Ten winners of Kerala Tourism’s Culinary Contest 2020-21 are currently on a week’s family trip across the state’s northern and central regions, enjoying the natural beauty and local legends besides relishing a lavish feast today amid the Onam celebrations.
The visitors — five of them from abroad — enjoyed the taste of varied local dishes served as ‘sadya’ on plantain leaf ahead of Keralites’ harvest festival now underway. The grand assortment of rice, curries, fried chips, pickles and a line-up of delicious payasam puddings impressed the guests, domestic and foreign alike.
The ten-member team and their families had their special lunch served at The Raviz Calicut, where the guests had a leisurely stopover. Having arrived by noon at the venue from Pazhassiraja Archaeological Museum in the city, the guests also did a colourful flower carpet (pookalam) typical of Onam celebrations, before leaving for Kochi, 180 km southward.
“Such a wonderful experience,” exclaimed Svetashova Natalia, a prize winner from Tomsk in Russia. Added West Bengal’s Vidhi Chugh: “The dishes here have a unique taste!”
The other winners are Adina Ioana Panta (Manchester, UK), Morozov Nikita (Kemerovo, Russia), Roxana Dana Saila (Bucharest, Romania) and Yuki Shimizu (Tokyo, Japan) besides Remalakshmi Sundararajan (Telangana), Jaya Narayan (Maharashtra), Himanandhini Prabakaran (Karnataka) and Vinny Sukanth (Andhra Pradesh).
Kerala Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas said the government’s new-found focus on tourism up the northern districts led the authorities to chart the prize-winners’ itinerary along Malabar region primarily. “That is why the guests were shown around places in Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode districts,” he noted, referring to their eight days of trip that began on August 27.
KS Srinivas, Principal Secretary, Tourism, pointed out that the culinary contest enlivened the department’s website, as the footfalls to the state are steadily increasing, overcoming a lull caused by prolonged spells of Covid-19. “Even during the pandemic period, the portal registered over one crore hits, just because we revved up our online activities,” he revealed.
Kerala Tourism Director PB Nooh, noting that the tour has been arranged amid the traditional festivities, said, “Not only have the guests got an opportunity to get a feel of Onam as a season; they could also enjoy the taste of our exciting foods.”
The Kerala Cuisine Contest 2020-21 was open to non-Keralites. Initially planned for six months from December 21, 2020 to June 21, 2021, the campaign received overwhelming response, prompting authorities to extend its duration till August 31, 2021.
Overall, there were 11,605 registrants of whom 8,600 were from within India and 3,005 from abroad. Authorities got 2,629 video entries, which were then uploaded on to the website of Kerala Tourism for public voting. An initial screening followed, after which 359 videos (319 within India and 40 abroad) were shortlisted and uploaded on to the portal.
A second-level evaluation followed, leading to 10 winners (5 of them outside of India) on the final list. The final evaluation was done by a four-member jury appointed by the state’s Department of Tourism, and were officially announced by Shri Riyas.
A lot of contestants, in their videos, took serious effort to bring in elements of Kerala’s traditional culinary styles, according to Shri Nooh. “We gave gifts up to Rs 5,000 as consolation prizes to 20 participants within India and 10 from abroad.”
The ongoing Kerala trip, concluding on September 3, is being offered to the top ten winners, along with their families. The members will tomorrow (Friday) take a tour of cosmopolitan Kochi, visiting coastal villages and towns such as Kumbalanghi and Mattanchery.
Earlier, from August 27, the prize-winners and their families visited Kavvayi backwaters in Kannur, besides the St Angelo Fort and Muthappan temple on riverside Parassinikkadavu. At hilly Wayanad, they visited Muthanga wildlife sanctuary and Edakkal Caves before descending to the plains and spending time at Beypore beach off Kozhikode.
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