It simply meant that the discourse moved on elsewhere: not just into one other thread but into a long series of many other threads. It took many many threads to build consensus of knowledge or taste on a huge range of different subjects. You kinda have to piece these threads over time to understand the kind of work that was done during a certain period. This is true of many other discoveries of the period: the process of the discovery of hidden secret Isaan menus in Chicago for instance.

                    Two of many odl threads on Kerala in Chicago

                    1. re: RST

                      Malabar wasn't the only regional southern Indian cuisine we lost to the suburbs in the past 3-4 years. We also lost Sizzle India which offered absolutely top-notch Andhra cooking (and a truly truly stunning homemade gongura chutney) on Devon. Apparently the Sizzle India in the western suburbs (Schaumburg I think, and same owner I think) is still doing quite well. Sizzle India was probably the one Indian restaurant on Devon I loved the most back when it was still around.


                      1. re: RST

                        Kairali - grocery and carry out Kerala food
                        Malabar carry out
                        Elite catering for carry out

                        My favorite is elite