Don’t miss Udupi on your way along the west coast of Karnataka, India – a real treat!


Udupi’s famous 900 yr old Sri Krishna Temple is a relaxed and personal kind of place at this time of year, with less visitors because of the monsoon rains.


In the dry season it gets thousands of visitors each day. Worshippers come to see the young Lord Krisha whose attire is changed daily. No two days are ever the same.

He is also famously turned to face east ( or backwards). The story tells that when a devotee was not allowed in to see him, being an untouchable, Krishna instead turned around so that the devotee could instead see him through a crack in the west wall.

All this I know from the kindness of Smitha and her family who were visiting from Mumbai and took pity on my ignorance.

And the kindness continued as Sathya, a priest in the temple showed us around the Sri Krishna Temple’s Goshala, home to the temple’s cattle.

Sathya explained that the temple is part of a community of 400 students and priests who live on site and showed us the huge dining hall that serves meals, free of charge to the many pilgrims who visit, many traveling long distances.

In peak times they feed 5,000 to 10,000 people a day. The food is cooked in huge pot and was indeed very good.

Smitha’s lovely family invited me to sit with them and Smitha shared her interest in nutrition and helping people to eat a traditional Indian diet despite modern challenges.

We waited for the dishes to be brought around by temple priests: rice with rasam…

…a great jackfruit, pumpkin and eggplant sambar…

…payasam for dessert and a sweet doughnut type pastry.

My efforts don’t do justice at all to the good food. Being extra slow to eat by hand my dishes sadly ended up mixed together!

But I did save room for the famous Gadbad Icecream at Woodlands nearby!

And while we were there we had to sample their other specialties like banana buns with chutney, rawa idli with sambar and coconut chutney and pineapple kesari bath.

Woodlands also had this really interesting Moode ‘leaf’ idli steamed in a banana leaf.

And you can’t leave Udupi without seeing the lovely Malpe Beach which surprisingly was allowing swimming.

Malpe had that real Goan feel (Goa is pretty close really) with the lovely bright houses in amongst the coconut palms. It would be a great place to stay a few nights.



Cooking Kerala Appams in an Aussie Kitchen!


Traditionally these wonderful rice pancakes are eaten for breakfast with either a vegetable coconut based stew or dipped in sweetened coconut milk.  So Yummy!


I enjoyed them often in Kerala for breakfast , lunch and dinner…

…and miss them terribly!

So I was very excited when my friend Maya taught me to cook Kerala style appams back in my Canberra kitchen.

With Maya’s help I based the recipe on the YouTube and instructions from Show Me The Curry but tweaked it.

I first mixed 1 tsp dried yeast with 1 Tbsp sugar and ½ cup warm water and fermented to become bubbly/foamy.


Then I used it to grind 2/3 cup cooled cooked Basmati Rice in a blender/food processor.


Every time I visit India, I bring back something extra for my kitchen. This time it was a Preethi ‘Mixi’ Blender carried in the hand luggage! This makes easy work of grinding grains and seed spices.


I then used 280ml (2/3 tin) coconut milk and added this gradually to grind 2 cups Raw Ponni Rice that had been washed and soaked for 4-5 hours. Ponni rice is available from Indian grocery store and is essential to the recipe. This needed to be ground until the batter was very smooth.


Then I fermented the batter in a warm place for 8 hours (in a large pot with a lid) before adding 4 Tbsp sugar and extra coconut milk added (the rest of the tin).

You need to put the batter in the fridge after it’s fermented where it will keep for a few days.  However, it needs to be room temp for cooking though and a ‘custard –like’ consistency.


I sped this up after work by putting the pot in a sink of hot water and stirring it occasionally (add extra cow’s milk or coconut milk if needed).

I then used about ½ cup of batter and swirled around an unoiled non-stick medium hot appam pan to achieve a lacy edge and soft crumpty centre and covered it with the lid to cook for a few minutes.


These are also easily cooked in a frypan if you don’t have an appam pan, although it’s not nearly as good as the appam pan version. Kallappams are cooked like that.


Appams are great served with a Kerala style coconut based ‘stew’ for breakfast or any curry any time. Great for mopping up the gravy and more delicious than plain rice.


And completely gluten and dairy free, and FODMAPS friendly!

Go for the food and stay for the views at Waves Beach Resort, Northern Kerala


We arrived at Seema’s Waves Beach Resort to an impressive balcony view from this cute garden cottage at Thottada Beach near Kannur, Kerala.

One of the few good places to stay between Calicut and Mangalore in the monsoon season, it’s part of the extensive, well-run network of Kerala Homestays that are the best place to find wonderful home-cooked Kerala cuisine and experience a local lifestyle.

Room 1 is the pick! On first glance the room looks clean and very spacious!

But then you realize that every window and the door way has a wonderful view.

Looking further I discovered the lovely garden setting for meals…

…the hammocks for relaxing….

….and the gate down to the private beach below.

The two cottages each have upper and lower rooms….

…and are perched on the cliff at the end of gorgeous Thottada Beach.

The surrounding village is lovely for walking and chatting to people along the way.

Being the low season we pretty much had the place to ourselves with the wonderful Waves team looking after us…

….Jithin’s happy auto service, who waited for our late train, Liju who shared his cooking secrets and delivered the most delicious fresh, tasty Kerala dishes and Adash, a great all rounder and kitchen hand.

And that’s when I come to perhaps the very best reason to stay at Waves Beach Resort. The food is superb and in the low season all three meals are included in great value rate of about $60 AUS per day for two people sharing a room.

Liju, in his kindness allowed me to watch him cook and I’ve posed these simple but spectacular recipes.

They have worked beautifully back home in Australia!

But just to give you an idea of what we enjoyed and the links to the recipes…

Our first night’s dinner was a wonderful Malabar prawn biriyani with a date pickle, coconut chutney and cabbage thoran.

Next day our Kerala breakfast  was an aromatic, beautifully spiced egg curry and chappati.

Lunch was wow! Served with fat Kerala rice and pappadoms, my favourites were the avial and the pachadi but the long bean thoran and Malabar coconut fish curry were wonderful too.

Second night’s dinner was again remarkable. Liju included two dishes that used the flavours of toasted coconut. The style Liju used for the Nadan Chicken Curry, special to this Kannur area, is possibly used in no other dish.

But the sweet potato smash that also used toasted coconut in another style, was the real standout for me. Look for the recipe and do try it. Along with this was a green bean and carrot thoran, a very simple raita style salad and a very wonderful ghee rice cooked in the biriyani style.

As we had not yet tasted the pathiri breads distinct to Malabar Moplah cuisine,  Liju so thoughtfully asked a friend’s mother to make these for our last breakfast that first visit.

Apparently pathiri take the place of appam and are not fermented with alcoholic coconut toddy. They are delicious, a little like pancakes and made from rice flour, water salt then steamed. Sometimes I think coconut milk is used. Liju served these with a tasty kadala (chickpea) curry, but like appam they were also good rolled around a banana.

We couldn’t stay away for long and when we returned after our visit north to Mangalore and Udupi. Even though we arrived late for lunch, with great thoughtfulness Liju and Adash had collected oysters from Thottada Beach and fried them with chili, coconut and garlic. Liju  served this with a long bean thoran, tomato pachadi and sambar, all beautifully flavoured. It was so very kind and so very delicious, the very best of food!!!

When dinner followed it was another fabulous Kerala meal from Liju’s kitchen – Kerala Fish Curry, Beetroot Thoran, Tapioca flavored with toasted coconut and spices, cucumber and carrot curd based ‘salad’  and that gorgeous ghee rice.


Our last and final meal at Waves Beach Resort (at least for this trip) was superb oothappam a spongy, rice pancake flavoured with green chilli and curry leaves, accompanied by an excellent egg curry.

I’m adding Waves Beach Resort to my list of favorites in Kerala. The food alone is worth the trip, but the views from the balcony and windows room in no.1 make it very hard to leave!

For more information and bookings get in touch with Seema


Brunton’s Boatyard Hotel – Rich and full, luxury heritage in Fort Kochi @cgh_earth


Fort Kochi in Kerala, South India is brimming with history and culture. Coming for the spices, the Portuguese, Dutch and British fought over Cochin for nearly 500 years.

Surrounded by waterways, seafood is plentiful. The local cuisine makes the most of spices, bountiful coconuts and the influences of colonialists as well as Arabian traders, Syrian Christian and Jewish migrants. It is superb!

For travellers who want to enjoy the food and experience their own piece of Old Cochin in style, there’s no shortage of boutique heritage accommodation. But Brunton’s Boatyard offers so much more than just accommodation, at very competitive prices.

I love coming in the monsoon when there’s fewer travellers and it’s cold at home. It’s wonderful watching the rains from my balcony, drink in hand and there’s great low season rates. For the best prices do email Roshini directly. She’s immensely helpful and lovely!

This gorgeous place started over 100 years ago as George Brunton’s boat building yard. Having fallen on hard times it’s been beautifully renovated and modern comforts added to make a wonderful luxury heritage hotel. It’s full of cane, wickerwork, wood, heritage tiles, spice chests, terra-cotta floors, high four poster beds with footstools and deep baths. When I arrived, like at other CGH Earth Experience properties, there was something to wear and something to drink that reflects the local culture and history. This time it was jasmine and marigold along with refreshing cardamom, lime and ginger. My days always began watching the fishing boats and liners from my balcony…… and sipping one of the luxurious leaf teas from all over India, provided in my room. There is early yoga and meditation with the master Sathya Raj, free to all guests every morning. When I went along I had my own private class.Breakfast is included and served in the Armoury Cafe. Fresh juices, fruits, house-baked breads, cereals….…..French toast, eggs, idli, vada, dosa….…..and a changing Mattanchery Experience Kerala breakfast. The Chicken Pidikozi was completely new to me….….chicken curry with boiled rice dumplings, a little like large gnocchi! Other mornings I enjoyed the Kallappam with Portuguese chicken and vegetable stew or with ‘egg roast’. Brunton’s is just up the road from Mattancherry’s Spice Bazaar that has been trading for centuries. Along with the Dutch Palace and Jew Street, it’s a fascinating area to wander down, stopping for a coffee, chai or ginger lassi in one of the cafes.

Brunton’s is also near the ferry dock and it’s an interesting 10 cent ride over to explore modern Kochi.
For lunch it was great to head to CGH Earth’s David Hall near the Parade Ground. Originally a 350 year old Dutch East India Company House, it was bought by the influential Kochi Jewish Koder family and now renovated as a space where contemporary artists can work and exhibit free of charge. I love the garden cafe specialising in wood fired pizza, like the Fort Cochin topped with seafood . Also good for a hot or cold drink, the Spicy Chicken Chappati wraps are on my list for next time.
But if you’re heading back to Brunton’s for a swim….… might have their thali for lunch…img_5688….or something from their international and local menu like this Kathai Roll that just hit the spot! img_5686The gorgeous bed was always hard to resist in the warmth of the day with a lovely fresh fruit basket delivered daily.
Afternoon tea is also ‘on the house’ each day at 5pm and might be delicious cucumber, tomato and mint chutney sandwiches with house-made bread and home-made banana cake or hot potato or banana fries and homemade biscuits. It’s such a lovely gesture and just perfect at that time of day. 
From here don’t miss catching the complimentary daily sunset cruise, on the last boat made by Brunton’s Boatyard 60 years ago. Leaving from Brunton’s private dock it’s a must do! Guided by the lovely Saranya, we passed local fishermen at Aspinall House – a successful boat building family last century, the old warehouses on Spice Street…….continued past huge ships unloading at the port, Chinese fishing nets introduced 600 years ago, great fleets of local boats that supply Kerala’s love of seafood, and seven islands in the bay.  Also complimentary before dinner is Chef Nithin’s daily demonstrations and tastings of carefully explained traditional Kerala dishes, like Kerala Fish Red Curry, Fish Moilee and Portuguese Vegetable Stew. Dinner is luxurious and relaxing at Brunton’s History Restaurant whose menu reflects Kochi’s heritage. Particularly famous is the signature dish, First Class Railway Mutton Curry – reflecting British influence on Kochi’s cuisine. Slow cooked for 5 hours it’s served with a rice pilaf, sautéed spinach, corn masala and house made kulcha buns.  The signature dessert at Brunton’s Boatyard is their delicious Vattelappam, a local Syrian Christian recipe based on a coconut custard set over caramelised jaggery. It reminded me of the Sri Lankan Wattalappam but smoother. After all Sri Lanka is not far way! My favorite Kerala dish is the Portuguese heritage stew, Fish Moilee with appams. The Vypeen Moilee version from Brunton’s Boatyard is one of the best, full of fish, squid and prawns. Very pretty is the butter tiger prawn starter with beetroot and paneer mousse and curry leaf hollandaise…

…and very delicious was the Baby Squid stuffed with Biriyani!

Diners are also surprised by little complimentary treats like nuts, gorgeous warm house-baked breads, salad or spicy carrot and red pepper soup.Brunton’s is also within a 5-10 min walk of three more of my Fort Kochi favourite restaurants if you stay for a while and want to explore more menus.

I’ve tried to put my finger on what makes Brunton’s so good. I love the high standards, the quality and authenticity of the property, the food and the many included activities, but I think most of all it’s the team at CGH Earth that make it so special. There is always great warmth in their smiles and their eyes light up when they see you. You are the centre of their attention! They thoughtfully anticipate guests’ needs and are genuinely caring and concerned that each person has the very best experience both in the hotel and of community and culture around it. They are well supported by the attitudes and values of CGH Earth whose approach reflects their commitment to environmental sustainability, preserving local culture and generously sharing true South Indian hospitality. This was my fourth CGH Earth experience and I’ve seen it in all of them. They are truly unique in what they do and they do it so well!

For a full and rich Fort Kochi experience in heritage luxury at great value for money, Brunton’s Boatyard is the place to choose.

Monsoon Magnificence at Wayanad Wild, Kerala @cgh_earth


The monsoon is wild at Wayanad Wild, but magnificent! Up in Kerala’s tea, coffee, rice and spice growing hills…..

.…full of natural beauty…

….this new offering from CGH Earth Experience Hotels is a gorgeous place to be spoil by lovely staff who think of everything!

Surrounded by lush jungle nurtured by 5000mm annual rainfall, it’s perfect relaxation.

With no boundary between the hotel and the state forest, Wayanad Wild seems to go on forever.

Listening to the nearby stream, well fed by the monsoon and watching the rain from my balcony is like a mindful meditation.
Umbrellas are a part of life here in the monsoon but if you’d prefer a drop off at your door it’s no trouble.
I love how the tariff takes care of everything and includes all meals ….

…as well as in-house activities like talks and nature walks before and after every meal with naturalists Maneesh and Surya…
….daily cooking demonstrations with chef Vishnu, creating simple dishes like Malabar Fish Curry and Longbean Mezhukkulpratti.
In the monsoon the rate is very attractive at around $210 AUS per double room – for everything except off property excursions.

But why would you leave? The food is wonderful here.

Served in an open air restaurant integrated with the environment…

…Manoj overseas a great team who create wonderful meals!
Often it’s a buffet like this breakfast of puttu and kadala curry, appam and egg roast ….
…or another of iddyappam and vegetable stew and idly with sambar. Eggs to order and dosa!
Or this buffet dinner of Malabar grilled fish, prawn, paneer with cashew and mutton curries, black pepper chicken, eggplant, okra, potato and beetroot dishes, Dahl and ghee parotta.
Dinner is sometimes also a barbecue.
But meals may be a la carte if guests are few like a Thali lunch of tiny grained gandhakasala rice unique to Wayanad, fish curry, prawn marsala stir fry, raw banana with beans and pumpkin curry, cabbage and fresh coconut thoran, green dahl and mahi-mahi fish Marsala grill accompanied by lime, mango and bitter gourd pickles, finished with a locally grown bamboo rice, jaggery and coconut payasam.
A la carte dinner may be Corriander prawns (or the vegetarian starter of beetroot patties with mint chutney)…
..followed by soup and then a special Wayanad Wild Malabar stuffed fish in spiced coconut sauce stuffed with green chili, corriander, ginger and shallots, served with string hoppers (iddyappam).
Last may be Watanad’s unique fresh jackfruit mousse!
Meal times are flexible and fit in with guests needs. Staff are wonderfully attentive. Everyone seems to have worked for CGH Earth for years, at their different properties. If they try elsewhere they seem to come back and I can totally understand that!
The rooms are spacious and attractive…
…all with great balcony views into the trees, the perfect spot for watching the rains.
Daily chats (snacks) are refilled daily and the mini-bar soft drinks are free for the first time.
Monkeys make themselves at home.

And there’s a refreshing pool for a post walk swim.

A pickup from Kozhikode costs around $65AUS and takes about 2 hours. From Kochi it would be 6-7 hours but the cars are very comfortable so this is not a problem. But you can also fly to Kozhikode.

Book directly through the website or by contacting Roshini who is always so helpful
Excellent value for the holiday dollar it’s lovely for couples but also great for a group of friends or family.
#meandcghearth #kerala #wayanad #cghearth #favourite #loveindiatravel #foodindia #wayanadwild @cghearth @wayanadwild

Eighth Bastion Hotel, Kochi – a top spot to stay @cgh_earth


Eighth Bastion, like all CGH Earth hotels, is a great spot to stay in Kochi, especially with the generous low season price ($125AUS including the fabulous breakfast).

Near the Dutch cemetery and Thakur House, it once was a Dutch mansion itself.

It’s close to the beach for great people watching and wandering.

It has just 19 rooms with some (quieter) rooms overlooking the pool and other (noisier) rooms overlooking local life and out to the sea. Room 305 was great, a little noisier as it was on the corner, but great views, space and privacy. It was lovely sitting on the balcony watching the rain with a tea, or listening to the rain overnight on the roof. So relaxing!

There’s gorgeous common areas, a lovely infinity pool and complementary bikes and umbrellas to use.

Staff are wonderful, relaxed, warm and genuinely thoughtful.

The breakfast team Binesh, Ajeesh, Mathai and Sayanth.

Interestingly Mathai told us about the pasta he makes using a mix of flours made from jackfruit and wheat that gives a result lower in glycaemic index and higher in fibre. Very clever!

They are joined in the kitchen of East Indies restaurant by chef Shinto.

Breakfast is generous and delicious including house made pineapple jam and muesli, full English breakfast, pancakes and Indian breakfasts like idli and sandbar, aval (rolled rice with jaggery and spices), dosa, oothappam with sambar and coconut and tomato chutneys and a great black chenna with Kerala red rice puttu.

There’s even the Bruder Bread, unique to Kochi that dates back to the Dutch influence. Made locally from a family secret  it uses caramelised sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices and raisins.

While weekdays in low season are just the la carte menu for breakfast without the buffet, there’s no missing out.

Book directly through the website. Roshini at Reservations is fantastic, so very helpful. (
She can also organize a very comfortable and welcome pick up from the airport at a competitive price which I recommend.

A top spot for a boutique stay in Kochi!

Can’t wait to try Bruton’s Boatyard next month!

@cghearth #meandcghearth

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


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.


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.


Be intrigued by the history and context of Chettinad cooking.


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.


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


Explore the opulence and extravagance of Chettiar mansions and antiques.


Share experiences at local markets and bazaars.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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! 


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!


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….


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

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.

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).


What to do?

Sita Flavours Cooking Class and Bike Tour



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.


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..

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..


Le Cafe for the view of the Promenade…


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?


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.




Swim in the lovely pool.

Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in three different places.

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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….


…as well as No. 3 honeymoon suite.


What to do?

Swim in the lovely pool.


Enjoy the meals.

Buy a signed copy of Mrs Meyyappan’s cookbook.


Learn to cook Chettinad cuisine.

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Visit Mrs Meyyappan’s home, just gorgeous…


…and the antique shops..


… and the Monday and Thursday local markets.


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 …


…and the  signature Jigathanda at Famous Jigathanda.

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Kumar Mess for a good thali lunch


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


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.


Where to Eat?

Hotel Astoria Veg for a thali lunch

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The Pastry Corner for icecream.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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….


Get some tailoring done.

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


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


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.