There are some who love to travel to beaches, others to the mountains. There are some who travel for the history or the shopping, and then there are some who travel just to eat. If you are happy to slot yourself into that last category and are waiting for the right time for that south India trip, read on! The region is peppered with towns and cities that can whip up a mean meal and send you into a food coma; all you need to do is hop on a flight to Bangalore/Chennai and head out for the gastronomic adventure of your life.

We count down the best of South India’s food havens.

Alleppey

Image courtesy: Shobha Elizabeth John

Famous for its backwaters and its curries, Alleppey has a lot to offer for the food lover. Tapioca {locally known as Kappa} is a staple here, and served up in various avatars—they steam it, fry it and even add to their fish curry {a speciality in Alleppey}. Pile your plate high with rice and add ladles of Karimeen {a freshwater fish that’s popular in these parts} for best effect. You can also pair it up with Karimeen Pollichathu, where the fish is slathered with a mix of spices before being wrapped up in banana leaves and fried. Wash it all down with toddy {locally prepared palm wine} or coconut water.

Distance From Bangalore: 595 kms {approx.}

Driving Time: 10 hours {approx.}

Coorg

Served at homestays and at big and small restaurants around the Coorg region, the food of the Kodavas is a celebration of local produce, made even special with ingredients unique to the region.

Take, for example, the famed Pandi Curry; the richly spiced dish is taken to another level with the pungency of the sour kachampuli fruit. Similarly, raw jackfruit, pumpkins, wild mushrooms and bamboo shoots feature on dinner plates regularly. Pair any or all of these with their thin-as-air akki rotis, fluffy string hoppers, or kadumbuttu {soft rice dumplings) to have a memorable meal.

#LBBTip: If you are willing to travel to the nearby town of Bylakuppe, it’s home to one of the largest Tibetan settlements around, and we’d highly recommend trying the food establishments around the Namdroling Monastery {the main tourist attraction in town} while you’re here. The small shops serve up steamed, beef momos that melt in your mouth, rich broths, and a range of fried rice and noodle dishes that you are sure to lap up.

Distance From Bangalore: 243 kms {approx.}

Driving Time: 5 hours {approx.}

Mangalore

patrode a mangalore snack dish

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Seafood, meat, and veggie lovers have it great at Mangalore and its surrounding regions. At local hotels, you can settle down for a meal including spicy fish curries infused with coconut milk, seafood coated with chilli, salt and vinegar and fried up, and plates of Neer Dosa or Kori Roti {rice crisps}.

There’s also Patrode—a must-try here—with colocasia leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice flour, spice or palm jaggery {for the sweet version} before being steamed. Also, don’t forget to stuff your face with Mangalore buns {made from bananas} and the famous Goli Bajji {small balls of maida, gram and rice flour fried up in spices}. And, of course, for dessert, there is the Gudbud Ice Cream.

Distance From Bangalore: 351 kms {approx.}

Driving Time: 6 hours 30 minutes {approx.}

Karaikudi

If you ignore the perennially hot weather, Karaikudi is a paradise of sorts. There are heritage mansions to gawk at, antiques and handloom sarees to buy, and amazing food to eat. 

One of the best places to sample Chettinad cuisine, Karaikudi is where you can try out the banana leaf with meat curries heavy on pepper and aromatic spices {like star aniseed}. The mutton Varuval {a dry fry}, Meen Kuzhambu {a tangy fish curry} and creamy Paal Payasam {a rich kheer} are all favourites here.

Distance From Bangalore: 428 kms {approx.} 

Driving Time: 7 hours 40 minutes {approx.}

Malabar

thalassery biriyani from malabar region of kerala

Image courtesy: Wikimedia

Over the centuries, the Malabar Coast has been heavily influenced by travelling traders who brought in flavours from all over the world. From Kozhikode to Thalassery, you can eat your way through this region with gusto.

Like other coastal cuisines, the food here is heavy on spices and coconut. The Thalassery Biryani {made with small, thin variety of rice, and often featuring chicken, mutton or fish}, Erachi Puttu {steamed rice cakes stuffed with minced meat}, subtly spiced fish curries, beef kurumulakittathu {tender chunks of beef cooked to tenderness in spices and coconut oil}, and Unnakaya {slivers of banana deep fried in batter} are all on the must-eat list here.

Distance From Bangalore: 355 kms {approx.}

Driving Time: 7 hours 45 minutes {approx.}

Hyderabad

The Qutb Shahis and the Nizams, who once ruled Hyderabad, may have long disappeared into the history books, but their culinary legacies still lives on. Mughlai, Arabic and Turkish flavours, along with typical Telugu flavours, have come together to make Hyderabadi food irresistible and one of Bangalore’s favourite.

At the top of the pack is the subtly-spiced Hyderabadi biryani, where the meat is cooked till it is ready to slide off the bone. The Patthar Ka Gosht {where thin slivers of mutton are cooked on a stone that’s unique to Hyderabad}, Boti Kababs, and Haleem {where mutton and wheat are cooked together till they assume a cream consistency; the dish is a speciality during Ramadan} will all make your tummy very happy.

Distance From Bangalore: 569 kms {approx.} 

Driving Time: 7 hours 40 minutes {approx.}

Kochi

puttu a popular kerala dish

Image courtesy: Jackson John

Another major port on the south-west coast of India, Kochi has seen a steady troop of visitors come in and influence its cuisine over the centuries. Today, the modern city’s culinary landscape proudly flaunts this blend of influences, and restaurants serve up everything from traditional Keralite to Malabar to Syrian Christian food. There’s also one restaurant {apparently the only one in the country} that serves Jewish cuisine. Appams, puttus, stews, Tharavu roast {duck roast}, biryanis, and sadya—Kochi sure does cook up a storm!

Distance From Bangalore: 550 kms {approx.} 

Driving Time:  9 hours {approx.}

Bhatkal

They may be Arabic in origin, but the food of the Navayath community of Bhatkal in North Karnataka is brimming with local flavours and ingredients. The Bhatkal biryani, a layered rice dish made with chunks of mutton and drizzled with fried onions and saffron, should be the first thing you try when you get into town. On the side, you can heap your plate with Ekshippi, a coconut-based clam curry, kukdi maas fry {chicken fry}, and sawra {a mixed vegetable dish}. Desserts usually feature coconut milk and jaggery, and are made with pumpkin, plums, vermicelli, and green gram.

Distance From Bangalore: 495 kms {approx.}

Driving Time:  8 hours 35 minutes {approx.}

Madurai

kothu parotta from madurai

Image courtesy: Youtube

Borrowing heavily from the nearby Chettinad region and also influenced by ancient kingdoms that used to trade with the town {Romans, Greeks, and Sri Lanka included}, Madurai’s food is a delicious mishmash of flavours. There is the spicy Madurai biryani served at street stalls and spiffy restaurants. There’s also the Kothu Parotta; a flaky, layered paratha that’s minced up and tossed with spices, egg and meat. Madurai menus also boast of a line-up of kuzhambus {curries infused with spices and tamarind} that feature mutton, chicken, crab and even rabbit.

Need something to drink? Gulp down tall glasses of  Jil Jil Jigarthanda {a cool drink made from milk and badam resin first introduced to the temple town by Muslim merchants} to officially declare your Madurai trip a resounding success.

Distance From Bangalore: 434 kms {approx.}

Driving Time: 6 hours 50 minutes {approx.}

Rayalaseema

Dial up the heat with Rayalseema’s fiery cuisine. Liberally doused in chilli powder, Vepudu dishes {fried chicken or prawn}, curries made with pulusu {spinach}, and the Iguru concoctions {semi-gravy dishes made with meat or vegetables} will all have you burying your nose in tissues. Team any of these up with Ragi Sangati {a ragi ball with rice flour being one of the ingredients} or a plate of Natu Kodi {country chicken} biryani, and you’ll come home happy.

Distance From Bangalore: 361 kms {approx.}

Driving Time: 5 hours{approx.}

Featured image courtesy: Pebble 101