Asking for 'chicken legs' at an average tea shop would definitely get you some quizzical looks. Well, not in Kannur. Order as many plates of chicken legs as you want with your evening tea and nobody will raise their eyebrows. Instead, you will be left with a plate full spicy tapioca slices wondering were your chicken went.
The name is misleading as there is hardly any chicken contained in the dish. It is prepared with thinly sliced tapioca dipped in Bengal gram flour and fried; the final output resembles a ‘real chicken leg’ though!
The snack shops in Kannur has many such things in store that could amuse you. If you are from the South and you place an order for ‘bonda’ (expecting to get Travancore bonda), you will be surprised to find salty maida ball stuffed with potatoes served in front of you.
The Kannur bonda is made by frying balls stuffed with cooked and mashed potatoes, turmeric, sauted masala, green chilies and ginger. If you want the sweet variant, you will have to specifically order 'undakkai'. Then also, you will be given two options- the one with banana stuffing and the other with dates.
The universal Indian snack Samosa also has a local variant in Kannur. Instead of potatoes, carrot is used in Kannur samosa. Finely ground onion and carrot is sautéd and stuffed in the samosas. There is another interesting snack in Kannur that closely resembles samosa known as ‘manda’. It is prepared with ‘pandam’ (a mixture of rava, sugar and coconut): in Kannur dialect ‘pandam’ means 'to fill'.
Kannur is famous for its very own snacks such as Irachi pathiri, chatti pathiri, irachi ada, unnakkai, kai pola, pazham nirachathu, patthal, mutta mala and elanchi.
Once, a friend of mine brought me a snack which he introduced as ‘dweep halwa’ (island halwa). One tiny halwa ball costs Rs. 25. When the wrapper was removed, I found that it closely resembled some familiar snack. When I tasted it, doubts were cleared. It was nothing but ‘Bindiya’ – Kannur's own sweet laddoo made with coconut and melted jaggery.
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