Spice shop in Broadway Bazaar in Kochi.

Spice shop in Broadway Bazaar in Kochi.

During our visit to Kochi last summer we visited some of the shops in the Broadway Bazaar. It is a section of town that is full of small shops. Kitchenware, saris, electronics and spices are just a small sampling of the variety. Each shop is no more than 10 to 15 feet wide and has an open front that bulges from the wide array of products they have for sale. The street was narrow and the sidewalks were even narrower. The area was packed solid with people, auto-rickshaws and a few small cars attempting to move forward. Our driver parked our car in a lot on an adjacent street because he knew that maneuvering an SUV on this road would be a disaster. I do not know how the brave drivers were able to move with all of the pedestrians. One contrast I noticed was people there had a mission to accomplish as opposed to the U.S. where most people are moving slowly and gazing at the merchandise. I had a blast watching the people and checking out some of the stores.

 

Spice shop in Broadway Bazaar in Kochi.

All of the spices are fresh and plentiful at the shops in Broadway Bazaar, Kochi.

The spice store that fascinated me was the Kerala Masala Shop. As you can see from the photo, it had abundant supplies of fresh spices, nuts, lentils, and teas. As I walked inside, the aroma of fresh spices invaded my senses. I was amazed at the variety of each spice. For example, they had several bins of fresh green cardamoms in different sizes. The small or medium sized ones are available in the U.S. but I have never seen such large ones! Of course I purchased a bag of of the large ones to bring home. They also sold exquisite saffron from the Kashmir region of India. I bought several boxes of this since it is so expensive here. (The next time I go I will buy a suitcase full since I like the favor and use it often.) I saw mountains of star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, turmeric and dried herbs like rosemary that is popular at home.


Wall of spices in one shop in Broadway Bazaar, Kochi.

Wall of spices in one shop in Broadway Bazaar, Kochi.

The store stocked locally grown nuts, specifically, my husband’s favorite cashews. They were larger than the ones available in the U.S. Yes, they were bigger than “Texas-sized.” Their flavor was so fresh and rich that my husband added a few pounds of them to the purchase. Yum!


The people who worked in the shop really knew their spices – origin, freshness, etc. They were very generous in giving samples to taste before I made my selections. In addition they were very generous with their time for a person who they won’t see again for a long time.

 

I had a great time that afternoon poking around several spice shops. I’m sure Kachi was very entertained by watching me! I can’t wait to go back!

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.

One of the oldest buildings that the Portuguese built in India is the Mattancherry Palace. Built in the 1550s, it was given to the raja of Kochi as an appeasement to make up for stealing from the Hindu temples. Many generations later the name was changed to the Dutch Palace.

 

Entrance to the Dutch Palace in Kochi, India.

Entrance to the Dutch Palace in Kochi, India.

The entrance to the palace is on the second floor so one must climb up a long flight of steps on the outside. The architecture of the palace is very simple; rectangular building surrounds a central courtyard. Inside are beautiful murals that depict religious themes and life at that time. The most distinctive feature of the palace is the use of wood in the ceilings and the raised thresholds between the large rooms. You have to lift your foot up a good 12 inches to step into the next room! One room has large, two built-in window seats that would be a nice place to spend an afternoon reading a book. Costumes worn by the royal family, armor and household items are on display. This is not to be missed!

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.

During our Kochi travels, we spent a few hours at the Hill Palace which was the home of the royal family of Kochi. This palace was built in 1865 on the top of a hill after the original palace was flooded. Upon arriving at the palace grounds, one can climb straight up the steps to get to the front door or take the smooth winding road. Both sides of the steps are huge gardens filled with flowers and trees. After reaching the top of the hill, one has a magnificent view of the entire city.


The majestic front steps of the Kochi Hill Palace in Kerala, India.

The majestic front steps of the Kochi Hill Palace in Kerala, India.

 

 

Upon entry to the museum a huge elephant carved from rosewood with ivory tusks greets every visitor. Inside the palace the rooms are large and airy. The walls are beautiful and floors are wood or mosaic. The rooms have glass windows but some, especially along the walkways, have shutters to let the breezes flow through. On display are the maharajas’ treasures from all over the world including Japanese vases, a magnificent gold crown that was given to the king of Kochi by the Portuguese (it weighs over 3 pounds) and an elevator that was imported from England. Different rooms were filled with sculpture, jewelry, antique currency, weapons and carriages.

 

The front lawn of the Kochi Hill Palace in Kerala, India.

The front lawn of the Kochi Hill Palace in Kerala, India.

I am glad that the palace is being preserved by the local archaeological society for all to see since all of the princely states are long past.
 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.

Last September I posted an entry about the Kochi backwaters since I had learned from my daughter that this is a major business and tourist attraction of the area. In looking at the volume of pictures that she took I was impressed enough to find out what it was and give you an informational overview. My husband, son, in-laws and I took a five hour boat tour around the central part of the backwaters so I can now say that I have now seen it firsthand. Here are my impressions.


Cranes at the port on the backwaters in Kochi.

Cranes at the port on the backwaters in Kochi.


My first thought was the immense vastness of the backwaters. At the center it looks like a large harbor that has an active shipping port on one side that loads and unloads huge international freighters. Also around this area I saw many modern office buildings that comprise the downtown area and, in a different direction, a contrast in Old Kochi. (Blog entries about what I saw at Fort Kochi will be published in a few weeks.) From this harbor, many rivers flow to different parts of the state making it a natural highway.


Many boats of different types could be seen on the water. From fishing boats to ferries, the backwaters was a busy area. Looking at the calm water I could see thousands of clusters of small green plants that float along in the fresh water. (You can see them in the foreground of the above photo.) I don’t know their name but their numbers suggest that the water is not polluted. The biggest disappointment in the water was the amount of trash floating in it. People on the boat, mainly tourists from other parts of India, seemed to think it is acceptable to toss their empty drink bottles and other trash into the water. I was shocked by this behavior. (More on the trash epidemic in India in a future entry.)

 

The Chinese fishing nets, cheena vala, which are featured on the cover of my cookbook, are found next to Old Kochi at the entrance to the from the Arabian Sea. It is an amazing sight to see the mechanical principles at work that I learned in high school as the nets are lowered and raised using large rocks as the counter weights. Just behind the nets are stands where the fresh catch of the day is sold.

 

Chinese fishing nets, cheena vala, are found on the Kerala backwaters.

Chinese fishing nets, cheena vala, are found on the Kerala backwaters.

 

 

Toward the end of the boat ride I saw my first house boat, or kettuvallam. Since our visit to Kochi was in June during the monsoon season, it had its plastic rain screens lowered to keep the passengers dry. They slowly travel up and down the waterway as moving hotels that can accommodate many people among their many bedrooms. Originally built as grain barges that transported rice to market, most have been upgraded with generators to provide electricity and air conditioning. I hope to have the opportunity to check out one during my next trip to Kerala.

During the last 30 minutes of the trip, our luck ran out. Monsoon rain started pouring down on us. We couldn’t see the shore through the torrents of rain. The benefit the rain brought with it was a significant drop in temperature. Most of the small pleasure craft scurried for shore as quickly as possible. As the rain diminished, a bright yellow fishing boat chugged by us on its way to its berth; the captain of our boat had the same intention. The rain only lasted about 30 minutes and, by the time we reached the dock, it had ended.


The next thing we had to do was find a ride back to our hotel…


 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.

The stories from my trip to India continue…


I visited a shop called The Spice Market in Jew Town which is part of Old Kochi which was settled by Jewish traders and sailors 2000 years ago. It is just down the street from the Paradesi Synagogue that was built in 1568. I entered this shop because I was drawn by the attractive display of spices in front of the store and I wanted to find out how the local people buy their spices.  The shop is a women’s co-operative in which all of the products are made and sold by the local women. They make carved wooden spice boxes, saris, jewelry and home decorations, as well as sell packaged spices.


The Spice Market in Jew Town in Old Kochi, India.

The Spice Market in Jew Town in Old Kochi, India.

 

The women I met in the shop were so friendly to me. In the photo to the right, they are Kiran Devi, Sindhya, Daisy, Sheeba and Naufia. They welcomed my taking many photos of the shop as well as taking pictures of them standing by the loom that they use to create beautiful saris in the back room. Notice that all of them are wearing the elegant traditional Kerala style sari. By the time I left the shop I felt we were friends!

Kerala ladies in traditional dress.

Kerala ladies in traditional dress.


One thing that I found that was very interesting was that they sold small jars of different masala or spice blends. They had them for chicken, fish and meat as well as biryani and tandori masala. So popular in the States, I didn’t expect to see them in Kerala. I had assumed that since they had the spices and generations of experience in mixing them that they would not need to use premixed spices. I guess the modern Indian woman is busy too, just like we are in the U.S. I bought one jar of each and will test them out over the next few months and let you know how they taste.


A sample of spices available at the Spice Market in Old Kochi, Kerala.

A sample of spices available at the Spice Market in Old Kochi, Kerala.

 

I really enjoyed meeting the ladies at The Spice Market. I left their shop with several bags filled with goodies. This visit was the highlight of my trip to Kochi! I look forward to returning to see them again.


Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.

Last week I posted some photos of Kochi that my daughter took last year during her trip to south India.  As you can see from the pictures, Kerala is a beautiful state with scenery that is full of drama and mystery. 

 

The most dramatic feature to me of Kochi is the backwaters.  When I first heard the name I thought it would be a smelly swamp.  I couldn’t believe how my husband raved about the area.  The term does not match the beauty or the vitality of the area.  It is formed by five lakes that are linked by canals and fed by 38 rivers.  500 miles long, it is half the length of the state of Kerala. Freshwater from the rivers meets the saltwater from the Arabian Sea giving it brackish or slightly salty water.


Apartments and businesses line backwaters commanding a very high price because of the view.  Ferries transport people to the various islands in Kochi and tankers and freighters move oil and products to the large international port.  Fishermen use Chinese nets to catch fish for local consumption and export.  There is always activity on the water.

 

The most impressive sight is the house boats, or kettuvallams, that slowly travel up and down the waterway.  They were originally built as grain barges that would transport rice to market.  With the introduction of modern transportation, the Malayalis converted them into vacation residences.  Many are very luxurious with air conditioning and personal onboard staff.  They are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike.  This is on my list to check out when I go to Kochi next summer.

Dock along the Kerala Backwaters.

Dock along the Kerala Backwaters.

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.