We are open today until 6:30 pm. Call 020 7590 0610
Fried doughnuts, or vada, are a common snack in southern India

The flavours of southern India

Discovering the flavours of southern India

Article content

29 June 2016 by Krishna Ghosh

Whether you’re looking for something hearty after exploring the lost empires of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s intricate temple complexes, or you’re yearning for some refreshment as you laze down the tropical backwaters of Kerala, southern India provides culinary answers in abundance. Think roadside snacks steamed that morning, freshly caught curried fish and rice dishes that make the most of regional ingredients.

And, while creamy coconut flavourings, an abundance of fresh seafood and the preference for fragrant rice over roti breads distinguish southern from northern cuisine, you’ll witness a rich variance even among the southern states. With so much to choose from, we’ve handpicked the must-eats from our Indian travels and pointed out the mild delicacies for the spice-averse.


The humble dosa is perhaps the south’s signature dish. It’s a large, savoury pancake made from a rice and lentil batter and served with delicately spiced sides. Its often-crispy top provides texture to hot, fluffy pockets, ideal for soaking up sweet chutneys and vegetable stew dips, known as sambar. The result is a happy marriage of rich flavours and belly-filling sustenance. And, while it’s traditionally a breakfast food, you’ll see it enjoyed throughout the day as a full meal or quick snack. They also come with a full range of moreish options with masala spices, crunchy vegetables and rich butters added to the batter.


A variation on a theme, the dosa batter can also be steamed into a savoury cake, known as an idli. The end product is not too dissimilar in taste and texture to the Cantonese dim sum but instead of forming a dumpling wrap, it’s used as a scoop to the now familiar sambar and chutneys. Look for those that have been freshly steamed for best in fluffy bites, making for ideal on-the-go snacks. As with the other battered dishes, you’re expected to pick them up with your fingers.


The idli’s cousin, a vada, is a flour and lentil mix fried into a dense, savoury doughnut. While flavour is imparted by potato (aloo), spinach (saag) or chickpea (chana) added into the batter, the ever-present dips add an extra dimension. For something milder – as with dosas and idlis – opt for yogurt curd or coconut chutney as your dressing. Whatever you choose, there’s nothing like pulling into a station and handing over a few rupees through the windows in exchange for these mouthwatering favourites.


Some say the Biryani was created in the royal Mughal kitchens as a variation of the Persian pilaf while others place it as a feast for travelling armies. All that’s agreed is that each region’s variety is the best. And south India is no different. As something much more than some meat thrown in with rice, biryanis are slow cooked in a giant pot with cinnamon sticks, star anise and stock providing rich flavours to feathery long-grain rice and melt-in-the-mouth lamb. It’s most commonly found in Muslim neighbourhoods and comes presented with the rice as a domed top to a rich curry centre.

Keralan Fish Curry

Referred to as ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala’s golden beaches, beautifully tiered tea plantations and verdant rice paddies line the western stretch of India’s southern tip. As you’d expect, it’s ideal for seafood with coastal restaurants serving up freshly caught catches in indulgent curries. And, unlike their neighbours to the north, the Keralans prefer thinner sauces and coconut over cream. The lighter result is ideal for enjoying in the Indian sun, perhaps relaxing on a houseboat or as a beachside snack. A particular favourite is the pomfret. Often served whole, this white fish is marinated in spices until its tender texture bursts with flavours. Head slightly north to Goa to swap in juicy prawns.

Related offers

Buddha statue next to waterway at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Charms of the Mekong with AmaWaterways

14-day luxury river cruise holiday from £4,430 pp incl. flights

cruise offer

Save up to £750 pp off
Book by: 30 June 2024

Enjoy a luxury cruise along the Mekong River between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap with AmaWaterways, discovering culture-rich cities and hidden gems with plenty of local flavour.

A group of people enjoy riding a camel walking on a sand dune in Hunder, Ladakh, India

Ladakh: The Himalayan Kingdom

12-day tailor-made holiday from £3,195 pp incl. flights

Journey north from Delhi and experience the breathtaking splendour of the Himalayas. From the sand dunes of Hunder to the world's highest motorable road in Nubra Valley, this is a place of excitement and wonder.

Fullerton Hotel, Singapore

Fullerton Hotel, Singapore

Grand & elegant hotel

This grand neoclassical landmark was heralded National Monument in 2015; this heritage hotel is a gem that spectacularly dominates the cityscape on the banks of the Singapore River.

Grand Copthorne Waterfront, Singapore

Grand Copthorne Waterfront

Contemporary hotel

This spectacular 30-storey hotel is excellently located along Singapore’s pretty waterfront, and overlooking the Singapore River, offering four excellent dining options and fresh, streamlined bedrooms.

Lobby and Bar, The Warehouse Hotel

The Warehouse Hotel, Singapore

Contemporary hotel

The boutique Warehouse Hotel was built in 1895 and has now been beautifully restored, with ultra-contemporary rooms and historic touches to create a true oasis in the city.

Capella Singapore

Capella, Sentosa Island

Contemporary hotel

Capella is a restored, colonial 19th-century bungalow that offers true 5-star luxury hidden in the leafy centre of Sentosa Island, blending contemporary design with authentic Asian details.

Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0610 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

Learn why Wexas is the leader in creating luxury holidays. What is tailor-made travel?

Expert advice & support

Visit us in our London office

Let our travel specialists curate the perfect holiday:

  • Inspirational ideas based on experience
  • Established for over 50 years
  • Tailor a holiday to your precise requirements
  • Personalised quotes and documentation

Every step of the way

Every step of the way

Our services are with you from start to finish:

  • Dedicated personal consultants
  • Free airport lounges on qualifying bookings
  • Care and guidance pre, post and during holiday
  • Full financial security: ABTA & ATOL protected