How often have we read an inspirational quote by Saint Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” which emphasizes that if you never go anywhere, you’ll have a very limited view of the world. And after being inspired by this quote and my love for food for which I love to travel, another journey awaited my arrival and this time it was Palakkad, which is one of the fourteen districts of Kerala and has no coastal line. The district is one of the main granaries of Kerala.
Nature has bestowed Palakkad immensely with rich natural vegetation, mountains, forests, fertile valleys, rivers and mountain streams which makes it a panoramic repertoire and its geographical position, historical background, rural natural, educational status, tourist attractions and above all, the development activities that are carried out, are wide and varied.
So on a rainy Friday morning I board a 3-hour flight from Delhi to Coimbatore and then take a road trip to Palakkad which is around 1 1/2 hours drive. On the way are the beautiful Western ghats which is one of the eight “hottest hot-spots” of biological diversity in the world. Along with these you will see lush greens paddy fields, abundance of coconut trees and lots and lots of food which will make you senses go wow. And after passing through Salem-Ernakulam Highway we reached our destination Kairali- The Ayurvedic Healing village in Palakkad which was going to be my stay for the next 3 days.
Kairali Ayurvedic Group’s signature property ‘The Ayurvedic Healing Village’ is a nature’s paradise where one can recuperate from stress and strain, undergo preventive or curative treatments, while being on holiday. You are treated here according to the problem you are facing in your daily life. Many were here for weight loss programme while for some this place for the best getaway for detoxification. So you must be wondering how does all this work.
You will first need to understand your problem and then accordingly take the Kairali wellness package. From there on the doctor will take over for the time you have enrolled yourself in. He will individually understand your issues, prepare your diet chart and also the treatments needed to cure your problem. The diet here is 100 per cent vegetarian and at the same time very high in fibre. From the doctor the chart goes to the kitchen and the chef does the rest. Also all the vegetables and fruits that are served here are grown at the backyard and are served right from farm to table.
Since I am someone who loves experimenting with food , the food served here was not to be liking but trust me the day I was leaving from the village I absolutely was in love with it. From the soups, to the salads to the main course and even the desserts are all served differently on different days and a special mention must go the soups as they were right at the top of the best soups that I have ever had and the chef told me his love for soups is much beyond anything else.
Slowly and gradually, I was starting to fall in love with Palakkad mainly because of the beauty of the nature and the people here. Trust me, they are the most humble people you will ever come across. To give you an example of this, I would love to share an experience with you. We were around 10-15 people walking at 9:30 pm in the night. It was pitch dark and we just kept walking enjoying the serenity of the place and around. A woman from a house comes out and asks us if we were carrying a torch or if we were lost somewhere. On the assurity that we were well aware of the routes she smiled and went back in. This brought a smile on our faces and left us with a wonderful memory.
I was in Palakkad for two reason one was of course to try the local food and other was for a Chef Retreat. Healing Secrets By Kairali was a chef-driven retreat focused on the traditional concept of Food to Wellness. A three-day food adventure, it gave us an opportunity to walk with some of India’s best chefs exploring the food and well being connect as they go foraging for fresh produce, cook meals and even create dishes that showcase how taste isn’t about dollops of butter, but keeping it simple. In addition, the team of doctors helped us understand how food eventually can cleanse, heal and refresh through a series of specially designed therapies based on food.
While on Day 1, Chef Vikas Seth discussed about localising Global Cuisine- Mexico, he used all the fresh produce from the farm and created a dish which literally had my eyes popping. The dish was a ragi taco which had spiced pumpkin, roasted tomato salsa, dairy free sour cream popped amarnath and micro greens. (Look at the picture and enjoy).
Day 2: We were shown and taught how to grow our own vegetable at the farm with resident horticulturist, G Anandan. Like I said they grow all there vegetables and fruits in the backyard. Take my word, the vegetable are grown here organically and are huge in size and shape. (Picture below).
In the afternoon, Chef Manjit Singh Gill and Gita Ramesh (JMD – Kairali Ayurvedic Group) discussed on the virtues of Vedic Eating and cooked some mouth-watering yet health dishes for us. Mrs Gita cooked a healthy sprout salad and a staple recipe of the south called Avial. While Chef Gill taught us how to cook Crisp drumstick patties and Moringa remix.
The evening was reserved for the Ayurveda factory visit. We were here show as to how Ayurvedic medicines are made and what goes into the making of this. Trust me I was flabbergasted after looking at the long process of making these medicines and products.
On our way to and back from the factory, we stopped at the local filter coffee vendor and he treated us with one of the best coffee’s that I have ever had. To go with this we had an aloo bonda, vada and an egg cake. And we paid only Rs 345/- for 15 of us.
The day wasn’t over yet, it was the magic of Chef Arun Kumar TR which was left to be showcased. He has put in successful stints as a journalist and filmmaker. He began his food innings by running a popular pop-up restaurant, Ammi, in the Delhi winter months which shaped his desire to unfold the potential of Southern Indian cuisine. He treated us with a banana smoothie, an uttapam and the best dish of the winning khao suey which was made using the vermicelli, steamed veggies, a healthy broth and some crushed peanuts and oh my god, my taste buds are still thanking me for that treat.
Day 3: The day welcomed us with lots of rains since it’s the monsoon time back in the south. After gorging on some wonderful dinner, we didn’t know what was in store for us, after Chef Abhijit Saha took the stage and starting discussing about super food India. I didn’t know super foods can be as tasty as it seems they are, but Chef Abhijit had something else in store for us. While I joined him on the stage to help him as a sous chef he continued joining all the elements together and presented a wonderful dish which was called the Yam and Millet tikki. Along with this I also had the super food smoothie and my all time favourite dip the hummus which was topped with sauted leafy vegetables, popped amarnath, toasted sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Oh god, I was starting to fall in love with this place with the amount of choices offered.
After a wonderful breakfast we headed to the local village and tried the toddy which is also called the Palm wine (Toddy is an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms). At lunch we had the Sadhya (A normal Sadhya can have about 24-28 dishes served as a single course. The main dish is plain boiled rice, served along with other dishes collectively called Kootan which include curries like Parippu, Sambar, Rasam, Pulisseri and others like Kaalan, Avial, Thoran, Olan, Pachadi, Kichadi, Koottukari, Elissery, Mango pickle, Pulinji, Naranga achaar (Lime Pickle), as well as Papadam, plantain chips, Sharkara Upperi, Banana, plain curd and Buttermilk. The traditional dessert called Payasam served at the end of the meal is of many kinds and usually three or more are served.)
A close look at the place, you would see that Palakkad is a hidden hamlet that is not yet touched by modernity and beams gloriously when its golden paddy fields are bathed in sunlight. Oh boy, it was time to say goodbye to this beautiful district of Kerala and head back to where I belong Delhi.