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Eat Local – Cochin, Kerala, India

Food Market, Kerala, India

One of my main aims when travelling is to experience as much culture as I can. I simply love getting down and dirty with the locals. From eating out to visiting the sense assaulting markets, there is nothing I enjoy more!  When I visited India in October, I was lucky enough to meet a lovely lady called Neema who shared my passion for food. Neema agreed to show me a few local recipes and starting with a visit to Cochin market.

Neema is a local who was born and raised in Chochin and having travelled with her husband, a boat captain, all over the world she now loves that it is her turn for tourists to visit her. She settled back in Chochin 10 years ago so her daughter could go to school and she is about to expand her business to a second cooking theatre due to the growing demand for her lessons, as you can imagine she is a regular at the market.

We started at the market and it was fantastic. It was everything I wanted it to be, smelly, hectic, loud, packed full of market stalls and extremely lively. As Neema haggled and bartered I wandered through the streets and took in as much of the hustle and bustle as I could. It was brilliant. Being a white tourist I was clearly a rare sight amongst it all and loved the attention!

Everything you can imagine was sold at the market with all stalls overlapping with the produce on offer, there was everything on offer from Chinese potatoes, carrots and pineapples through to spices and rice. Once I’d settled in I realised it was far more organised that I initially appreciated and there was a clear procedure to it all; the trucks would unload and the carriers would bring in bags, baskets and sacks of the produce to the stall holders to sell. Each stall has a carrier, a skilled local who carries the produce on their head, who keeps their stall fully stocked at all times. I cannot even imagine how heavy the loads are and the practise and skill it takes to move with such efficiency.

Attached to each stall was a book keeper, often the owner who was stationed behind a desk with a calculator and book who decided on the prices. I loved chatting to the owners who, it all seemed, took over the position from an older family member, they all took such pride in their stalls and what they sold. The spices and rices were all sold in large sacks, there was a rice trader who explained he sold 7 types of rice, I didn’t even realise there were so many types on offer. One row of stalls only sold bananas, clearly tough competition but only goes to show the produce is all brought and sold based on quality, which I wholly agree with.

Once Neema had all her produce we headed back to the cool and calm of her kitchen to cook lunch, over the next hour we cooked three savoury dishes and a sweet dish. It was brilliant learning the about all the spices, the do’s and don’t’s and tricks of the trade. The recipes were simple, everything was neatly laid out on arrival so we managed to get a four course meal ready pretty efficiently. Learning from Neema who was patient, informative and clearly very experienced in teaching was a pure pleasure, what a way to spend a morning.

After a delicious lunch which was accompanied by additional dishes made prior to the cooking session I headed off, recipes in hand excited to get cooking back home. The next café lock in can expect a curry for sure!

 

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