Tamilnadu is one of the most underrated states, from the tourism perspective. And honestly, by the name, certain specific images come to my mind- veg food, all food items tasting sour, idly/ vada….. blah blah blah. So this time, when I was invited to go on a road trip across the enchanting Tamilnadu, I didn’t think twice. I am sure, it’s impossible to see an entire state on such short notice, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. Definitely, there will be multiple blog posts on the same trip, but this is the basic listing-type blog post part 2
Day 6- Courtallam
And finally, it’s Day 6 and in the evening, we reached Courtallam- the land of waterfalls. Courtallam is an area nestled in the Agasthiamalai range- named after the famous angry sage, Agastya. And the area is known for multiple waterfalls. We were put up in the beautiful property named Jiji’s Castle. Please check the property here. It’s a leisure property promoting the local culture. The rooms are huge and quite good. Do check the below photographs.
The nearest airports are Tuticorin and Trivandrum. Now, this is an interesting observation. There are many small airports in Tamilnadu- unlike many other big cities. And that’s definitely a good sign for tourism.
There are multiple waterfalls in and around Courtallam and you can check them out. Let me say in one word, they’re gorgeous. Check them here…
Border Parotta, Courtallam
But for a foodie, the primary interest for Courtallam is probably not those gorgeous waterfalls- but rather a Dhaba named Border Parotta. Courtallam is situated on the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu and around 50+ years back, one gentleman saw the business opportunity. The target was the local truck drivers and the menu was simple- Parotta and meat- rather than country chicken. In fact, to date, there are not many menu items there. the ambiance is electrifying and it’s a place for mass. Do check the video below. Items tested by us were, Parotta, shredded pepper chicken, Chicken fry, and Egg sunny side up… Unlimited refill of chicken gravy is poured and it’s sheer madness- in the happy sense.
Day 7: Tuticorin
Day 7 was tiring and exhausting. After visiting another couple of waterfalls, we reach a place named Tuticorin. Tuticorin is a port city, known for three things- salt bay, Flemingo sighting, and definitely for Macaroons. To check about Flemingo sighting and salt pan, do check Rangan da’s blogpost here… But the place, where we were put up, was magical. It’s named Aqua Outback. You can check it out here. the place is run by Arju and Anaina and honestly, I’ve rarely seen people understand hospitality as they do. In such a remote place, the service that they are offering is unmatched.
For adventure lovers, there are multiple water sports. for example, if you ask for coffee, they ask you back- Americano/ Cappuccino or French Press.. For dinner, there is Prawn (and not shrimp) pizza and 2 beagles to accompany you on your beach walks.
And if I am coming back to experience Enchanting Tamilnadu, this place definitely is on my bucket list.
Macaroon story at Tuticorin
So, we were given a choice – water sports or visit a Macaroon factory. And it was never a choice for me- I knew the answer. For the culinary part of the Enchanting Tamilnadu, visiting a macaroon factory was important for me. So, a macaroon is a French dessert and a very very simple dessert. Primarily, 3 ingredients are there- Cashew powder, meringue prepared by egg white, and of course, powdered sugar. What we get to see regularly, is slightly different from this variety and is known as Thooththukkudi Macaroon. Unlike their French counterpart, cashew nut (and not almond) is the main ingredient here. Folklore says, Portuguese sailors when visiting Tuticorin, introduced this French dessert and thus got adopted to local preference.
Please check the video for the Macaroon factory at Tuticorin here…
Day 8: Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi
Day 8 was easy- We drove to Rameswaram. TTDC has a brilliant resort at Rameswaram, sprawl across a huge stretch. And the good part is, it’s just across the sea beach. In fact, if you get your room on the ground floor, the balcony (there with every room) has a majestic view. Rameswaram is a religious town and considering the local sentiment, the in-house restaurant serves simple veg Tamil food. The good part is lunch and breakfast buffet tasted great.
Dhanushkodi (the abandoned ghost town), on the other hand, is a visual treat for photographers- still and Drone champions alike. It’s the last stretch of land for India. But there’s another interesting story about this place. In fact, as per Indian mythology, this was the place, from where, the Ramsetu was built to Lanka- by Lord Rama. But this place suffered a bad hit during the super cyclone of 1964 and become a ghost town.
Please check a few pics from this place, here…
Day 9: Chettinad
It’s almost the end of the trip and finally, we reached the dream for any food lover in India- Chettinad. Now, we were put up in an interesting place in Chettinad- The Bangala Chettinad. And honestly, I am slightly confused here. should I call it a luxury homestay, or a leisure resort? It’s managed brilliantly like a resort, but George, who takes care of the property, treats it like home. It’s a heritage hotel, built on a century-year-old property. The award-winning restaurant is supposed to be the ultimate place for Chettinad cuisine and has secured its place in the Best restaurant category many times. As a layman, by Chettinad food, we understand super spicy food- but actually, it’s not so. It’s a proper balance and mix of spices. Of course, black pepper and whole red chilly play an important part- but there’s much to it.
Day 9: Chettinad to Madurai
Chettinad Palace or Kanadukathan palace is a work of art. It was built by Sri M Annamalai Chettiar in 1912 and took 7 years to finish. The teak wood materials, gorgeous woodwork, heavy gates, marbles, and basically everything spoke of power and wealth. This place is a photographer’s delight and I heard somewhere, they rent it out for a photoshoot (not sure though). Please check the place here…
So, we tasted a premium Chettinad meal, but what about the local pics hotel for us, mango people? Well, I was cribbing to go to one and we were taken… Damn, Priya Mess, Kadaikudi is an interesting place. It has AC and non-AC sections both… and the non-veg offerings are quite commendable. Do check it here…
and finally, we reached Madurai as the last stretch of our Enchanting Tamilnadu stretch. We were put up at TTDC Madurai. Now, Madurai is an interesting place for foodies. Tamils believe that it’s not Chennai, but Madurai is the culinary capital of Tamilnadu. So, once we finished the check-in and got fresh, there was a felicitation session by the TTDC official. A dinner session was organized, but I skipped it. the reason was pretty simple- I had to visit a few places over dinner. Mukundan was kind enough to take me around. Now, they run a food group named and are champions for conducting food tours.
first things first… food in one city can not be covered in a few meals- period. And however hard Mukundan tried, it was impossible for me. We went for dinner and considering the COVID situation and night curfew, it’s quite a late one. There is a mess culture in Madurai. and as I told you before, the mess is a kind of local regular eating place. So, we went to this place called Amma mess in Madurai, which I understand, is quite popular among locals. Please check the location of the place here.
So, the main attraction was Mutton Dosa and a crab omelet. And these items were new for me. for Mutton Dosa, pulled mutton was stuffed inside a thick dosa and an egg was placed on top and cooked. The result is a heavy, yet beautiful dish. Let me remind you, it’s quite heavy and is good as dinner for one hungry soul. The crab omelet had crab meat beaten with egg and fried- damn good, I must say. Parotta is always superior in Tamilnadu and this place is no exception. The quail curry was pretty decent. The place is not a cheap one- but not very expensive though. Definitely recommended.
Famous Jigarthana Shop
I always trust an establishment, which specializes in one single product. and this, place, a small shop churning out hundreds of glasses of Jigarthanda is one of them. Jigarthanda is a heavy dessert with payers of falooda, malai, and hand-churned ice cream- with more malai on top. They serve it in a glass and I was supposed to mix the same and eat it. The outcome was brilliant- heavy and delicious. I mean, come on… with so many ingredients (which can hold their own forte) how can it not. I had it at Venu Biryani, Dindigul, but this item here is born of a different league. Definitely, this is a non-missable item. Please check the location of the shop here.
It was the last day of our Enchanting Tamilnadu campaign and the only meal left for me was breakfast. I was taken for Coffee here, but couldn’t understand the name. If somebody, who understands Tamil script, can help me, that’d be great.
The first place, that we went was a place named Amsavalli restaurant. But sadly, it doesn’t start operation before 9 AM and I was taken to the original Murugan Idli. Murugan idli shop started as Murugan Coffee Nilayam, serving coffee and a few other snacks. But idli was introduced and it became a smash hit. Today, Murugan Idli shop is a restaurant chain across Tamilnadu and has many outlets. The idli is tasty and Murugan Idli specializes in serving 4 varieties of chutney along with it. the podi idli, in this place as well as their Chennai outlet, is different from Kolkata. Here they pour ghee and podi on Idli and (probably) shallow fry it for some time so that the flavor goes in. And that made all the difference. I was asked to have the Sweet Pongal, but I was too full- some other time, maybe…
Amsavalli Bhavan is a non-veg AC restaurant famous for Chettinad-styled Biryani. It was founded in 1952 and till date, doesn’t have a branch. Please check the location on Google Maps here. t’s one of those old school restaurants, which doesn’t care about any infrastructure, or service- apart from good food and fast service. The ground floor is non-AC with an AC-ed first floor. During breakfast, only the ground floor was operational…
We took the Mutton onion curry and liver- with some Parotta to go with (obviously…). the dishes are simple and tasty- served piping hot. The gravy is watery, making it lighter on the stomach. the cut of the mutton here is slightly different. Each piece contains some amount of fat. Honestly, here, we are used to having raw pork cut like this. So, this was a new thing for me. The idea was to tear the parotta and mix it with the gravy, but being one from the Eastern part of India, I tried as it is. Let me confirm, the food is damn good and a definite must-try. I’ll have to go back to taste their famed biryani though.
Overall, Madurai is indeed a culinary delight during our Enchanting Tamilnadu trip. And one needs more time to explore the city. But for now, the trip is over and I’ll definitely come back for more. I’d like to thank Tamilnadu Tourism Development Board and TTDC for the wonderful trip and definitely looking towards more.
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