10 Dishes That Make Kozhikode Kerala’s Unofficial Food Capital

Being at the centre of trade routes, the food in Kozhikode is undoubtedly unique.

Published On Sep 12, 2022 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


It’s a tough call, a question that often comes up when I interact with passionate food lovers from Kerala: ‘What is Kerala’s best city for food?’ In effect, the culinary capital of the state. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring three cities that can stake claim to this title. Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital is famous for its Thattu Kada (loosely translates to food cart or local diner) chicken fry that outsells any fast-food fried chickens. Kochi is a fantastic mélange of street food, local cuisine and a growing list of international cuisine experiences. But I’m partial to Kozhikode (earlier Calicut) in the north of Kerala where the state’s past and present converge.

From the Arabs to Vasco da Gama, Calicut has remained a key (some might argue the most significant) dot in the emblematic ‘spice route’ when Kerala’s black pepper or black gold was a coveted ingredient in European kitchens. That’s one reason why Kozhikode’s food scene is unique, it has been shaped by the city’s interactions with the Middle East that continue to this day thanks to the large Kerala diaspora. From autorickshaw owners to local taste makers, I’ve heard stories and received unsolicited advice and opinions on what to eat and where to eat in Kozhikode. It’s tough to find a local who doesn’t have an opinion on food. That’s one reason why restaurants can never drop the ball in Kozhikode.

I’ve compiled a list drawn from my own culinary experiences in the city. A list that keeps expanding with every visit to my favourite city for food in Kerala:


Kozhikode and the Malabar region are synonymous with one of South India’s most ordered biryanis. This subtly flavoured biryani leans heavily on fried onions and the unique, small grain jeerakasala for its flavour profile. This biryani is usually served with a sweet and spicy date pickle, and a version of raita that’s made with finely chopped tomato, coriander leaves, ginger and green chillies and the fluffy Kerala pappadam.
Try it at Paragon Hotel, Kannur Road


“Oro sulaimanilum oru ithiri mohabbat venam” (every glass of Sulaimani needs a dash of love) this dialogue from Anwar Rashid’s 2012 Malayalam film Ustad Hotel (a must watch for foodies) sums up Kozhikode’s long standing love affair with its favourite brew. This black tea combines spices with a hint of lemon and jaggery. It’s the perfect anytime drink and also hits the spot after a heavy Kozhikode biryani meal. 

Try it at Paragon Hotel, multiple restaurants and tea shops across town.


Be prepared to save some of your baggage allowance for the one thing your friends expect you to carry back from Kozhikode – crispy banana chips fried in freshly pressed coconut oil. You can watch the action live at famous outlets live where staff slice and dice bananas and throw them into massive vats of coconut oil. Pity you can’t bottle those fresh aromas along with the chips you take back with you. 

Try it at Kumari Banana Chips, opposite Paragon Restaurant, Kannur Road 


The best antidote for Kozhikode’s humidity. You will usually find two versions including one infused with milk. It gets its flavour from its hero ingredient – Nannari (Sarsaparilla). Most locals will tell you that the stall with no name and no signage opposite the legendary Paragon Hotel serves the city’s most refreshing sarbath

Try it at the Nannari Sarbath Stall Opposite Paragon Restaurant, Kannur Road

There are different versions of the ‘pathiri’ a bread that takes its name from fateerah (Arabic for pastry). Crafted with rice flour this incredibly light bread tastes best with fish curry and is a breakfast staple at many Kozhikode homes.

Try it Sagar Restaurant, IG Road.


It’s not just the British who enjoy a good high tea, many homes in Kerala enjoy an elaborate tea service with special snacks. Tea is almost a meal in itself, especially on monsoon days where dishes suchas pazham pori (banana fritters) and mutton cutlet complement multiple versions of tea that also include a rustic ‘kattan chaya’ (black tea)

Try it at Bombay Hotel, Silk Street

You may find a sheikh in Sharjah but you’re unlikely to find a Sharjah shake there. I’ve tried decoding the secret ingredients that make up Kozhikode’s legendary milkshake but even after multiple visits, I’ve only got a few clues that include banana and Boost. Save space for this ‘meal in itself’ milkshake. 

Try it at EPK Fruit Centre, Manachira


It’s not just banana chips, you’re also likely to carry back large quantities of Kozhikode’s most popular sweet treat especially the black version that combines flour, coconut oil and jaggery. 

Try it at Maharaja Sweets, TB Road, Perampara 


A must try for seafood lovers. This north Kerala delicacy is prepared with mussels, which are stuffed with a subtly spiced rice mixture, steamed in its shell and then fried. It’s best eaten fresh off the pan and makes a great teatime snack or pre-meal appetiser. 

Try it at Zain’s Hotel Convent Cross Road


Not for mild taste buds, the poricha meen (fish fry) is doused in fiery spices and fried in coconut oil. There are multiple versions that include ayala fry, aykoora fry and shark fry.

Try it at Amma Hotel, Puthiyara Road 

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