Discovering The Fascinating Spice Culture Of Kerala

The spice market in Fort Kochi is an exploration trail no foodie should miss. Here's our quick guide.

Published On Apr 26, 2023 | Updated On Mar 06, 2024


Mattancherry, a historic neighbourhood in Kochi (Cochin), Kerala, India, is renowned for its spice markets and culture. The area has a long-standing history of spice culture and trade, therefore referred to as the 'Spice Capital of Kerala'. 

Visitors to the market can learn about the different spices and their uses from the vendors, who are knowledgeable and passionate about their products. Many vendors are also happy to offer samples, allowing visitors to taste the different spices before making a purchase.

One of the unique features of the spice culture in Mattancherry is the way the spices are displayed. The vendors often arrange their spices in pyramids or mounds, creating a visually stunning display. The market is also known for its aroma, as the spices fill the air with their distinct scent.

Mattancherry's spice market is one of the busiest and most vibrant markets in the state. The range of spices available here is mindblowing. You can find black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and turmeric, among others. The market also offers a range of other goods, including textiles, handicrafts, and souvenirs.

Historically, the spice trade played a significant role in shaping Kerala's culture. The state has a long-standing tradition of Ayurvedic medicine, which uses spices and herbs to treat various ailments. The spice trade also attracted traders and merchants from different parts of the world, leading to a fusion of cultures and a diverse society.

The use of spices is an integral part of Kerala's cuisine, and its dishes are known for their distinct aroma, taste, and flavour. Popular dishes that use a variety of spices include appam, biryani, fish curry, chicken curry, and beef fry.

Kerala, a state located in the southwestern region of India, is known for its rich spice culture. Kerala has a long history of trading spices with other countries, which began more than 2000 years ago. The state has been a hub for spice traders and is therefore referred to as the "Spice Garden of India."

Kerala's tropical climate and unique geographical location make it an ideal place to grow various spices, such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The state is well known for the production of premium quality spices like vanilla, turmeric, and ginger.

Coming back to Mattancherry, the walk in the streets of this place is an overall experience, not just for spices but for the architectural and historical galore. Mattancherry is a historic neighbourhood located in the city of Kochi (Cochin), Kerala, India. It is situated on the banks of the backwaters and is known for its rich cultural heritage, historical landmarks, and bustling markets.

The area was once a bustling centre of trade and commerce, attracting traders from around the world. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a presence in Mattancherry, followed by the Dutch and the British. As a result, the neighbourhood has a unique mix of architectural styles and cultural influences.

One of the main attractions of Mattancherry is the Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Later, the Dutch renovated the palace. It is known for its beautiful murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.

Mattancherry synagogues are also a delightful sight. The Jewish Synagogue is amongst the oldest in the Commonwealth of Nations. The Mattancherry synagogues were built in 1568 and are known for their intricate Belgian chandeliers, Chinese tiles, and other artefacts.

Spice culture played a pivotal role in human history, being traded across continents for thousands of years. In ancient times, spices were highly valued and used for medicinal purposes and for flavouring food. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper were highly prized and traded for their rarity and potency.

Today, the spice culture continues to thrive and evolve, with people experimenting with new spice blends and techniques. Many cuisines, such as Indian, Thai, and Mexican, rely heavily on spices to create unique and flavorful dishes. They are used in baking and beverages like tea and coffee and personal care products like soaps and perfumes.

If you wish to see more of the spice culture of Kerala, then another market that you can explore is the Cochin pepper market. The Cochin pepper market is one of the largest black pepper markets in the world, located in the city of Kochi. The market operates year-round and serves as a hub for the trade of black pepper from across India and other countries.

The Cochin pepper market is known for its high-quality pepper. This pepper is sorted and graded according to size, colour, and aroma. The pepper is sold in bulk, as well as in packaged form, and used in a variety of dishes and cuisines around the world. It also serves as a centre for research and development in the pepper industry, with efforts focused on improving the quality and yield of pepper crops and developing new varieties of pepper.

Apart from enjoying the spices and their aroma in the Kochi market, you can also plan a weekend getaway to Munnar or find the best places to stay during Kochi Biennale, which is an international art exhibition, held in December every two years. 

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