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The Gateway to South India

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  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2816
  • Category: India

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The gastronomy in India is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, as its unique savour and taste has attracted a number of people from all over the world. This paper will deal with the concept of gastronomy as a profit centre within the hospitality industry.

India is a very diverse country and the Southern part of India is very much different from the northern parts of India. Chennai, is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamilnadu and is one of the four metropolitan cities in India. This city is popularly known as the gateway to South India.

 One can reach Chennai using any of the four modes of transportation – air, rail, bus or ship.

By Plane:

Chennai International Airport (IATA: MAA) is one of the largest gateways into the country and is the third busiest airport in India (after Delhi and Mumbai). All international flights arrive at the Anna Terminal where as the domestic flights arrive at the Kamaraj Terminal which is only 150 meters away from the Anna Terminal. Both the terminals are on the same road which is situated at Tirusulam, 7 km (4.3 miles) south of Chennai, India.

From Europe and United States: Lufthansa (Franfurt), Jet Airways (Brussels) and British Airways (London-Heathrow), fly nonstop to Chennai with connecting services from their European hubs to points in the United States. Jet Airways is the only airline flying to the United States (New York – JFA) via Brussels.

From South-East Asia: Thai Airways offers nonstop service to Bangkok, Singapore Airlines and Tiger Airways connects you to Singapore along with many Indian carriers like Indian Airlines and Air India Express. Malaysia Airlines offer nonstop service to Kaula Lampur. The Jet Airways from India flies nonstop to both Kaula Lampur and Singapore.

Middle-East: Nonstop services are available from Chennai to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Riyadh and Sharjah on Air Arabia, Indian Airlines, Air India Express, Oman Air, Emirates, Etihad, Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabian and Gulf Air.

Sri-Lanka: Chennai can be reached from Colombo with SriLankan Airlines, Jet Airways, Indian Airlines, Air India Express, JetLite and Kingfisher Airlines.

Domestic: All the major Indian domestic carriers (Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Spice, GoAir, Indigo) connect with Chennai with multiple flights to points all over India and most use Chennai as a hub for flights to smaller cities in South India. Paramount Airways is a low cost all business class airlines that offers flights from Chennai to points in South India.

Airport to city connection:

A pre-paid taxi can be used to get to the main city. Each terminal has several booths for several taxi companies when you exit the airport. You can either choose the standard taxis (black colour ambassadors) or the private call-taxi which can come in any model and colour (usually a yellow maruti omni or the tata indica cab).

Aviation Express is one such prepaid taxi service which operates round the clock. They provide with air-conditioned UV’s and it is easier to fit in a group of 4 to 5 people with their luggage in one go. They charge you around Rs.400 to Rs.450 to reach the city from the airport. It is best to avoid any other taxi’s and autos since there is a lot of chance to get cheated or being treated rudely by the drivers.

One can also take a train to reach the main city. After coming out of the airport, keep walking to the main road. There is an underpass which can be used to cross the national highway (NH 45). After crossing the NH45, u will reach the Tirusulam railway station from where you can take the local train that can transport you to the city. It is advisable to take a first class ticket in general since the other compartments are usually crowded during the peak hours with regular commuters on their way to work.

By Train

Chennai has two major railway stations. One is the Chennai Central railway station (code MAS). Chennai Central, formerly known as the Madras Central is the main railway junction in Chennai. This railway station acts as the arrival and departure point for trains connecting Chennai from the north of Tamilnadu. This station has 11 platforms to handle long distance trains and 3 platforms exclusively for suburban trains. The central railway station is one of the landmarks of Chennai and this was designed by architect Henry Irwin.

The other is the Egmore railway station (code MA) which acts as the arrival and departure point for trains connecting Chennai, central and southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Egmore (Elumbur) railway station is more than a halt station and is known to provide services to a number of cities and towns adjoining the city. This building was built by Robert Chrisholm and consists of some domes very similar to the built by the mughal rulers.

Chennai being a metropolitan city is always buzzing and active. The majority of the population in Chennai are Tamil people also known as the Tamilians. Tamil is a primary language spoken here. Foreigners who speak English will not find it difficult to go around the city since English is also widely spoken especially in business, education and white collar businesses.

Every year Chennai hosts a large cultural event, the annual Madras Music Season which includes the performances by hundreds of artistes. This event is hosted every December-January and will be conducted for a span of six weeks. The traditional role of the Music Season is to allow aficionados of Carnatic music to appreciate the performances of renowned artistes and to allow promising young artistes to display their inherent talent.

While being in Chennai, one can find a number of places to eat out.  Chennai is noted for its mouth-watering South Indian cuisine. This is very much different from the north Indian cuisine yet is much sought after by people from all over the world. From the idly, dosa to vada and uthappam, Chennai provides a variety for the taste buds.

Pure vegetarians will not be disappointed in Chennai since there are numerous vegetarian restaurants which serve simple meals for lunch. Lunch is served on a banana leaf. Banana leaf has been a part of South Indian culture for a very long period of time. Each and every household plant their own banana trees as the need for it may arise on a daily basis. Banana leaves are not only used instead of plates but for many other reasons too.

Banana leaf is used as a plate to place the things which is offered to God. The offerings to God might be fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, flowers or cooked items. Banana leaves are used since they are considered to be natural, pure and hygienic. These leaves are readily available and easily disposable. Nowadays, banana leaves are used only during any big functions like marriages and offerings to God.

The basic Items like salt, pickle (2 varieties), chutneys (2 varieties), a sweet. Then you have aviyal, thuvayal, poriyal – all side dishes; Then the main courses Dal, kootu, curry, sambar, rasam, tamarind curry, and curd. Payasam, Poppadom and vada, banana plantain are usually served.

During marriages, certain community of people welcome everyone to have food at their function and bless their children for a happy life hereafter. Usually, a variety of food is cooked during occasions. So the banana leaves have enough space for everything to be served at a time. This is called as the ‘Virundhu Saapadu’. Here. Virundhu means ‘feast’ and Saapadu means ‘full course meal’ which can be lunch or dinner. The guests are made to sit on a choir mat rolled out on the floor and the meal is served on a banana leaf which is placed in front of the guest with the tip pointing to the left of the guest.

Food will be served only after the guest sits in front of the banana leaf. The top part of the banana leaf is reserved for items like aviyal, thuvayal, kootu, poriyal. The top left corner will include a dash of pickle and a thimbleful of salad or a smidgen of chutney. Saadham or white rice is placed in the centre of the lower part of the leaf. The lower left part of the leaf may have a number of fried items like chips (yam or banana or potato) or thin crisp papads (appalams) and a vadai. The top right corner is reserved for spicy foods including a curry. A scoop of warm sweet milk paayasam or kesari or sweet pongal or any desert items is placed on the lower right of the top portion of the leaf. If the served meals is vegetarian, the vegetables are carefully chosen between the country ones (gourds, drumsticks, brinjals, lady’s fingers etc) and the English ones (carrots, cauliflowers, cabbage). If the served meal is non vegetarian, a separate leaf is provided for the fried meats, chicken, fish, etc. The variations are presented very carefully – one dry item next to a gravied item. There may also be extra items like chappati or poori with gravy to go with it. There may also be any one of the famed rice preparation such as the Ghee Pongal or Puliyodarai (tamarind rice) or thakkali saadham (tomato rice) or elumichai saadham (lemon rice).

Since the banana leaf is too tender, one is expected to eat using his/her hands when having lunch. According to traditions, the sweets are eaten first. After the sweet, one has to start eating the aviyal, thuvayal, kootu and poriyal. After this, the rice is served.Dal with ghee. Sambar is added to the rice along with a sprinkling of ghee and eaten. This is followed by rice with kaara kuzhambu. Once this done, one eats rice with rasam. A final round of rice with curd or buttermilk marks the end of the meals. Buttermilk can either be had with the rice or one can just drink it from a tumbler placed in front of them. The desert (paal payasam) will be had in the end and then a banana may be served. After the meals, betel leaves and nuts are chewed in a leisurely manner. When chewed after meals, this sweetens the breath and acts as a gentle stimulant.

One can have a fulfilling meal if they get a chance to visit a tamil marriage ceremony. Tamilians in general show case a lot of hospitality and they welcome anyone who come in for their functions with a big smile on their face. They do not hesitate to exhibit their culture to a person who wants to know about their culture and traditions. One should never miss to go for a virundhu saapadu when being in Chennai.

Chennai being the gateway to the south, the culture is distinctly different from that of the northern india. Music, Dance and all other art forms of the south like tanjore paintings etc., are cherished and nurtured in this city, which though industrialized continues to be traditional and conventional in many ways.

Tourism fair – In the month of January, Chennai receives a pleasant and cool respite from her famous hot weather. TTDC conducts a colourful trade and tourism fair in January. The exhibition presents a panaroma of Tamilnadu – all her places of tourist interest, her cultural wealth and economic progress.

When in Chennai, one should never miss to go the Marina Beach which is the longest beach in the India. People who visit Chennai make it a point to visit the Marina Beach atleast once. The sea is rough and the waves are very strong.  Due to this, swimming is restricted in the beach. Since Chennai is one of the hottest city in India, people like to goto the beach to get the sea breeze and cool themselves from the stressful lives which they lead.

One has to walk on the sandy beaches from the promenade to reach the waters of the Marina Beach. The Marina Beach is also famous for its numerous shops and food stalls. Many food stalls are stationed on the sandy beach itself. One of the famous delicacies in the Marina Beach is the fish fry. The aroma of the fish being fried in big kadai’s pulls the passers by and tempts them to taste those lovely masala fried fish atleast once. The fried fish is very tasty due to the freshness of the fish.

As you keep walking on the sandy beach, one can see vendors selling roasted corn. One can never miss the roasted corn when in the Marina Beach. The corn is roasted over burning charcoal and is then seasoned with salt, lime and chilli powder. The corn is roasted till it turns a little black in colour. The corn tastes salty, sour and spicy at the same time due to the seasonings.

As you keep walking furthermore, one can find men with guns for shooting balloons which are blown and stuck to a white canvas sheet. You will be charged a minimum of Rs.10 for shooting the balloons and you will get 10 goilis (round bullets) for shooting at the balloons. The aim is to break the maximum number of balloons and this can also be considered as an exercise for increasing your aiming power.

If you are interested in riding a horse, you can also find one or two horses which will be rented for riding around the beach one time. They will cost you a minimum of Rs. 50 for one round on the horse.

As you keep walking towards the waters, the smell of hot bajjis will pull you towards the stalls preparing these bajjis. These are made from powdered Bengal gram which is stuffed with onions or potato or chillis or cauliflower or raw banana and then deep fried in a big kadai of oil. The server boy will serve you bajji’s with onion chutney as a side dish.

As you near the beach, you will be pulled by the mesmerising beauty of the beach waves hitting the shores. The sea is very rough and the size of the waves keep increasing as time passes by. The best time to goto the beach is at 6 PM when you can start looking at the grandeur of the beach and as it becomes dark, you can start feeling the chilling breeze of the sea and experience the high rising waves. After nearing the waters of the beach, one will feel like sitting on the beach to enjoy the beauty of the waves. You can listen to the waves splashing on the sea shore and it feels like as if the sea is singing a lullaby for us.

Another famous delicacy available in the beach is the pattani sundal and murrukku. These are generally prepared by the fishermen who live near the lighthouse of the beach and their children usually sell it to the visitors to the beach. These children are usually part time workers who work after their school and they are very quick learners and attract the visitors very easily with the way they talk. You can also find kids selling cotton candies and soan papdi on the beach. Soan papdi is also a sweet which is made of maida and sugar. This is the Indian version of the cotton candy.

As you come out of the beach after experiencing the scenic beauty and the refreshing air, you can find vendors selling maanga, pineapple and kaara pori. If you ask for maanga (green mango), they cut it to slices and season it with chilli powder and salt mixed together. If you ask for kaara pori, they tear out one sheet of paper from any magazine, make it into a cone and start putting pori (puffed rice), chilli powder, turmeric powder, onions (sliced), sundal and maanga (sliced) and mix it together. This is also a very spicy dish but tastes very nice on an evening where one has taken a good experience at the beach.

To get rid of the spiciness from the tongue, one can have sugarcane juice from the sugarcane juice vendors. It can either be with ice cubes or without ice cubes. These sugarcanes are very different from the ones which are used during a festival named as pongal. These are small sugarcanes which are used in shops where they produce sugarcane juice. A special kind of juice extractor machine is needed to extract the juice of the sugarcane. Lemon is added to give additional favour to the juice.

We believe that everything we eat affects both our body and soul. Therefore, the food should be pure, natural and balanced.

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