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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Cook up the traditional tastes of Mysore in a family kitchen

Discovering the local dishes is one of the most enjoyable ways to get a true flavour of a place…

By Shashikala Ashok
Entrepreneur and host

You learn so much about people when you share a meal, and you learn even more if you’ve cooked it together first. Over four hours, there’s lots of time for me to talk with my guests about everyday life in my city and little things like the way I’m dressed – people are fascinated by my sari – and I get to hear about how things are done where they live, which I really enjoy.

Every meal starts with a trip to the market to buy the ingredients, vegetables such as brinjal and beans or whatever is in season. We go to the city’s most famous market, Devaraja, which is very old and full of stalls selling produce from local farms. People enjoy seeing all the goods and learning how to choose what to buy and bargain for it.

After that, we return to my house to prepare a typical three-course Indian meal, which will probably include local favourites such as tamarind rice, ven pongal – a lentil dish – and some vegetable curries based on what’s in season, and a Mysore dosa. It’s not a demonstration; the client is very much involved in the cooking.

And when the food is ready, we serve it on banana-leaf plates in the traditional way and sit down as a family to eat and talk together. It’s a relaxed, friendly experience, and we get lots of emails afterwards from people who’ve tried out some of the recipes from home and would like to learn some more. When you’re travelling a lot, discovering the traditional local dishes is one of the most enjoyable ways to get a true flavour of the different places you go.

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Alfred & Shashikala Ashok

Shashikala Ashok was born and raised in Mysore, where she completed a Master’s degree in Hindi language along with courses in teaching yoga, fashion design and traditional food. A licensed tour guide, she started a cultural exchange programme in 2010 to show visitors from around the world something about the way of life in her city and help them feel truly at home in it.