Must-Try Food in Kochi, Kerala, India
The state of Kerala, India is also known as the Land of Spices owing to its spice plantations & the variety & quality of spices grown. In India, this state is also called God's Own country for its unending green vistas & the backwaters. Kochi, sometimes called Cochin, is the cultural capital of this endowed state & usually the starting city for a Kerala trip. Kochi is just the place for travelers interested in food, beaches & history. And you’ll find that the food in Kochi is the best in Kerala.
Food in Kochi
Kochi cuisine is highly influenced by its location. Sitting pretty along the large coastline—coconuts, rice & fish are the staple ingredients used in Kochi cooking. Being the spice-land that it is, traditional Indian spices like mustard seeds, black pepper, cardamom, clove, tamarind, cinnamon, and asafoetida are used to bring out the flavors of Kochi foods.
You will find coconut prominently in most traditional Kerala dishes. Red semi polished parboiled rice—the healthier rice variety, is generally used. So, one can eat without counting calories. The vegetarian Kochi food is just as mouth watering as the meat dishes, so make sure you try it. The cakes here are excellent—especially the plum cake at Christmas time. It is a must have if you are around for the holiday season.
This Kochi food guide is broken into 2 sections. The first explores the best food in Kochi. Our list of with 10 must-try Kochi foods—everything from traditional Kerala dishes, to the best breakfasts in Kochi, to popular Indian street food! As foodies ourselves, we get that you not only need to know what food to eat in Kerala, but also want to know about the Kochi food experiences you can’t miss like Kerala Sadya, Kochi boathouses, and the spice markets. So, these culinary experiences are the second half of this Kochi guide.
10 Must-Try Kochi Foods
1. Dosa: A Favorite Food in Kochi
Counted amongst the ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’, Dosa is clearly a must-try Kochi food. For an amazing combination, try ghee roast dosa with sambar & coconut chutney. You will be amazed with the flavors. The Dosa batter is prepared with fermented rice and lentils & it is first spread and then roasted till it gets crisp. This world-famous food in Kochi is simply scrumptious!
2. Appam and Stew: Traditional Kerala Dish
A traditional Kerala dish, Appam with stew is light & flavorful. It is a rice pancake with a soft and thick center with crispy, thin sides. Made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk, and coconut water, Appam can be eaten with vegetarian gravies such as stew, and can also be a wonderful side dish for non-vegetarian fare such as chicken curry, mutton etc.
However, this special food in Kerala is usually paired with vegetables or meat stew cooked in creamy coconut curry which will leave you surprised!
3. Idiyappam with Curry: Popular Food in Kochi
A slight variation to the Appam is Idiyappam. Also called string hopper, Idiyappam is a rice noodle dish that entwines a number of thin strands together to give it the lovely texture.
Idiyappam is prepared with rice flour, water and salt & can be paired with almost any curry to taste great!
Order a spicy egg curry or stew at a Kochi restaurant to compliment the otherwise bland Idiyappam.
4. Idli Sambhar: Breakfast in Kochi
Idli Sambhar is one of the most healthy filling & tasty breakfasts. Perhaps the most popular breakfast in Kochi, Idli-Sambar is also eaten everywhere in India!
It is the perfect combo of fermented steamed rice cakes and a spicy curry with aromatic spices and vegetables along with lentils. While it is a favorite of foodies for its taste, Idli Sambar is also nutritious. Nothing beats a plate of soft warm Idlis with steaming Sambhar topped off with a dollop of coconut chutney
5. Kerala Puttu Kadala: Spicy Kochi Breakfast
Kerala Puttu and Kadala curry is a regular vegetarian breakfast savored across Kerala. Puttu is a steamed rice cake that is cooked in a cylindrical shape mould with grated coconut for a tasty and healthy breakfast in Kochi.
Kadala curry is a medium spicy curry of black chickpeas cooked in thick coconut gravy.
6. Avial: Authentic Kerala Dish
An important component of the traditional Kerala feast called sadya, Avial is made with mixed vegetables cooked with ground coconut and flavored with spices. This is a hot pot of all possible vegetables which is eaten with rice. It is one of the most nourishing Kochi vegetarian dishes you can have.
7. Kerala Parotta: Kerala Street Food
Parotta is a type of Indian bread made from flour. The dough is elongated into long strips, which are then rolled together and flattened to form a multi-layered base. This is a delicious Kerala street food with a unique flaky texture that melts in your mouth!
8. Parippu Curry (Dal Curry): Staple Food of Kerala
If you are searching for some food light on the stomach, then you must try out this dal curry. It is actually one of the simplest, but healthiest foods in Kochi. The dal served in Kochi is made of small gram and ghee with a slight amount of spices and chillies.
9. Biryani: Famous Indian Food in Kochi
The very famous Indian dish, Biryani, is rice cooked with meat or vegetables and a good portion of traditional Indian spices in a special way—on dum. The best biryani in Kochi is ”put on dum”—after being sealed, the top of the pot is layered with hot coal. This traditional Indian dish is usually paired with varieties of curd.
10. Payasam: Traditional Indian Dessert
Any list of the best food in Kochi needs dessert! A traditional Indian dessert, prepared during the festival of Onam or any other special occasion is Payasam, or rice pudding, sometimes called kheer. made in almost all the households across Kerala. The traditional version of this dish is made from rice ada, sugar, milk, and ghee. Any special occasion is incomplete without the tasty payasam!
7 Kochi Food Experiences Not To Miss
1. Art cafes in Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi is a small laid-back part of town with interesting art cafes. You can sip on some freshly brewed coffee with pastries or just stroll through the stretches of street art, souvenirs, and handicraft stores.
Some art cafes worth visiting are Kashi cafe, Pepper house & Qissa cafe. While in Fort Kochi, you have a good excuse to visit two great bakeries: Elite bakery & Madonna Cake House.
2. Eat on a Kochi houseboat on the backwaters
You can't miss eating on a houseboat while in Kerala, India. You can hire it for the day or an overnight stay. While floating around on the backwaters of Kochi, you will be served a delicious lunch onboard. The food in Kochi is fabulous, but it’s even better to enjoy it on a Kochi houseboat while admiring the beautiful scenery.
3. Barbeque Fresh Fish in Kochi
For the freshest fish in Kochi, take a turn at pulling in the nets! The local fishermen will show you how the Chinese nets are operated and let you bring in the fish in return for a small monetary donation.
You can have your catch barbequed for one of the most unique Kochi food experiences!
Or for the less adventurous, pick your choice of fish for a quick barbecue at one of the nearby stalls. It will still be some of the freshest fish in Kochi!
4. Mattancherry Spice Markets
Don't miss going to the traditional spice markets in Mattancherry for some authentic Indian spice shopping. There will no doubt be Indian spices you’ve never heard of, and they make good gifts & souvenirs to bring home. The Kochi markets have spices in huge jute bags for trial & sale; these make a great backdrop for colorful pictures.
5. Enjoy Kerala Sadya on a banana leaf
Kerala Sadya is a vegetarian lunch feast prepared specially during festivals and celebrations. Its speciality is it is served on a banana leaf. You will be treated to hot steaming red rice served with aviyal, pachadi, pulissery, olan, sambar,thoran, pappadam & payasam for dessert.
While the most elaborate sadya is served at festival or marriage occasions, there are quite a few restaurants who serve the sadya with an assortment of 10-12 items on banana leaves on a daily basis. The best Kochi restaurants for Sadya are BTH near Jos junction and Dwarka which serves it on special occasions.
6. Kochi Cooking class with local spices
Indian food has a different tang & taste, Kerala food—even more so. If you love what you eat in Kochi, join a cooking class & learn how to make your favorite Kerala dishes. It can be a group class or individual depending on your choice.
7. Banana chips off the cauldron
Banana chips are a favorite food of Kochi. These crunchy yellow chips are made from a local banana variety which are thinly sliced and then deep fried. It is one of the most regular tea-time snacks served around Kerala.
Stalls & shops frying fresh banana chips are found all over the city, but the best banana chips in Kochi are around Ernakulam South Station.
Final thoughts on Food in Kochi
Most of the authentic Kerala dishes we discussed are vegetarian and can have meat or seafood added to them. If you are more of a meat eater, some of the famous Kerala foods you may want to add to your Kochi food list are Nadan Kozhi Varuthathu (Spicy Chicken Fry), Kerala Style Prawn Curry, Kerala Style Fish Molee, Nadan Beef (Kerala Style Beef) & Kappa and Meen Curry.
Are you planning on visiting Kochi, Kerala? Which must-try food in Kochi are you looking forward to trying? Would you enjoy any of these Kochi food experiences? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author
I am Nilima Gautam, also known as The Traveling CA. A Chartered Accountant and Banker by profession but a traveler by passion. I’ve traveled to over 18 countries and all over India.