Explore Delhi: Learning to Cook Authentic Chettinad Cuisine

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With Hema aunty and Anjali of Hema’s Cooking Classes

After gorging on their delicious cuisine at the Bikaner House Sunday market and at their dinner catering at our home; I readily signed up for Hema’s South Indian cooking classes. This family run unit follows three generations of expertise in Chettinad cuisine, which you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of Chennai! They host exclusive cooking workshops, where they impart in-depth knowledge of delicious South Indian food made from scratch.


Hema aunty presiding over the ingredients for masala powder


Hema aunty guides, Bhushan cooks while the students observe

I attended a non-vegetarian workshop where Malabari fish curry, mutton chops chukka, vegetable stew and mushroom masala dry were the main dishes; accompanied by plain and egg appams and Malabar parathas. The most-important ingredient for each dish was the masala powder which was made in front of us. We were also shown a delicious beetroot chutney.

Beetroot chutney and button idlis served as starters during the workshop


Recipe booklet with extensive notes 

7 people collected on a Wednesday afternoon to cook up a storm and enjoy a fantastic home-made meal. We were served yummy rasam (south Indian spicy soup) and snacks through the workshop and ended with the delectable dishes cooked in front of us. We devoured the button idlis with beetroot chutney and enjoyed the spicy mutton chops while the mains were being prepared.


Mutton chops chukka


Mushroom masala dry

Hema aunty was the master chef and she patiently explained each step of the process, along with tips and tricks that set her dishes apart from regular south Indian food. She was ably assisted by Bhushan who cooked and her daughter Anjali who helped with explanations and answered questions. We tasted the food at many different stages of cooking to familiarize ourselves with the method.


Enjoying the mutton chops

We were handed a recipe chart with detailed notes of each dish, and were told we could source all cooking material from Rama Stores, near Munirka. Amazon.in also provides most options and some are listed below for your convenience.


Malabari paratha

Plain appam; appam with egg

It was astounding that each dish had a unique flavor despite using the same masala powder. The appams and Malabar parathas were perfectly made. When asked to swirl the hot pan to make the appams, I failed miserably since I wasn’t used to the heat of the pan!!


Attempting to make an appam

My favourites were the fish curry, the mutton chops, and parathas. I also thoroughly enjoyed the home-made filter coffee we were served after the meal. Their ground spices and masala powders were available for sale, as well as the idli batter if asked for.


Lunch is served. From bottom left: Malabari fish curry, beetroot chutney, appams, vegetable stew

I’m not a cook but I love eating good food and this class was the perfect opportunity to learn something new in a very enjoyable manner. I only wish they had a larger seating space during the workshop, as we have to stand through the 3 hour class. Apart from this minor gripe, I’d highly recommend this class to chefs and foodies alike!


Freshly made filter coffee


The class is meant for anyone interested in cooking, and is open to domestic staff.

Price: INR 3500 (includes recipe booklet and meal)

Price of masala powders: INR 200 per pack

Duration: 3.5 hours

Contact for details:

By phone: +91 9818093238

By email: hemassouthindian@gmail.com


A heavy bottom non-stick pan is essential to cook the masala powder

Phillips grinder for grinding masala powder

Ultra grinder is a better but slightly more expensive option

If you use a lot of fresh coconut, it’s worth investing in a coconut grinder

Button (cocktail-size) idli moulds

Appam making pan

Filter coffee maker

Sabat hing or whole asafetida must be used for authentic flavour

Gundu mirchi (small whole south Indian spice)

All photos shot on iPhone 7

Cooking class rating: 4.5/5


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