New in 2017 – for travel loving cooks – Chettinad Cuisine masterclasses in heritage luxury

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Treat yourself in 2017 to a very special experience gourmet travel experience.

Immerse yourself in the unique regional Indian cuisine and culture of Chettinad, South India.

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Learn the best kept secrets of the Chettiar’s subtle, intriguing spicing, not chilli hot but rather, blended to create a wide range of flavours.

Be guided by personal tutors to learn techniques to reproduce authentic dishes at home – like Chicken Chettinad Pepper Marsala, Small Potato Masala Poriyal, Tender Coconut Mousse.

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Be intrigued by the history and context of Chettinad cooking.

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Delve into the sophistication of Chettiar menu planning – up to seven courses, that delicately balance cool and hot, crisp and wet, sweet and sour.

Enjoy the generosity of the famous Chettiar hospitality at Chettinad’s first heritage boutique hotel – The Bangala.

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Savour the bounty that graces the the Bangala’s table at each meal.

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Explore the opulence and extravagance of Chettiar mansions and antiques.

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Share experiences at local markets and bazaars.

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Visit local artisans.

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Experience the complex and detailed preparations for a traditional Wedding Feast.

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Leave with a signed copy of The Bangala Table featuring 150 of The Bangala’s best dishes.

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I am so excited to see Mrs Meenakshi Meyyappan’s dream for a residential cookery school blossom in 2017.

I first met Mrs Meyyappan in 2015 on my six week road trip of Tamil Nadu’s regional cuisines.

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Following in the footsteps of Christine Manfield’s Tasting India and Charmaine O’Brien’s Penguin Food Guide to India, The Bangala was an essential stop on my itinerary.

I was so impressed by Mrs Meyyappan’s passion and energy to preserve and promote Chettiar cuisine and culture.

The Chettiar community were traders and bankers from South India whose menfolk spent years at a time, abroad in far flung places like Ceylon, South East Asia and Burma. They brought back new spices and techniques that created a Southeast Asian – Indo fusion cuisine featuring ingredients like  Indonesian nutmeg, black sticky rice and star anise. Households became famous for their grand celebration feasts and hospitality.

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The wealth and influence of the Chettiar’s also meant their menus adopted the recipes of butlers and chefs cooking for the homes and clubs of the British Raj. This created another type of fusion, Anglo- Indian or Bulter cuisine. Mulligatawny is one such dish, said to be created in the Madras Club.

Guests at The Bangala enjoy the best of both cuisines. Lunch may well be an array of Chetttinad small dishes and sides served on a banana leaf and then dinner the traditional Butler cuisine served in formal a la Raj style on China with cutlery.

During the years of great prosperity, early last century, the Chettiars also invested their wealth in their in houses, creating palatial fort-like mansions with Burmese teak pillars, Italian marble, English ceramic tiles, Bohemian crystal chandeliers and Belgian Mirrors. It is not uncommon for Chettiar houses to have 50 or 60 rooms. There are hundreds of Chettiar mansions in the nearby 75 local Chettiar villages.

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However, changes in fortune mid 20th century has meant that many of these magnificent houses could not be maintained and their antiques now fill Chettinad’s antique shops.

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The dispersion of the Chettiar communities has also threatened the survival of the unique Chettiar cuisine.

So Mrs Meyyappan and her family have renovated and extended their family home to develop Chettinad’s first heritage hotel and showcase Chettiar hospitality and cuisine to the world.

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Guests and chefs from high end restaurants visit The Bangala for the gift of Chettiar cooking.

On my visit I shared the kitchen with a chef from the Taj Hotel Group in Chennai, who had come to learn from The Bangala’s chefs.

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But 2017 is the first time that time-poor food travel loving cooks can really immerse themselves in Chettinad cuisine.

The seven day master class program will teach around 70 dishes as well as visit the local markets, bazaar, mansions and a wedding feast experience. A three day program is also available covering around 30 dishes.

Guests can share together or have their own heritage deluxe air conditioned rooms.

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All meals and non-alcoholic drinks are included and each is an event in itself. As is said in Tamil Nadu ‘one is lucky to eat like a Chettiar’.

Between sessions there’s time to enjoy the lovely pool and Mrs Meyyappan’s extensive and impressive library of culinary, travel and fiction books and magazines.

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And not to be missed is Mrs Meyyappan’s own home that she generously opens for visits from The Bangala’s guests.

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The costings for a 10 day all inclusive trip for small groups of two, four or six people for the seven day masterclass program start at around $AUS 4,600 (depending on airfares, exchange rate and size of the group.)

  • Costing includes
  • 7 days masterclasses teaching around 70 dishes
  • One tutor per two guests
  • Accommodation in air-conditioned deluxe room ( shared or single occupancy)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic drinks
  • Airfares
  • Car Transfers to the Bangala with lunch along the way
  • Site seeing to local markets, bazaar, mansions, artisans
  • Wedding Feast preparations
  • Signed copy of The Bangala Table
  • Tips

Not included in costings:

  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Shopping

Download the brochure for more detail on the Masterclasses.

For more great info on what’s special about The Bangala and Chettinad cuisine head to this link.

If you’d like to join others in a group of two, four or six drop me a note at michelewalton@yahoo.com and I’ll put peole in touch with each other.

If you’d like to book for your own group:

Get in touch with Mrs Meyyappan to organise car transfers to and from Chennai airport and book the masterclass at thebangala@gmail.com. She’s also the right person for more information about the masterclass and staying at the Bangala.

Consider Singapore Airlines for flights to Chennai.

Consider booking Raddison Blu GBT (near Chennai airport and offering free pick up) through booking.com for your first night after arriving on a late flight.

If you’d like to add on more travel in Tamil Nadu, consider my extra itinerary ideas and getting in touch with Julie from Travel XS who offers good car and driver quotes for longer periods of travel.

If you’d like help to book your flights, accommodation or any add-on travel, Divya at Flight Centre Kingston ACT knows about this opportunity too and will know what you need. She’s also on 02 62846900.

And please do get in touch with me if you’d like to ask anything at all.

Why not treat yourself in 2017 and live like a Chettiar for a week!

 

Trying South Indian String Hoppers (Idyappam) at home! 

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Idyappam are very popular in South India and Sri Lanka (string hoppers) to mop up delicious curry gravies.

Earlier this year we learn the technique from Mary (Mary’s Kitchen) in Kochi Kerala, who, along with her husband Martin, serves amazing food, but also is a wonderful teacher.


In fact we learnt a whole host of fabulous recipes like Fish in Green Mango Curry, Chicken Korma and Aloo Gobi ( potato and cauliflower).


Mary taught us, but Martin hopped on his motorcycle and headed to the market to buy us the special press and steamer we needed.


Now back in Canberra, it was time to try it out on my own.

Mixing approximately equal parts of rice flour mixed with a little salt, and boiling water until I had a soft dough, I then added this to the press.


The thin noodles were steamed for a few minutes and while  I’m they are best made just before serving, there was no problem making them ahead of time and microwaving them to serve.


They were perfect served with some of the curries I’d learnt from Robin in Munnar, Kerala…..


And from Lishan at the Spice House in Marissa, Sri Lanka.


Lots of wonderful memories.

South East India Food Adventure – now with more tips!

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Tamil Nadu

1. Chennai

Why Go?

Chennai is the gateway to Tamil Nadu and a major airport in Southern India

Where to Stay?

T. Nagar in Chennai is a good spot to stay as its near the Pondi Bazaar for shopping and some good spots to eat.

The Residency Towers  in T.Nagar is well priced in the low season has a lovely decor and a pool for the hot weather.

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(In good weather, Lotus Apartments close by could also be a cheaper option).

Another nice, well priced spot, with a pool that’s worth trying if you’d like to stay in Mylapore, (which is closer to sightseeing, and has plenty of good eateries) may be the Savera Hotel.

Where to Eat

Saravana Bhavan

In Pondy Bazaar try the Rangoli Restaurant Gujarati Thali.

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There’s also a branch near the Kapalweeshwar Temple)

Murugan Idli Shop (Chennai is famous for idlis)

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Chennai Must Dos ( all inexpensive activities)

Koyambedu Market, Chennai
Open daily from early morning, this huge wholesale market is a wonderful place to take photos and interact with stall sellers who love to have their photo taken.

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Start in the first building which houses the flowers, but do also see the fruit and vegetable buildings, including the sea of bananas.
It costs around 250Rs to get there by auto rickshaw from Residency Towers Hotel.
It also gets quite hot, so best to head there straight after breakfast in the warm weather.

Mylapore must sees
Even if time is short, a quick trip to Mylapore ( about 500 Rs or less in an auto rickshaw for a round trip) is well worth it, to see and share local life.
Best done in the evening when the breeze from the ocean cools things down and the light is perfect for photos.
Sunday evening is especially good when St Thome Cathedral is alive with a huge outdoor mass….

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….and Marina beach is busy with families enjoying a Sunday outing.

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Kapaleeshwarer Temple also in Mylapore, is good in the evening too. ( It is closed for a long lunch 12:00-4:00pm).

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The Storytrails Bazaar Trail or Peacock Trail is good if there’s a few of you to share the cost or if you can join a group.

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2. Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

About 1-1 ½ hours south of Chennai on the East Coast Road.

Why Go?

Visitors stop here to see the World Heritage listed temples and rock carvings.

Where to Stay?

Grande Bay Resort and Spa

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Where to Eat

Anthony’s Cafe

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Seahore Garden Restaurant

Try the fish curry that Rick Stein declared was the best curry in all of India.

While this is not actually the best ever fish curry, it’s not bad, the view is great, and the Marsala prawns are excellent.

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If you’d like cold beer, then do phone ahead ( or ask someone else to) to get it in the fridge.

What to Do

Exploring the world heritage Pallava Dynesty monuments in Mamallapuram is well worth doing. All seven sights are close together and can be seen in a morning.

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These include the Five Rathas (250Rs per person entry fee, but this also gets you in to the Shore Temple),
Krishna’s Butterball, Mamallapuram Hill and Anjuna’s Penance
Engage an auto rickshaw driver for around 700Rs and a local guide for about 600Rs.
Recommendations include:
Sakthi, auto driver and fixer of all things – like cold beer and  local SIM cards! He is often contacted by Grande Bay Resort to run guests into town.

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Nirmal, a registered guide, has very good English and a great sense of keeping things brief and to the point, very important when it’s hot.

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The government shop at the Shore Temple has some lovely textiles and camel bone boxes.

Well worth also doing is a 20 min, 800Rs ( for 1-2 people) auto rickshaw ride to the local rural town market in Thirskkalakundram, near Eagle Temple on the hill, close to Mamallapuram.
It’s colourful and fun.

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Best to head there around 4:30pm to co-incide with the end of school and with the evening market and activities starting up.
Sakthi, the auto driver, can organise this for you.

3. Puducherry (Pondicherry)

Why Go?

A former French colony on the coast, where Indian and French foods and architecture blend to achieve some lovely street scenes, good shopping and creole cusine.

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Where to Stay?

Les Hibiscus – in the good weather

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Palais du Mahe in the hot weather ( discounted prices and a nice pool).

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What to do?

Sita Flavours Cooking Class and Bike Tour

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Stroll the Promenade in the evening

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Browse the many Boutiques (Anokhi is a favourite)

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Where to eat
There are plenty of good eating options in Pondicherry.

There’s several inexpensive options for South Indian foods, that are very popular with locals.
These are especially good for a lunchtime Thalis ( not available at dinner).
Surguru is the best, especially the Surguru Spot branch on Nehru Street. The Mission Street branch comes in second place.

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For something a bit more upmarket  that serves French and Western food and alcohol, but is more expensive…
Carte Blanche at the Hotel L’Orient is great for Creole Cuisine ( the absolute best place for dinner)..

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Villa Shanti is a stylish respite from the heat..

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Satsanga can be handy ( not air conditioned)

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…or try Hotel du Parc if you’re up at the north end of town (air conditioned, quiet, serves alcohol).

Pondy’s French heritage ensures that there’s plenty of good coffee, baguettes, cakes and pastries around town and they also have gourmet sandwiches and other western lunch items.

The best may be Baker Street for food and air conditioning..

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Le Cafe for the view of the Promenade…

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or Cafe de Artes for nice atmosphere and convenience…

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…but there are plenty more attached to the more upmarket hotels.

4. Chettinad region

Why Go?

Stay in a beautifully restored mansion and enjoy authentic spicy Chettinad cuisine.

Where to Stay?

Kanadukathan

Visalam – a gorgeous art deco restored mansion with great style and a lovely pool and garden, with great low season discounts.

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What to do?

All the great activities on offer especially the no cost daily cooking demonstrations ( and tastings), kolam making, sari and dhoti demonstrations…

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….and the chargeable tour that visits the tile factory, the Visalam ancestral home and  snack making.

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Swim in the lovely pool.

Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in three different places.

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Karaikudi

Where to Stay?

The Bangala – Famous for it’s food – the set lunch or dinner is a Chettinadar wedding feast ( the hospitality and food here is truly amazing).

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The heritage block rooms are lovely especially the upper room No. 4 that overlooks the garden…

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…and No. 2 below it….

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…as well as No. 3 honeymoon suite.

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What to do?

Swim in the lovely pool.

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Enjoy the meals.

Buy a signed copy of Mrs Meyyappan’s cookbook.

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Learn to cook Chettinad cuisine.

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Visit Mrs Meyyappan’s home, just gorgeous…

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…and the antique shops..

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… and the Monday and Thursday local markets.

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Relax with the amazing high quality library thoughtfully catering to guests ( especially all the lovely coffee table books).

5. Madurai

Why Go?

One of the oldest cities in India, and home of the amaziing Meenakshi AmmanTemple

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Where to Stay?

Heritage Madurai – great prices, gorgeous pool and a lovely garden setting.

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What to do?

Enjoy the buzz around the Meenakshi Amman Temple and be sure to browse the Pudha Mandapa, the undercover heritage market at the East Gate that houses 200 tailors and endless stalls selling bling and gifts for those visiting the temple.

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 Foodies Day Out tour. an excellent introduction to foods in places you’d never find alone.

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Where to eat?

Sree Sabrees for great coffee …

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…and the  signature Jigathanda at Famous Jigathanda.

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Kumar Mess for a good thali lunch

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Suyra for a roof top great value dinner with a view of the temple.

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And ask Pandian from Foodies Day Out for more ideas.

6. Kodaikanal

Why Go?

A misty hill station in the Palni hills. Popular for it’s spectacular lookout points, waterfalls and very pretty lake. But only go if you have plenty of time, if not, just head straight to Ooty.

Where to Stay?

Villa Retreat

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Great views over the valley and amazing food.

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Walk around Kodai lake.

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Don’t miss Coakers walk near Villa Retreat

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Walk to Vattakanal ( there’s a good description of the route in Lonely Planet).

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Stop at Atlafs Cafe for a coffee and snack

Shop at the Re Shop ( lovely things and a good cause), but don’t worry about buying chocolates in town.

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Where to Eat?

Hotel Astoria Veg for a thali lunch

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The Pastry Corner for icecream.

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7. Ooty

Why Go?

Ooty another hill station of the Raj era in the Nilgiri Hills with great scenery.

Where to Stay?

Savoy Hotel

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What to do?

Take the famous toy train on the Nilgiri Toy Train Railway line …

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…to Coonoor, have a Parotti lunch meal at Hotel Sri Lakshmi

(absolutely delicious and only 40Rs) near the train station.

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Visit the Variety Hall next door to Hotel Sri Lakshmi to appreciate Mr Ashok’s designer saris and perhaps get something, made then explore the Coonoor local market.

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Get the frequent local bus back to Ooty ( bus stand is nearby).

Also visit Tulsi Mall up the hill for lovely Toda silver jewellery.

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Take a tour of the tea estates and look out view points around Coonoor ( Dolphin’s Nose, Lamb’s Rock, and view of Catherine Falls) and visit the Highfields Tea Factory for a tour and tea tasting.

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Perhaps have lunch at 180 McIver, Coonor – not cheap or exceptional, but great views.

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Back in Oozy, visit the Botanical Gardens and see the Toda village at the top of the hill.

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Visit the Main Bazaar Road in Ooty for silver jewellery.

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Where to Eat?

Pakwan in the Main Street is the best spot in town but  Lymond House is lovely, well priced and conveniently next to the Taj Savoy.

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Lymond House (next to Taj Savoy)

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Modern Stores on the way to the gardens has great chocolate and plenty of gourmet supplies.

Karnataka

8. Mysore

Where to Stay?

Royal Orchid Metropole

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What to Do?

Royal Mysore Walking Tours 

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Mysore Palace ( make sure you’re in town Sunday evening when the Palace is lit!)

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Devaraja Market is fun to explore.

Try the famous Mysore Pak fudge and Mysore Marsala Dosa.

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Where to Eat?

Om Santhi at the Hotel Siddhartra for a thali for lunch.

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The Green Hotel Restaurant for dinner

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Malgudi Cafe at the Green Hotel for coffee and chocolate cake or sandwiches.

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Dosa Point for the best Mysore Marsala Dosa and Nalpak for coffee both near the Royal Orchid.

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9. Madikeri

Why Go?

Lonely Planet does not give Madikeri enough credit.
It’s a nice little town with a couple of good spots to eat, a lively Friday market and atmospheric fort.

Madikeri is the capital of Coorg, the ‘Scotland of India’, the home of the Kodava a tribal peoples and a favourite spot of British colonists. Famous for it’s coffee, spices, and Coorg cuisine that uses pork, interesting rice sides, a unique souring ingredient called kachampuli, and ingredients in curries like tender bamboo shoots, wild mango and wild mushroom it’s well worth a visit.

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The centre of Coorg culture and cuisine, coffee plantations and hill stations.

Where to Stay?

Gowri Niwas – a lovely garden cottage with great hosts and fabulous home cooked Coorg food.

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Serene Woods – lovely setting in a coffee estate with great views and excellent Coorg food, lovely staff ( but two nights is plenty as it’s fairly isolated).

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What to do?

See the view from Raja’s Seat close to town.

Wander the fort in town.

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Shop for spices at Coorg Greens.

Learn to tie a saree Coorg style that can be worn without a blouse for evening wear.

Where to Eat?

Raintree Resturant for great iced coffee and local black Bella coffee sweetened with jaggery ( divine), or lunch in a more upmarket setting.

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Coorg Cuisinette for well priced excellent Coorg dishes with the locals.

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(The Shatabdi train is a quick and easy 2 hour scenic ride to Bangalore from Mysore).

10. Bangalore

Where to Stay?

Casa Cottage ( Room 18 is the pick), a good spot but not in the very best location.

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St Mark’s Inn or Hayz Boutique Hotel are better located, closer to St Mark’s Road.

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In Bangalore location is everything as traffic is terrible and crossing roads no fun. St Mark’s Road is the best location, close to good restaurants and easy walking to Commercial Street area.

What to Do?

Shop around Commercial Street ( the side streets are cheaper.)

For saree bling go to…

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For ready made stretchy saree blouses go to….

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Get some tailoring done.

Don’t miss seeing the amazing Mysore Saree Udyog shop with floors of the most gorgeous materials.

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And visit the nearby heritage Russell Markets. Go early to see the action as goods are unloaded.

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City Markets ( Sunday they have extra street stalls set up).

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Go early ( get there around 6:30am at least) to see the lovely flowers.

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Bangalore Flower markets

Also see the Fort and Tippu’s Palace close by while you’re there and maybe Gandhi Bazaar that’s close.

Do go the the original Mavelli Tiffin Rooms which are not far from the City Markets.

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Where to Eat?

Mavelli Tiffin Rooms  – the original is great but there are handy outlets in St Mark’s Road and Commercial Street. Try the Rava Idli and the Special Thali.

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Koshy’s Parade Cafe – lovely heritage ambiance, great for coffee, snacks, sandwiches and Raj era cuisine ( ask for the Mutton Pepper Fry, not on the menu).

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Ebony for the roof top view but expensive so go for the Dhansak or Massaman Curry meals ( large so just one between two).

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Church Street also has lots of good choices.

 

Love Travel Guides – a handy tool for a foodie trip to India

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Love Travel Guides truly are beautiful and it is like being shown around by a good friend who introduces you to all the best spots.

However, while all inclusions are high quality experiences, some can be quite expensive, so it’s good for the travel toolkit, but best used in conjunction with other guides and tips.

Sharrell Cook does a good job of describing and appreciating the Love Travel guides. In fact her GoIndia website is very useful in lots of ways.

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Opportunistic foodie travel experiences everywhere

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Some foodie travel experiences are more obvious – restaurants, cooking lessons and food tours.
But don’t miss other windows of opportunity that can be equally rewarding and easy if you are looking out for them.
They can come at any time and are often free and flexible. A great idea for a break in the itinerary or for a rainy day.
You often come across more opportunistic experiences if you know a bit about what you’re looking for. A resource like The Penguin Food Guide to India is a great tool for developing a ‘short list’ of regional dishes and foods that you can highlight and flag in the handy electronic version, great for your phone.
Then just keep an eye out for those more surprising opportunities to ‘taste’ through the list including…..

In-flight meals..

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Baked Besan (chickpea flour cakes) with mango chutney
Cottage cheese ( Paneer) and fig dumplings, with Dahl and rice, pappadoms, curd and pickle
Milk dumplings in sweetened milk and coconut ( Raismailer?)
Masala Chai
Kulcha bread

Breakfasts…often include regional dishes and buffets mean you can try a little of many different flavours. Don’t be limited…. if there’s sweets to try, or chaat snacks…why not!

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Thalis….lots of small dishes and accompaniments

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Watching your guesthouse meal being prepared

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Supermarkets…especially good for learning more about the ingredients in a food or to buy some to try (terrific for gifts to take home too)

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Chattting to locals about their meal…(everyone loves talking about food)

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Local food markets

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Local food magazines

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Popular snack bars on the street or in stations (look for busy spots where the food is quickly prepared and sold)

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On the train

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Food shops….

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Best of the West – A foodie itinerary to West India

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Best of the West – Highlights of West India Foodie Itinerary Ideas

Mumbai

Why Go?

Workers from across India, seeking to make it ‘big’ in the bright lights, bring authentic regional food  to Mumbai including India’s best range of creative street food (like Vada Pav, Behl Puri and Pao Bhaji).

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Try Parsi cuisine, originally from Persia…most fun at Britannia and Co.

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Don’t miss the dabbawallah unwritten delivery system that takes thousands of home cooked lunches to workers every day.

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Visit local food markets and Sassoon Dock fish market.

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All set against stunning colonial architecture…and surprisingly innovative and creative high density living in Mumbai’s many ‘slums’.

Check out:

Reality Tours and Travel – Excellent, great value tours around Mumbai that include the famous Mumbai street food, the dabbawallah delivery system and a socially responsible, sensitive Dharavi slum tour.

Where to Stay?

Colaba is the best area to stay, and a night in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (while quite expensive) is a once in a life time experience.

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Another good spot in Colaba is the Ascot Hotel  – more budget friendly prices, but still an excellent location.

http://www.ascothotel.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g304554-d606365-Reviews-Ascot_Hotel-Mumbai_Bombay_Maharashtra.html

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How to get there?

Mumbai is a major airport in India and good airlines often have specials. Check out Singapore Airlines for regular specials.

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Jodhpur

Why Go?

Dine with fantastic rood top views of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort and beautiful ‘Blue City’.

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Head to the clock tower to try regional snack food favourites including the famous rich lassi, have lunch with a local village family and experience a delicious Rajasthani thali at Gypsy Dining Rooms.

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Where to Stay?

Raas

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But also consider Castle View Home Stay for an amazing view, very thoughtful and kind host and great prices.

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How to get there? 

Mumbai to Jodhpur return $186 Jet Airways (online booking).

Jaisalmer

Why Go?

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Dine roof top on the massive, sandcastle-like fort that rises out of the desert, above this ‘Golden City’ and enjoy regional Rajasthani dishes in between visiting gorgeous havelis and perhaps enjoying a camel safari.

 Where to Stay? 

Garh Jaisal

Gorgeous, well priced rooms with window seats, each a different colour and lovely roof top spot for drinks and breakfast.

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How to get there?

Hire a good sized car (e.g. Toyata Innova) from one of the many car and diver businesses.

(About 4.5 hours from Jodhpur. Stop for a snack or lunch at Manvar Resort and Desert Safari Camp or Samsara Resort long the way).

Goa

Why Go?

A distinct Portuguese influenced cuisine in a setting of post colonial architecture featuring whitewashed churches and colourful villas as well as beautiful beaches.

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Lunch at a spice plantation, visit local Mapusa market on a Friday and marvel at the lush greenery of rice paddies and coconut palms.

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Where to Stay?

Anjuna

(home to the famous Wednesday Flea Market)

Casa Anjuna

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or Marbella Guest House (Candolim)

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How to get there?

Mumbai to Goa return $152 Jet Airways (online booking).