Chennai is the cultural heart of South India. Impressive architecture is commonplace, with the oldest buildings dating as far back as the 7th century.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choice of restaurants in Chennai. More than five million people live in the city, which is also home to a large expatriate community.
For visitors wanting to experience traditional South Indian cuisine, there are some wonderful menu staples available in most restaurants.
For breakfast try the rice and lentil based crepe called Dosai. Originating in Tamil Nadu, these savory crepes are filled with spiced vegetables and sambar–a type of lentil stew and served with sweet chutney. Idli is another popular breakfast and snack time food. Typically it consists of a lentil cake served with steamed rice and chutney.
For lunch a simple but delicious Thali works as a tasting plate to the region. The Chennai version uses spices such as green cardamom, cloves and coriander to flavour the dishes that usually include curry, soup, sambar, pickle, yoghurt and rice.
A wonderful way to experience the variety of food in Chennai is to explore the food stalls that line the streets. Visitors can build their own dinner by mixing dishes like biryani and bhajjis. As a general rule, when trying street food, stick to vegetarian options.
Ranganthan Street is the busiest stretch in Chennai–there isn’t much you can’t find here. Silk sarees known as Kanchipuram are an authentic souvenir to remember a trip to Chennai by. The saris although made 80kms from the city in the town of Kanchipuram still serve as an emblem to the region.
According to Hindu mythology, silk was Lord Vishnu’s favourite fabric and silk retailers will be more than happy to explain the significance and quality of the silk fabrics they sell.
Sari production is one of the most important industries of the region and steps have been taken to protect both the silk weavers and tourists looking for an authentic Kanchipuram. By purchasing a sari with the ‘Kanchipuram Silk Sarees’ geographical tag, visitors can be sure they are supporting local industry.
Cotton in every colour and print can be found on aptly named, Cotton Street. Bargaining skills can be put to good practice at the markets in George Town, which is another good place to find sarees and tailors.
For an excellent collection of second hand books, Moore Market stock books and comics in a variety of languages.