Asia and Pacific,  India,  Tamil Nadu

The Bangala – Unforgettable Chettinad Cuisine

Bangala is the Tamil pronunciation for “bungalow”. I find it so appropriate to name a heritage boutique hotel in Karaikudi, Chettinad’s largest town ,“the Bangala” because the layout and structure resemble the colonial era British bungalow. This charming hotel is run by Mrs. Meenakshi Meyappan, 81 years old, who is also affectionately known as “achi” which means “elder sister”. The original bungalow was built by the MSMM family (MSMM stands for Meyyappa, Settiappa, Meyyappa and Meyyappa) who earned their fortunes in Malaysia- Ipoh to be more precise. This family also built the first all-girls’ school in Karaikudi which is about two hours’ drive from the Trichy airport.


According to Mrs. Meenakshi Meyappan, the hotel building belonging to her father in law, was once a private gentlemen’s town club. It was the place where visiting important businessmen used to stay in, play tennis or played rummy and a place to entertain guests. Business was bad for some time and the club was closed.


However, in 1999, she turned her father’s property into The Bangala, a 25 room hotel. The old building was renovated and restored with a new wing added making it one of the most popular remaining heritage hotels in Tamil Nadu.


When I put up at the hotel for the night, I felt like as if I was in a private home. The spacious rooms had fans and also fitted with air conditioners. The bed are all four-poster traditional beds made of Burmese teak woods and Chettinad mosaic works.



Each room is different and very comfortably furnished with old photographs, nice colour schemes and very intricate woodwork. Here and there, antique furniture serves as decor to give the hotel its heritage value. Every effort has been taken to make the guests experience local Chettinad and Tamilian culture while enjoying the modern facilities. The bathrooms are spotless and the bed sheet materials are printed ( it made me feel so much at home too……….compared to hotels that stick to only white linens)


The verandahs are huge and had plush old fashioned rattan furniture. Every floor has old fashioned wood and glass cupboards filled with a good selection of books. Coffee table books on Tamil Nadu, Colonial England, Chettinad and India in general are also on display. This personal touch is important for hotels. I have come across hotels that make a library of books left behind by the guests. But at the Bangala, the books are specially chosen for the eyes of the guests.


A large percentage of the staff has been working at the Bangala for more than 15 years! All the staff (mostly men) are dressed in crispy white vehsti (dhoti) with well ironed cotton shirts. They multi task and are well trained and extremely courteous. When I was there, the staff was attending spoken English classes conducted in house. The energetic staff always occupied themselves with one chore or another. The General Manager, 66 year old Mrs. Aliamma George is always busy either entertaining the guests or attending to their needs .The fact that she resides in the hotel makes it all the more convenient for her.



There is a small, clean swimming pool together with jacuzzi, cabanas and a massage room for the quests. For nature lovers, there is a simple, well maintained garden.

Before I went to Karaikudi, some of my travel blogger friends suggested that I should definitely eat at The Bangala. True enough, dining at the Bangala was indeed a gastronomic pleasure. It’s an experiential meal every day! Mrs. Meenakshi, being someone who is familiar with Chettinad cuisine, has provided a wealth of information in her book ‘Bangala’

The Bangala cooks have worked there for many years. Apart from using traditional grinding stones to pulverize spices, they also use the modern day blenders. I had the opportunity to observe one of Mrs. Meenakshi’s longest serving cook, Mr Karuppiah, at work. He has been working for her for more than 40 years, preparing well-known chettinad cuisine. He demonstrated to me how to make Uppu Kari (a spicy mutton dish) and Chettinad Pepper Chicken. Only the freshest ingredients were used and the spices were ground or pounded on the spot.


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Meals are served in a hall, communal style, at huge teak dining tables. Meals are either served on banana leaves or on traditional stainless steel plates and are eaten with the right hand. These kinds of meals are called ellai sappadu –meals served on banana leaves. After the meal, you either get a finger bowl brought to the table to wash your hand or go to the hand-wash area to wash your hand.


Every dish is individually served on the wiped clean banana leaf by the male servers who also tell you the name of the dish. Lunch is an assortment of tomato rice, plain rice, pachadi (yoghurt based dish), poriyal (stir fried vegetables), kootu (vegetables cooked in lentils and ground coconut), milagu kuzhambu (tamarind based pepper curry), crispy fried fish, Chettinad Chicken Masala, Uppu Kari, fish curry, egg curry, rasam, appalam and finally dessert, a home-made ice cream. I was surprised to see a British Raj era dish of mint and potato croquettes! There are also 3-4 types of pickles and chutneys served at the table. Every curry and dish complements each other very well with a balanced texture, taste and aroma. Food is not too spicy though considering the fact that the majority of the guests are Westerners.


Breakfast is a feast on its own!! Very white, soft spongy steaming hot idlis with three different chutneys, an aromatic tomato and drumstick sambar, savoury kuzhi paniyarams (shallow fried mildly spiced lentil dumplings – a Chettinad speciality), kavani arisi pudding (soaked and boiled black sticky rice with grated coconut and jaggery) fresh fruits, freshly squeezed water melon juice and great steaming hot Indian filter coffee!! I was told the coffee is grown in estates belonging to Mrs. Meenakshi Meyappan.


Even before my stomach got over the shock of the medley of dishes lovingly served at the Bangala during lunch , I had to get ready for an eventful dinner! For dinner, I was served “palakaram” literally means “many varieties of savouries” in Tamil. It was indeed an adventure of taste on my plate. A tasting of crispy appam, adai, paniyaram (sweet and savoury), thosai, a tangy brinjal curry and a parotta – all served with matching chutneys and curries.  I also sampled a paruppu urundai curry (steamed lentils balls curry) and soya granules pilau. Desserts were not so Indian except the carrot halwa and the badam halwa. Besides these,I tried their popular coconut pudding and coffee ice cream. I was told these were British Raj era inspired recipes.

The Bangala food experience was unforgettable The ambience, the table lay out complete with assorted pickles, nice locally made table linens and water glasses with beautiful covers, the painstakingly served and hygienically prepared food- everything was gorgeous. Nothing was oily and overly sweet.  At every meal time in the dining hall, there was either Mrs. Meenakshi or her manager to mingle with the guests. Every such occasion appeared to be like a family gathering. Somewhere in the corner of the dining hall, I spied a wooden book cupboard laden with cookbooks!

I thank Mrs. Meenakshi Meyappan for sponsoring my stay at the Bangala.  Mrs. Meenakshi Meyappan wrote the cookbook, The Bangala Table – Flavors and Recipes from Chettinad.  You can get hold of a copy at 

The Bangala

Devakottai Road, Senjai

Karaikudi 630001,

Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, India

Tel:  +91 4565220221/250221

Email:  [email protected]