A Cochin Jewish Culinary Adventure



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marga@lacabe.com



The southern India state of Kerala has not just one but two long settled Jewish communities which are together known as the Cochin Jews. The oldest community, the Malabari or "black Jews," have lived in the Malabar coast for at least 2,000 years, since the fall of the second temple forced Jews to flee Israel. Legend has it, however, that Jews had lived in this area since Solomonic times, however. Throughout the centuries they intermarried with the local population until their physiognomies became indistinguishable from their neighbors, thus the name "black jews". While they also assimiliated culturally to their neighbors, adopting their dress and much of their cuisine, they stayed faithful to Judaic religious principles, including dietary laws.

In the 16th century, Sephardic Jews fleeing from Spain settled in the Kerala area. These became known as the Paradesi (foreign) or "white Jews." While the two communities maintained contact with each other and influenced each other's religious practices, they remained separate and did not intermarry or worship together. In the 19th century, Arab Jews who settled in the area joined the Paradesi Jewish community.

My culinary visit with the Cochin Jews was brief. I only made two dishes, one from each of the communities: