One of the highlights of my trip to Tamil Nadu was the culinary delights I was fortunate enough to experience whilst at Mrs Meenakshi Meyappan’s heritage homestay, The Bangala, in Chettinad.

Chettinad is a two hour drive from the ancient city of Madurai, and despite being one of the most arid parts of the region, it is a gastronomic hotspot and I was to learn that there is nowhere better to sample the flavours of this region than at The Bangala.

Although cooking demonstrations have been happening at The Bangala for many years, my mother and I were the first guests to experience the wonderful new terrace designed specifically for such evenings. There proudly on display, was the new cookbook The Bangala have recently published so that everyone now can try their best to recreate the utter magic of Mrs Meyappan’s recipes.

Conducting our demonstration was The Bangala’s chef, who has been with Mrs Meyappan for over 40 years. On the menu was a Chettinad-style pepper chicken, and a spicy prawn masala, accompanied by tomato rice, and a fried potato masala. We smelt the spices and fresh ingredients going into each recipe and every dish was explained in such a way that it was remarkably easy to follow. We felt like we actually might have a shot at recreating the recipes at home. I was also to learn that it is a popular misconception that Tamil Nadu is a largely vegetarian state, which as Mrs Meyappan explained, could not be further from the truth – meat and fish play an integral role in this cuisine.

The food at The Bangala was some of the best I have ever tasted in India, and the added bonus of eating in such good company, made for a remarkable evening.

In my opinion, whether you are foodie or not, a visit to Tamil Nadu would not be complete without an evening spent with Mrs Meyappan at The Bangala, who is a treasure of this region of India in her own right.

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