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The boho-chic coastline of Goa has beckoned visitors for decades, even centuries, if you count the Portuguese colonialists — and for good reason. With white sand beaches, tranquil towns, delicious food and easy transport, Goa is considered the most family-friendly state in India. Gather your brood and head to the northern beaches of Mandrem or Ashvem, where the whole family can nestle into a luxury beach tent retreat with plush bedding and room service from the outstanding nearby French and Indian restaurants. Little ones can swim, surf, parasail or dolphin watch under the watchful eye of on-season lifeguards. Goa also offers intrepid eaters a perfect opportunity to fall in love with Indian cuisine: From crispy dosas to creamy lassis, buttered naan to savory momos, the food in this region is accessible enough to appeal to youngsters and adventurous enough to expand their pallets. Encourage the culinary broadening with a trip to a Goan spice plantation where you can taste cashews, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric and cardamom as well as fruits grown on the property like guava, papaya, pineapple and jackfruit. For lunch on the go, stop at a local paowalla or bread seller to buy fresh poi (bread) with butter and mango jam. Aguada Fort, Dudhsagar Falls and Goa’s Ark Petting Zoo are also on the must-do list for kiddos traveling to this welcoming, beautiful state.
WHEN TO GO: To coastline of Goa is best visited from November to March when the heat is not overwhelming and the weather is clear and cloudless. Take the kids, as it’s the most family-friendly region of India.
FOR KIDS: This is an experience for children of all ages, though younger children may be sensitive to stronger spices. Camping facilities do not offer facilities for infant diaper-changing.
A destination of extraordinary culinary and architectural grandeur, the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu has a heritage rooted in a certain 17th-century community of wealthy Nattukottai Chettiar merchants who settled as far as Burma, Vietnam and Singapore and made fortunes trading money, gems and spices. They sent back boats laden with lavish furnishings, Burmese teak, Belgian glass, and Italian marble to convert their ancestral homes into mansions, thus blending colonial and Art Deco styles with the Tamil tradition of wide-colonnaded internal courtyards. On their travels, Chettiars developed a taste for a highly-spiced, early version of Indian fusion. They created their own unique tradition of Tamil cuisine, featuring complex combinations of aromatic spices like star anise, nutmeg, cloves, fennel and fenugreek – freshly ground by stone and cooked on open wood fires, giving dishes a distinctive smoky flavor. Many of these dishes, like the generously spiced eral kuzhambu (prawn curry), nandu varuval (crab masala), chicken pepper fry, and palikattu chettinadu (fried paneer cheese in a mustard seed and curry leaf gravy) are now popular all over South India. Karaikudi is the largest village that make up this unique community, has a weekly food market and dozens of antique shops packed with collections of vintage enamel kitchenware.
WHEN TO GO: For a day full of exploration, visit Chettinad when the weather is in the 50s and 60s to enjoy the busy streets and their many scents. October-December will yield the best weather.
Set alongside the Sabarmati River, the Gujarati city of Ahmedabad is a combination of atmospheric old town and modern metropolis known for its sublime street food. Many dishes are prepared according to the principles of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion where followers believe that all life is sacred. To that end, they are not only vegetarian, but also won’t eat anything that grows below ground, as harvesting would mean killing plants like onions, potatoes and carrots. Despite these tight rules, the labyrinth of narrow lanes between ancient mosques, temples, markets and courtyards of the old city buzzes with food stalls selling delicious Jain dishes around the clock. Among the array of mouthwatering options available are a chickpea pasta snack called khandvi, savory Moorish sponge cakes called dhokla, curried yogurt kadhi soup, freshly baked flatbreads and an assortment of perfectly spiced vegetable dishes, daals and chutneys. Thali-style restaurant meals in Ahmedabad offer a taste of several different dishes, which waiters serve on large shared platters in rapid succession.
WHEN TO GO: Set along the river and known for its street food, enjoy Ahmedabad from March to May, before it’s too stuffy, but before the onset of monsoon season.
Puducherry cuisine is a legacy of its past as an outpost of the French E...
Puducherry cuisine is a legacy of its past as an outpost of the French East India Company. Formerly known as Pondicherry and still affectionately referred to as “Pondy” by most residents. Baguettes and Sauvignon Blanc are easily found at local inns and bakeries, while restaurants along the tree-lined cobblestone streets of the old French Quarter serve quiche and salad niçoise.
WHEN TO GO: From bike tours to beach walks, outdoor activities in Puducherry are a delight anytime from March-May, when it’s warm but not incredibly hot.
Spices indigenous to India’s Malabar Coast such as pepper, turmeric an...
Spices indigenous to India’s Malabar Coast such as pepper, turmeric and cardamom were traded at this Arabian Sea port in Kerala. Jewish, Arab, Asian and Occidental traders arrived here for thousands of years and introduced new spices like chili, cumin, ginger and coriander, which would go on to influence India’s cosmopolitan and diverse cuisine. Through homestays with local families, visitors can learn the secrets of cooking local dishes like red-chili prawns peralan, fish molee in coconut milk with curry leaves and a dry vegetable curry called thoran.
WHEN TO GO: Kochi has numerous temples and mueseums to visit: indoor spaces that allow you to visit year round. However for the best fresh fish from the street vendors, go for the warmer weather of March-June.
The polytheist tribal Kodava people live in Coorg (also known as Kodagu,...
The polytheist tribal Kodava people live in Coorg (also known as Kodagu, meaning “dense forest on steep hill”) and their unique culture and cuisine have been preserved by centuries of self-imposed isolation from the rest of India. Until the 19th century, the Kodava were ruled over by a clan of Kodagu rajas, who had their own distinctive hunter-gatherer cuisine using ingredients like wild mushrooms, wild boar and venison. Popular Kodava specialties include kumm curry with wild mushrooms and chekke curry with jackfruit.
WHEN TO GO: Dine out with all kinds of curry as the months get chilly. Visit Coorg for the cuisine during the months of November to March.
The magnificently faded dining rooms of Irani cafes, hidden away in the ...
The magnificently faded dining rooms of Irani cafes, hidden away in the back streets of the old colonial Fort area, are among Mumbai’s best-kept culinary secrets. Zoroastrian settlers from Persia/Iran opened these eateries in the 19th century to serve classic Parsi dishes like dhansak (meat with curried lentils and rice) and berry pulao (spiced mutton and tart Iranian barberries in basmati rice). During the Raj era, the cafes also catered to the British by churning out old favorites like buttery Shrewsbury cookies and bread pudding.
WHEN TO GO: This culinary landscape is full of cuisine that will fill you up anytime of year, so visit when you are looking for a delicately sweet and richly spiced dish. If you are looking to enjoy the cuisine and culture at the same time, summer nights of April to June could be the best of both worlds.
The capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, is famed throughout the country f...
The capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, is famed throughout the country for its food. Choose from sophisticated dishes influenced by the Nawabs era, or explore an array of sizzling street food. Favorites include savory galawati and Tunde ke kebabs, crispy tokri chaat and refreshing drinks like raja thandai, made from milk, cardamom, almonds, fennel and saffron. Traditional Mughlai cuisine, a legacy of Lucknow nobility, still dominates restaurant menus and includes ghee-fried dum aloo, slow-cooked nihari kulcha and fragrant idris ki biryani, followed by sweet and creamy kulfi.
WHEN TO GO: To explore its street food and sit-down restaurants alike, you’ll want to walk around the streets of Lucknow to sample all the delicacies the area has to offer. Go in the spring months (March to May) to enjoy daytime and evening strolls.
A carnival atmosphere prevails as the sun sets over the Arabian Sea arou...
A carnival atmosphere prevails as the sun sets over the Arabian Sea around Chowpatty Beach snack vendors. Legendary seaside savory snacks of bhel puri, pani puri and dahi puri were invented here: an unparalleled mix of crispy fried sev, puffed rice, puris, diced vegetables, tangy sauces and yoghurt, created to delight without ruining the appetite before supper. The perennial favorite is pani puri: a hollow crispy ball of fried wheat, filled with a magical combination of tamarind and date puree, chick peas, potato, onion, chili, coriander, mint and kala namak-laced water. After the first bite, it’s easy to see why it is so beloved. The beach here is the perfect spot for Mumbaikars to take a stroll or paddle, and enjoy.
WHEN TO GO: Head to Mumbai from June to July — before monsoon season begins — and enjoy snacking on vendors’ kabobs, chickpeas, and corn on the cob at the water’s edge, with the backdrop of the beach.