Anthony Bourdain in Kerala, India: 4 Spots Where Tony Ate

Covering the southwest corner of the Indian subcontinent, the state of Kerala is famous for its food and spices, as well as being unique in it is probably the only state where non-vegetarian food is readily available. As one might expect, having an opportunity to try meat in a traditionally vegetarian country is something Tony Bourdain was keen to do.

Anthony Bourdain visited Kerala once, to film season 6 (episode 17) of No Reservations; it was his only on-screen visit to this part of India, but he visited other parts of the country during his many travels, including Mumbai, Punjab, and Rajasthan.

Anthony Bourdain in Kerala Hero

There are certainly many places to visit in India, but if you want to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Kerala, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of the places Anthony Bourdain ate in this tropical Indian state, as well as guidance on which dishes he tried. Let this inspire you to explore beyond the big cities in India to other regions too.

This post was originally written in March 2023 and was updated most recently in March 2024.

Unknown Thattukada (Kochi)

Anthony’s first stop is a traditional thattukada, the ubiquitous covered carts on the roadsides that sell the street food of Kerala. Alongside local chef Adrian ‘Jackie’ D’Cruz, Bourdain enjoys a selection of street dishes, including beef curry, fried quail, curried lentils, and fried spicy mackerel and sardines.

Mullapanthal Toddy Shop (Kochi)

Anthony Bourdain in Kerala - Fish Head Curry

Bourdain’s next stop takes him to a traditional toddy shop, “toddy” being the collected and fermented sap of the palm flower. Whilst he is not a fan of this particular alcoholic beverage, Bourdain is impressed with the array of food being served, confirming the locally held belief that the best food can be found in a toddy shop.

With Kerala being the heaviest drinking region in India, and with the old adage of “the more you drink, the more you eat; the more you eat, the more you drink” floating around in his head, Tony enjoys an assortment of dishes; fish head curry, pearl spot fish steamed and wrapped in banana leaves and served with rice, crab masala, mashed cassava, and puttu, a coconut and rice flour pressed into a cylinder and steamed. Indeed, the only dish not to Bourdain’s liking in the toddy shop was the toddy itself!

N.M. Fast Food (Kochi)

A quick pit stop next as Bourdain visits N.M. Fast Food in downtown Kochi. Here he tried a beef biriyani, a rarity in India given the revered status the cow has in Hindu culture. This traditional Indian baked dish is made here with cassava instead of rice, mixed together and topped with sliced red onion.

Rainbow Solitaire Houseboat

Anthony Bourdain in Kerala - Pearl Spot Curry

Tony ends his trip to the state of Kerala with a lazy river cruise down the Keralan backwaters aboard the Rainbow Solitaire, a type of traditional houseboat known as a kettuvallam. As the boat saunters its way down the slow-moving waterways, it stops at several riverside stalls to purchase supplies of seafood.

The crew then prepares these for Bourdain in the local style; pearl spot fish basted with curry sauce and then grilled, spiced tiger prawns cooked over an open flame, fish cakes spiced with chiles, and finally, river mussels freshly caught and boiled, then fried in chili and onion, and served with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Reflecting on this peaceful end to an outstanding culinary trip, Bourdain reflects on the position he finds himself in: “Floating, eating, and napping, this I can do, this I am good at.”

Other Dining Experiences Tony Had in Kerala

As part of his trip to Kerala, Bourdain enjoyed a few other dining experiences worth mentioning. You might not be able to have these exact experiences yourself, but might be able to find something similar while exploring this part of India.

  • As part of his trip, Bourdain visits a Bollywood set to see the living legend Mammooty in action. Star of over 100 films, Mammooty and his crew’s low budget, rapid approach to filmmaking is a sight to behold. During a break in shooting, Bourdain joins Mammooty in his trailer for lunch, where they eat kanambu (mullet) curry cooked with unripe mango, as well as sura puttu (also known as meen puttu), another curry made with a variety of fish called paal sura (milk shark).
  • Traveling one hour out of Kochi to the village of Thrikkariyoor, Bourdain meets with locally-born chef Das Sreedharan as the village prepares for the Aluva Sivarathri festival, celebrating the Hindu god Shiva. After trying pulled tea, Tony tried some local breakfast dishes, including rice + lentil pancakes, savory lentil doughnuts, peas with ground coconut paste, and chili and onion chutney.
  • Anthony then joins Das at his home for a sadya, the traditional vegetarian feast of Kerala. Served on a banana leaf, the sadya incorporates many different elements, including bitter gourd thoran (a dry vegetable dish mixed with coconut), parippu (a Kerala variation of the traditional Indian daal), rasam (a spicy blend of tamarind and tomatoes), and koottukari (slow cooked bananas and yams mixed with chickpeas and coconut).

While there aren’t as many places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Kerala compared with some other destinations around the world, it is one of the parts of India that you can most follow in his footsteps. Have any questions about these places Anthony Bourdain ate in Kerala? Let me know in the comments below.

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Matt Young is a street food fanatic and world traveler, currently splitting his time between Europe and South East Asia.

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