Ayala Varuthathe - Mackerel fry, Malabar style

It's funny how people come up with some terms. I've been learning a few new terms ever since I moved to Cochin. 'Chill-mode' is one of those. On a chill-mode day we stay at home all day lazying around, mostly with some very precious bottles of Bacardi breezers. Ya, that's right, breezers are pretty precious for us Kochites, we don't get them here, b'coz of some government regulation, and have to request our friends visiting from Bangalore and Hyderabad to get us some. The past 2 years that I have been here I've had the hope that someday they're gonna start selling it here. But now, thanks to new rules, that hope is dead. I really have no idea how the Mallu alcoholics are gonna survive this. Doesn't make a difference to us breezer drinkers, since we never did get it here to begin with.

Anyway back to food, so as I was saying, tonight's chill-mode for us, my friend Parvathi and me. And since we were gonna be downing some breezers, we got some fish to fry as "touchings" with the breezers. Touchings is something spicy that's eaten as a side-dish with alcohol, I know breezers aren't much to call alcohol, but technically they are. So, tonight's touchings was Ayala Varuthathe, Mackerel Malabar style. A very simple recipe, but thought I'll put it up for some of my friends who are upcoming Malabary cookers ;)

Ingredients for Ayala Varuthathe

  1. Ayala - 2, cut, cleaned and striped
  2. Chilli powder - 1 ½ Tbsp.
  3. Turmeric powder - ½ Tsp.
  4. Pepper powder - 1 Tsp. 
  5. Salt - ½ Tbsp. or as per your taste
  6. Lime juice - 1 Tsp.
  7. Coconut oil - To shallow fry, about 3 Tbsp. on a non-stick pan.


  • Cut and clean the fish, and give it 5-6 stripes horizontally over the entire length, so that the marinade can seep in well. 
  • Mix the ingredients 2 to 6 in a bowl, add a few drops of water if required and make a slightly thick paste and marinate the fish in it for about half an hour. 
  • Heat a flat pan, add the oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, place the marinated fish on it. Fry on a medium-slow heat for about 5 minutes on each side or till you feel its cooked to your liking.
  • Ayala Varuthathe is ready!

Kayi curry, raw plantain slices cooked in coconut milk gravy

I've always wanted to be a vegetarian, if not for anything else, at least to help me lose some weight. But who am I fooling.. the minute I set eyes on some delicious fish curry or chicken fry, I lose all control. I've decided not to give up so easily though.. am on a path of research now, discovering new recipes with vegetables that resemble their non-vegetarian counterparts. And hopefully, I'd be able to cut down on the meat and fish gradually, at least, that's the plan. This is one such discovery, not my invention though.. this one is a specialty of our cook. Upon first look, it can fool you into believing that it's fish curry and tastes equally good too.

For this curry you'll need,

Raw banana, preferably plantain 1, sliced thinly, diagonally
Tamarind juice 1 cup
Shallots 10, sliced thinly (can be supplemented with 1 onion)
Tomato 1, sliced
Ginger 1" piece, chopped
Green chillis 2-3, slit in half
Turmeric 1tsp.
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp.
Salt to taste

Boil all the above together, till the plantain is cooked. This shouldn't be over-cooked, b'coz the plantain slices should be intact and not mashed up.

Coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups
Coconut oil 1 tbsp
Garlic 3 cloves, crushed
Curry leaves 1 sprig

Pour the coconut milk in and when the gravy starts to boil and thicken, add the coconut oil, garlic and curry leaves. Serve hot with rice.

Pazhampori/Banana Fritters. One of the many popular evening snacks in Kerala

Nice and ripe plantain slices coated with lightly sweetened white flour batter and deep fried, it just melts in your mouth after each bite… My love for Pazhampori started since the time I could trace back my memory, we had a neighbor, who made Pazhampori every single day, and she would get me a few... every single day. There came a point when I kind of got addicted to it, then mom stepped in and told me I couldn't have em regularly, with the promise that she would make it for me once in a while, she kept her promise, but still, I wasn't too happy about foregoing my daily share of Pazhampori, and was quite sour at that point... it took me a few years from there to put together things like hogging on fried items, putting on weight, the troubles of losing that weight, the health issues and so on and on. I got over the craze gradually, and settled down to rejoicing at the occasions when  Mom made em at home. Later on, when I was on a train journey once, I happened to pass through Palakkad railway station, amongst many other noises around the station, one in particular caught my attention, the monotonous calls of one food vendor, it was none other than the one selling Pazhamporis. Not that you don’t get Pazhampori elsewhere, but I had heard from many that the ones you get at Palakkad railway station are yumm. I had my hubby running for the Pazhampori guy... It is quite good for the store bought standards, but definitely nowhere close to the homemade ones, but I still loved it nevertheless. 

For homemade Pazhampori 

You’ll need…

Ripe plantains – 2; sliced slanted or lengthwise into ½” thick, and about 2-3” long pieces
Maida/All-purpose flour – 1 cup
Rice flour – 2 tbsp.
Sugar – ¼ cup
Cardamom – 1; powdered
Salt - 1 pinch
Egg – 1 (optional)
Baking powder – 1 pinch (Optional)
Water – 1 cup (just enough to make a thick batter)
Oil – for deep frying

Heat the oil in a deep bottomed pan, on a medium flame. While that is getting heated, you can prepare the batter.
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, except the plantains. Add the water gradually; the batter should be of thick but pourable consistency.
Dip the plantain slices into the batter to coat it well, and immediately drop it into the hot oil, you could fry 4 or 5 at one time, turn them around to fry both the sides, till they turn to a golden color.
Strain out of the oil onto a tissue paper to remove excess oil.  
Serve hot!

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