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


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.


Opportunistic foodie travel experiences everywhere


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

Watching your guesthouse meal being prepared

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)

Local food markets

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Local food magazines

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….



Best of the West – A foodie itinerary to West India


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


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).


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.


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.


How to get there?

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



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?


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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).


Why Go?


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.


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).


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?


(home to the famous Wednesday Flea Market)

Casa Anjuna


or Marbella Guest House (Candolim)

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How to get there?

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

Spices, churches and streets


A well worn track, but worth a trip, is the tour around Old Goa (the original colony capital), Panaji (the current capital) and one of Goa’s many spice plantations.

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IMG_0004 IMG_0003 IMG_0002 IMG_0005 IMG_0001 Panaji streets, Miramar Beach and Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Easy spots to find for meals that are recommended by many include Mum’s Kitchen (only the way to Miramar Beach), Rio Rico (at The Mandovi Hotel on the road along the river) as well as the George Restauarnt and Bar (in front of the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) and across from the George is Kamat Hotel.

It’s really worth buying a good street map to find your way around.


IMG_0006 IMG_0005 IMG_0004 IMG_0003 IMG_0001Spice Tour and lunch at Tropical Spice Plantation


Goan Cuisine – unique and interesting


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Dodol, Doce, Bolinhas, Bebinca, cashews                                 Coconut Doce (a bit like Coconut Ice)

The 450 year influence of Portugal, up until only 50 years ago, is everywhere in Goa, but is especially delicious in food.

Portuguese style dishes include the well known vindaloo, pao and pav breads, desserts, biscuits and sweets.


Pao bread buns and Bebinca ( made from a batter of eggs, coconut, jaggery and ghee poured into a pan in a thin layer, each set over a coal fire before another layer is added).


Goan sausage is a specialty, eaten with bread or in Sorpotel.


Sorpotel, is like a rich tasty stew that I have since read is ‘The pig’s blood, liver and heart cooked with plenty of vinegar, chilli and spices and left to ‘ mellow’ for 3-4 days to make the sticky dense stew’ eaten with a sweet steamed rice cake ‘sanna’. (Penguin Food Guide to India p. 247). (This meal also includes rose tea and piña (tasted a bit like rum balls, but is made of rice flour, coconut and jaggery).


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Prawn vindaloo                                                  Fish Masala Rava Fry

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Goan Fish Curry, Fish Cafreal     Chicken Xacuti and Kuchumber salad


Prawn Curry and rice

And then there’s feni, an alcohol made from cashews and creamy addictive cashew kulfi

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Mapusa Local Food market – Goa


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If you are in northern or central Goa on a Friday, the Mapusa municipal market is a real event, worth making the trip for. About 25 mins from Anjuna, Calangute or Candolim by taxi (about $AUS 16 for a round round trip and waiting) it’s an easy day trip, full of local colour and interest. (It’s open other days, but Friday is the big event, from about 10am).


Check out the fish market, meat market, fruit, veg and spices. (And grab some of those delicious mangoes if you see them.)



Plenty of opportunities to try Goan specialities along the way like Bebinca, Pina (tasted a bit like rum balls, but is made of rice flour,coconut and jaggery), Sorpotel, which was a rich tasty stew that I have since read is ‘The pig’s blood, liver and heart cooked with plenty of vinegar, chilli and spices and left to ‘ mellow’ for 3-4 days to make the sticky dense stew’ eaten with a sweet steamed rice cake ‘sanna’ , and Doce.





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There’s some textiles and jewellery worth checking out too. Just be a bit aware of the tricky marketing strategy that can be difficult to free yourself from, whereby retailers, selling their wares out of a bag rather than a shop, seek customers by being helpful and then obliging you to see their ‘cheap rubbish’, and then their sister’s/friend’s etc. It can wear down even the most hardy market shopper.




Marbella Guest House, a Goan gem in Candolim


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Marbella Guest House, located on a leafy, quiet street, is an ideal, great value spot for a stay in Candolim at the southern end of North Goa, close to the Mandovi River and Fort Aguada. (Candolim is a much nicer area to stay in than Calangute or Baga, greener, quieter, with nicer restaurants and shops). (Don’t miss Newton’s Supermarket for Goan specialities to take home).

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A pleasant restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, is set around a lovely garden and serviced by an impeccably clean and efficient kitchen.

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Guests can watch happy and friendly staff prepare their meals from fresh ingredients.

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Banana lassi                                    The freshest, greenest palak (spinach) paneer (cheese)!


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Tastefully decorated rooms are complimented by a comfortable sitting area.



Rajasthani suite ($AUS46 low season)



Garden room ($AUS33 low season)

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Bouganvillea room ($AUS31 low season)

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Owned and run by the an ex-Bitish/German couple for 30 years, this charming guesthouse is open all year round and prices start at about $AUS30 in the low season (discounts for four nights or longer.)

Look for the Bus Station and Taj Fort Aguada.

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Candolim, Goa – a good spot to stay


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It can be hard to choose a location in Central Goa to stay.

Panjim is just too much city.

Calangute lacks charm and is busy.

Anjuna is quieter and can be lovely.

But another good spot is Candolim.

Leafier and greener, it is home to Fort Aguada, popular with local tourists and set in a large park area on the Mandovi River.

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Also worth a visit is Newton’s Supermarket, at the junction of Candolim Beach Road and Fort Aguada Road, full of Goan specialities to learn more about ingredients in dishes, catch anything you’ve missed, or to take home in in vacuum sealed packs the ongoing pleasure of  Goan Cuisine for yourself or presents.


A great spot to stay in Candolim is Marbella Guest House near the Taj Fort Aguada and the bus station corner.

Tamil Nadu, South India – 10 Top Foodie travel spots – on my Wishlist


On My Wish list – Top Ten in Tamil Nadu

Top ten in Tamil Nadu Map (source Lonely Planet – South India and Kerala)

1. Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram)

About 1-1 ½ hours south of Chennai on the coast.

Why Go?
Visitors stop here to see the World Heritage listed temples and carvings, particularly lovely at sunset, but I’m hoping to sample the fish curry at the Seashore Garden Restaurant, that Rick Stein declared was the best curry in all of India.

Where to Stay?
Grande Bay Resort and Spa (Grande Chalet room $160 incl. breakfast)

Book on or contact Samuel (phone works best) from Australia 0011 91 9840793960

How to get there?
Grande Bay Resort pick up from Chennai airport costs about $42 if travelling down the scenic east coast.

2. 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.

Where to Stay?
L’Orient Hotel (every room is different but try the Karikal for about $185)

Les Hibiscus – A Lonely Planet Guide top pick in Tamil Nadu

How to get there?

Hotel pick up from L’Orient Hotel costs about $40.

3. Tranquebar

Why Go?
A little coastal town and former Danish colony, with a lovely place to stay.

Where to Stay?
Bungalow on the Beach (again, every room is different, but try the Queen Anna Sophia room (approx.. $179 incl. breakfast)

How to get there?

Drop off from Les Hibiscus $45, from Hotel L’Orient $53

And two stops in different Chettinadu towns:

4. Karaikudi
Why Go?
Stay in a mansion and enjoy authentic spicy Chettinad cuisine.

Where to Stay?
The Bangala – Famous for it’s food – the set lunch or dinner is a Chettinadar wedding feast

How to get there?

Drop off from Bungalow on the Beach $82

5. Kanadukathan
Why Go?
Stay in a beautifully restored mansion and enjoy authentic spicy Chettinad cuisine.

Where to Stay?
Visalam – A Lonely Planet top pick in Tamil Nadu, a gorgeous art deco restored mansion with great style and a lovely pool and garden.

How to get there?
Local taxi (only 20 mins)

6. Madurai

Why Go?
One of the oldest cities in India, that traded with Ancient Rome and home of the amazing Meenakshi AmmanTemple and Foodies Day Out tour.

Where to Stay?

The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai
How to get there?

Drop off from Visalam $45

7. Kodaikanal

Why Go?
A misty hill station in the Palni hills. Popular for it’s spectacular lookout points, waterfalls and very pretty lake.

Where to Stay?
Lonely Planet’s top picks:

Villa Retreat
Great views over the valley


The Carlton
Nicely situated on the lake and recommended by Lonely Planet for its restaurant.

Book through the hotel website to get a special two night package that includes sightseeing and a romantic boat ride.

How to get there?

Pick up from Villa Retreat/ The Carlton Hotel approx. $45

8. Coonoor

Why Go?
Coonoor A hill station with beautiful scenery in the Nilgiri Hills and on the Nilgiri Toy Train Railway line.

Where to Stay?

180 McIver – A Lonely Planet top pick in Tamil Nadu and a classic 1880s British bungalow

How to get there?

Drop off from Villa Retreat/ The Carlton Hotel approx. $85

9. Ooty
Why Go?
Ooty another hill station of the Raj era in the Nilgiri Hills with great scenery.

Where to Stay?
Savoy Hotel

How to get there?

Take the famous toy train to Ooty leaves 10:40am (very cheap)

10. Chennai

Why Go?
Chennai the gateway to Tamil Nadu and a major airport in Southern India

Where to Stay?
Best location in Chennai to stay is T.Nagar near the Pondi Bazaar and some good spots to eat.

The Residency Towers has a great package for $155 for a Club Room on 18th floor for 24 hours (i.e. check in time is check out time) that also includes buffet breakfast, airport transfers, use of the Club Lounge for breakfast and free drinks between 7:30-8:30pm and a pool.

Contact the hotel directly to book.

But a cheaper, good option also in T. Nagar is the Lotus Apartments

(Make sure you pick the branch on Venkatraman Street).

How to get there?
Being such a major airport, it’s easy to get specials on airfares from some of the best airlines.
keep an eye out for Singapore Airlines specials that often drop to around $1150 return ex Canberra/Sydney.

If you have extra time, consider continuing on to Mysore (a wonderful palace) and the Coorg or Kodagu region (for coffee estates, hill staions and a distinct regional cuisine), in Karnataka and then flying back from Bangalore.

The very best curry – Fish Cafreal, Calangute, Goa


Following in the footsteps of Rick Stein on the quest for the best curry in India….we found it! (Or at least, it was our best).
The Fish Cafreal (for about $AUS5) at a small eatery on a corner under the Plantain Leaf in Calangute, Goa, was a winner.
As Plantain Leaf nearby is in noted in Lonely Planet Guides (their top pick, worth a look too for thalis), it is easy to find, very well run, great value…and delicious.
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Cafreal is a dish that was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese from their  colonies in the Africa. The sauce ingredients include fresh coriander, onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, chilli, mace, cloves and lime juice.