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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Culinary Tour of Southern India

Old Rice Barges converted to stunning luxurious houseboats
Kumakoran Lake Resort

We have just been on another tour of India to the south this time.
From Kerala to Tamil Nadu we learnt about the ancient spice traders and the cuisine that the locals
are so proud of. Quite different to the north in many ways but fabulously interesting in different ways.
So many of our favourite spices are grown in this rich land with pepper being gold
Lush plantations of tea adorn the hillsides and palm trees are abundant on the coast.
Coconut is used in many of the dishes and seafood is prevalent.
We started our trip in Mumbai and had our first street food of the south at Chowpatty Beach.  We sampled the most delicious snacks and my mouth still waters at the thought of them.
Pav Bahji Vada Pav and Pani Puri to name a few.
Nutmeg freshly picked
We then flew down to Cochin the queen of the Arabian Sea. An active port and the commercial hub of Kerala. We enjoyed a cooking demonstration and dinner of Syrian Christian cuisine.
A tour of a couple of farms Thomas Chettans and Phillipkuttys had us captivated by the size and quantity of fruit vegetables and spices that grown there.  Beautiful tropical greenery everywhere
They both entertained us with a wonderful lunch of organic home grown produce

A night on a houseboat cruising the enchanting  backwaters of Kerala was a highlight for many. The houseboats are converted rice barges and were equipped with every modern convenience of a beautiful hotel. Animals at dawn feeding at the waters edge were a plenty.

The next night we spent in the Kumakoram Lake Resort another glamourous tropical hideaway.

We ventured to the Chettinad area of Tamil Nadu. Not the opulence of the north but grand and amazing architecture never the less. The Chettinad region became a focus of internationalised tastes. As well as the food , the Chettiars constructed  palaces or forts of teak and marble sometimes running to 50 rooms adorned with chandeliers and richly patterned tiles for their families. Times have changed and the families have now ventured to other parts of the world to make their fortunes and the houses sit abandoned. They are used for wedding ceremonies if at all.
Abandoned mansion of Chettinand
Ready for anything on the early morning boat cruise 

Thanks to Unesco, these villages and the vast number of old mansions, are being preserved.
We were lucky to stay at the beautiful Bangala hotel . This heritage hotel builds its menus around the basic Chettiar cuisine and adds from a variety of cuisines from countries the Chettiars have travelled. The food is influenced from the late 18th century when they established businesses in  Burma French Indo China, Dutch East Indies, Malaysia and Singapore

We stayed at the Bangala in the town of Karaikudi near Madurai The hotel is a family owned building originally and has an exotic collection of antiquities gathered by the owner. We enjoyed another cooking class here and loved it so much we all purchased the cook book.
Chettinadu had an old village of  300 mansions that now sit abandoned. The homes of old traders.....
The french town of Pondicherry was so different you could imagine you weren't in India. Our cooking class was with Shyama who entertained us through the food and flower markets. This was prior to a fabulous and informative cooking class in her home

Some of the gals and our favourite cooking teacher Shyama
Spice markets of Pondicherry
House boat luxury
At the Taj Hotel in Mumbai
Pru at the beautiful Bangala Hotel
So many memories, so much beautiful food and new friends made. Another wonderful group and fabulous tour. The people and the guides we meet along the way help to make the trip an unforgettable experience. A big thank you to our gorgeous kind and entertaining driver Ajeesh who looked after us all so well from Kerala to Chennai.
Just planning the next tour !!!

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