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A food tour through (mostly) southern India.


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1 hour ago, helenjp said:

Thank you so much! Your "city waking up" reminds me strongly of a section in the comic "Corridor" by Sarnath Banerjee, mostly set in Delhi/New Delhi, even though the cityscape there is more Muslim.

Those front door/gate designs are made with chalk? I read somewhere that they were traditionally made with rice flour, as an offering to insects (and maybe birds?) and  that this was one custom that some people still like to maintain in cities. When discussing traditions that are and are not maintained in cities, students were really puzzled about this, trying to figure out how "attracting insects to a food source" could fit in with urban life. Puzzle solved!

By the way, I don't see that many women in your photos, except around market stalls. Is that the impression that you get when you are actually in the streets? And is it any different in Kerala from Tamil Nadu?

Thank you for the Kerala photos too, I have often wondered how different those regions would be.

@helenjp, you are correct, the traditional method uses rice flour diluted with water, and the women use their fingers to draw the design. I plan to replicate some at home and will use chalk. I plead tiredness for my lapse, and will sharpen up going forward.


I hadn't noticed a difference in men/women out and about. It's different at night, mostly men around.  Maybe it's just the photos posted so far. I did notice that most hotel/resorts/B & B's where we stayed had all male staff apart from the grass sweepers. 


Kerala and Tamil Nadu were vastly different in many ways, not noticeably about gender. 


@liuzhou, now I'm thinking about it, a rural market we visited had more women vendors. 

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Madurai city street food tour. 


At 6pm we are driven to meet our guide, a smart young guy who was also one of our guides this morning. There's just the three of us. Firstly we had paniyaram of two kinds in the aircon part of a huge food business. The smaller darker ones in the middle are sweet, all are served with fresh tomato, coconut and coriander chutney.IMG_3499.JPG


These are the snacks, sweets and cake counters.IMG_3500.JPGIMG_3501.JPGIMG_3502.JPG



A long shot of the counter below.IMG_3505.JPG


Around the corner to a string hoppers hole in the wall. It's said to be run by the same family for more than 100 years. These are steamed snacks made with a rice flour (or millet) batter forced through something like a potato ricer in a circular motion. Once steamed, they're served on a banana leaf with coconut milk and a little sambol. Eaten with fingers.







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Madurai street food (part 2).


Another short walk takes us to Adya Ananda Bharvan, the same venue where we had our fabulous breakfast. It's a very local place, and safe for us we're told. Here we enjoyed yet another dosa, this a really good crispy one, served with sambar, masala dal, fresh chutneys. We get a lesson in eating with fingers. It's not as easy as it looks, you only get to use three fingers of your right hand.  Someone famous once said "Eating with utensils is like making love wearing armour". IMG_3511.JPG


Dough balls possibly sweet, possibly savoury.



The clientele.



If if you're ever in Madurai.....


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Part 3. A short waddle to another hole in the wall which sells only parathas.


The fire puts out some serious heat, the man chopping egg paratha is sweating profusely.



A masala paratha, first stretch the dough a bit, spread on sauce, fold and flip.DSC07854.JPG







The dining hall seats eight only at two tables and is across the alley from the kitchen. The guy with the backpack is our guide, I'm in front of him and hwmbf took the photo. There are three Indian guys at the front table, we sit behind them, nearly a full house. It was very dark, the flash might have blinded this guy. 

Notice the ceiling with a large manhole, there's storage space up there. 



Plain paratha served with mutton gravy, egg paratha, and a mix of all three. Eaten with fingers of course.



Not photogenic, very tasty and filling though. Somewhere along the way there was an iced coffee from another popular long term place, delicious but no shots...getting photo weary maybe.


Next we hit the sweets.

Edited by sartoric
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Street food part 4.


Almost exploding, we're coerced into trying some halva, sweet delicious and the final straw. Walking slowly and carefully (it's dark, it's India) back towards the car, we pass through snack street.


All sorts of savoury treats packaged and ready to go.



Many kinds of pappads ready to fry. Some of those sacks at the rear hold pasta, that surprised me.



A jaggery stall, how I wish I could have brought some home.



Shopping is a daliy event for most people. Thousands of small shops selling the same kind of stuff. Incredible.



More chillies and spices, we make it to the car, home, bed.


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Oh I just lose track of time and get lost in your photos and words.  I'll likely never visit India so you are very much appreciated.


Dumb question:  What do they do with the leaves that you've eaten off of?  Throw them away?  Burn them?  Rinse and re-use?

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Such great memories for me. We did the Madurai street food tour about 4 years ago and it left us stuffed and speechless. Our guide may have taken us to a few of the same places as you went to but also to some different ones. One of my favourites was a crazy dosa place somewhere away from the centre of the city. The two brothers (I think) who ran it were so funny and charming and happy. Almost everything we tried was absolutely delicious but we stopped being able to eat more than a bite at any one spot after the first 8.


Enjoy the rest of your trip - I would love to go back.

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3 hours ago, Shelby said:

Oh I just lose track of time and get lost in your photos and words.  I'll likely never visit India so you are very much appreciated.


Dumb question:  What do they do with the leaves that you've eaten off of?  Throw them away?  Burn them?  Rinse and re-use?

Good question @Shelby, my guess would be they become cow food (maybe after a few uses).

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6 hours ago, Shelby said:

Oh I just lose track of time and get lost in your photos and words.  I'll likely never visit India so you are very much appreciated.


Dumb question:  What do they do with the leaves that you've eaten off of?  Throw them away?  Burn them?  Rinse and re-use?

The banana leaves are discarded after a single use. I've always just chucked them on the pile round the back and never thought further about disposal. Cows can eat banana leaves, so perhaps it does indeed end up as animal feed.I've asked people who should know, and will report back when I find out.

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Our last meal in the state of Tamil Nadu, breakfast dosa with a poori and the usual accompaniments.



We head towards the state of Kerala, stopping at a local market in the town of Usilampatty.







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What a wonderful tour! I've never been to India; have a friend who's been several times, proclaims it her favorite place in the world. I'll get there, one day, maybe.


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Don't ask. Eat it.


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1 hour ago, kayb said:

What a wonderful tour! I've never been to India; have a friend who's been several times, proclaims it her favorite place in the world. I'll get there, one day, maybe.


Go @kayb, it's fascinating. This is our second visit, hopefully there will be a third !

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57 minutes ago, rotuts said:



many thanks for sharing  


what's in those bottles in pic  the second ?

Umm, my guess would be a ready mix for a particular dish...maybe someone else can answer.

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On the drive to Kerala with the Western Ghats looming ahead, we came across a family of goat herders. Two teenage sisters explained the methods used, while mum and dad watched. They have two different breeds, the local breed much taller. The woven huts are to shelter baby goats from winter weather.



Goat (mutton) is the most popular red meat in India. It was a bit disturbing earlier in the trip to see a nose to tail enterprise on the side of the road. From trimmed whole legs hanging on a steel hook, right through to a live goat tied to the fence, with a few steps in between ... I'm such a hypocrite, I love goat, very tasty.

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imageproxy.php?img=&key=d2a459cbdaa822ccThe top of the mountains is where we cross the state border into Kerala. There's more rain in Kerala, its very lush and green, with more crops and many spice plantations. We walk through one with a man who explains the growing cycle and harvesting methods for many different spices, fruit and vegetables. Here's a few....






















Coconut palms


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My brother-in-law got back to me on this important question:

"Yah, cows love banana leaves. So if one has a cow, no reason why not. When I was a boy, we had 2 cows. But these days, in our house, it is thrown into the compost."

So there you have it!

sartoric, I am really enjoying this blog. Looking forward to your reports from my home state!

Edited by Kerala
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5 hours ago, Kerala said:

My brother-in-law got back to me on this important question:

"Yah, cows love banana leaves. So if one has a cow, no reason why not. When I was a boy, we had 2 cows. But these days, in out house, it is thrown into the compost."

So there you have it!

sartoric, I am really enjoying this blog. Looking forward to your reports from my home state!

Lol thank you!!  

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1 hour ago, cdh said:

Are you sure that is allspice?  That looks like a Datura, usually poisonous.  The spikey seed pods are a giveaway.  Is allspice related to jimsonweed?

You could be right @cdh, the guy did mention datura. I remember thinking at the time, "ah, old hippy drug. I wonder what they use it for, because there's nothing unproductive here".

There definitely was allspice some where, we had never seen it growing before. I'm not sure of its relatives.

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We drive down the western side of the mountain range passing mile after mile of tea plantations. Tours, tastings and tea to purchase are all available. If Tamil Nadu is the land of temples, Kerala is the land of churches...thousands of them.


There's a church at the top of these steps.



Coffee at the Hillview restaurant where the owner pointed out some of the 400 houses, 5 churches, and 3 bus routes on the mountain across the valley.



I snuck into the kitchen. 



The weekly cattle market, where big wads of cash were changing hands.


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