Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kodaikanal: My Culinary Journey

I post here after a really long time, more than a year later. With my regular postings on burrp! I have neglected blogging on food but I have not neglected chowing down! :D

So I thought, I must post about my culinary journey of the beautiful hill station of Tamil Nadu: Kodaikanal

About Kodaikanal:

Kodaikanal is a city in the hills of the taluk division of the Dindigul district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Set up in 1845 its a hill station set up for refuge from the high temperature and tropical diseases of the plains. Literally translated in Tamil it means :"Gift of the Forest" and is referred to as "Princess of the hill stations" . Local language: Tamil, nearest city: Madurai (Source: Wikipedia)

We reached Kodaikanal from Mumbai via Chennai-Madurai flight. We had contacted and booked an Indica with Kodai Cabs days in advance because of the positive reviews we read online. I dunno for what reason, the Kodai Cabs driver just failed to show up at the airport! When called, the driver told he'll show up in an hour!  Fuming, from Madurai Airport we hired a cab from till our resort 'Highland Parade'.
The drivers at airport car rental service: S.M.P Travels, told us the journey was for a total 3 hours max including ghat journey to our resort in Kodaikanal. They told us the driver is well experienced to drive us through the ghats rich of switch backs and hair pin bends.

Shock no. 1: The journey from the airport was arduous and a taxing 4.5 hours!
Shock no. 2: The driver was so inexperienced that at all times we had our hearts in our mouths due to his lane cutting, wrong turning, not maintaining the lane and stopping at uneven ground.
We experienced three near misses in head-on collisions. (In fact, I am not exaggerating here, thrice we had to get off our seats, out of our Indica and yell at him).

So Travel Tip no. 1 hire an experienced driver, preferably recommended by your friends who have traveled earlier. Alternatively you can collaborate with your resort who have a tie-up with a car rental service for pick up and drop and sightseeing. Ensure its a driver who's experienced even if you end up paying INR 200-300 more.
Otherwise, you can even travel to Madurai city's bus station and travel till Kodaikanl or alight at Kodai road station and hire a cab.

On the way to Kodaikanal, we stopped at Batalagundu for Lunch. We ordered parothas and veg kadai as recommended by our waiter. Polished it down with some super soft and delicious Medu Vadai. Now, I must tell you I am not a huge fan of South Indian food in general but here it was an exception.

I dunno whether we were simply hungry or it was hot and crumbly but it was just deliciously cooked to perfection and tasted oh so good. It's just humbling how a littlest know restaurant can amaze your tastebuds.

View of Highland Parade resort from Kurinji Andavar Temple, Kodaikanal

Moving on, we reached our resort Highland Parade located at Kurinji Andavar Koil side road, near Kurinji Temple. The resort is located at a picturesque place that you'll forget your tiredness and venture to the point too look around.
 Clockwise from left: View from Highland Parade Resort; The descending staircase view of the hills; Panaromic view of the Perumalmalai; view outside our room window

Nestled in the clouds, our room's window  had a beautiful view. After a tiring and mentally exhaustive journey we were too tired to venture the town for local cuisine, so we just relaxed the evening off with some resort cooked food.

Our order: Chicken Fried Rice, Parathas and Chicken Curry.
Taste: Edible, Chicken curry is spicier than you'd think. Chicken fried rice was bland.
Recommendation: Stick to the South Indian delicacies. Curry unusually was spicy, so watch out.
Value for Money (VFM): No! Room service attracts a 15% charge and RST another 10% for every order.
Damages: INR ~400

Next day, post breakfast we ventured for a sight seeing trip that the resort folks arranged for us.

Our order: Toasts, Masala Omlette, Masala Dosa, Filter Coffee and Tea
Taste: Decent taste, edible.
Recommendation: Toast was just tava fried bread, some burnt in disguise. Also, even if you are an avid tea drinker, stick to the coffee!
VFM: Only the coffee. Rest NO
Damages: INR ~380

We traveled in an Indica yet again and the resort lady ensured us of his expertise in driving around. We started at 9.30am. First we went to nearby spots: Kurinji Andavar Temple, the Jain Temple and what was said as the Palani Temple view, which we couldn't see.
Next we ventured to the Kodai City view point but thanks to the fog we could see nothing!
Here, we grabbed a local favourite snack - Green Mirchi Vadai and Dal Vadai

 Street snack: The fiery hot green mirchi vadai

Our Order: Green Mirchi Vadai and Dal Vadai
Description: Green Mirchi Vadai- Deep fried juicy green chillies in a besan and chilli-turmeric batter
                   Dal Vadai: Deep fried moong dal and onion in a crispy non spicy batter
Taste: Yummy, spicy, Batter is crumbly and melts in the mouth.
Recommendation: For the spicy palette have Green Mirchi Vadai and balance it out with the Dal Vadai
VFM: Yes, the vendors make a killing with INR 5 a vadai
Damages: 5 mirchi and 5 dal vadais for INR 50

Devil's Kitchen were the next view points followed by Green Valley view, Pillar rocks, Pine Forest and Upper Lake view.
Devil's Kitchen also known as the Guna Caves are said to be dangerous due to some recent deaths and sadly were guarded and restricted thus, had to make do with a short trek. Guna caves is the very place where the movie Guna was shot which featured famous South Indian movie Actor Kamal Haasan.

The Pillar Rocks are a unique set of Rocks which stand detached from the mainland and appear in a pair. We also saw oh so many moneys around this place. So Beware and keep your spectacles and cameras close to you !
Green Valley View was once again covered by fog and we resorted to shopping for Eucalyptus oil and Wooden Articles. We bargained hard !

Clockwise from top-left: View from Kurinji Andavar Temple; Trek to Devil's Kitchen; Green Valley View; The Pine Forest; The Upper Lake View and The descent from Devil's Kitchen

Tip no. 2: Bargain for every purchase, street vendors or local shops. Price difference at different spots will be INR 10-20 for wooden articles and oils.

Hunger pangs at the Pine Forest demanded another local snack, very much like the Mumbai bhel.

Order: Kodai Street Bhel
Description: Puffed rice combined with fresh unroasted groundnuts, chopped onions, tomatoes, raw mangoes and some masalas.
Taste: Overall tangy, loved every bite.
Recommendation: Must have!
VFM: For INR 20 quantity is adequate for two as a small snack.
Damages: INR 20

Pine forests are famous for their Cine shooting capabilities and you can take a horse ride here. We didn't venture one but overheard the charge: INR 120 for 30 minute ride.

Upper Lake view points a view of the Kodai Lake and its simply serene.

1 comment:

Spit it out already!