“You are going to chennai- is it ? Fine, but let me give you some references for bengali restaurant”. “Thanks, but not thanks. I want to try the tamil food”. “Whaaaaat ? Have you gone out of your mind ? That Idli Dosa all day for so many days ????? “. This was the reaction from Kolkata, when I left for Chennai on some work for around 4-5 days. Work apart, I was supposed to die simply by having Idli-Dosa- I was told. But, probably, somebody had thought of something else somewhere.
On reaching chennai, I put up in an area called Triplicane, and later came to know that it was one of the very traditional old chennai area, with lots of local food joints around. My day started with the breakfast- in a nearby local joint called Ananda Bhavan. It was a basic joint with local crowd pouring in.
The menu was relatively simple- straight food, extremely efficient service and hygienic. We had the standard Idli-Vada combo (they give one idli and one vada in a portion), pongal and my son had Poori sabzi. The sabzi was unlike anything we had come across. It was simply the masala dosa-filling given with 2 large pooris (made by atta-maida mix) and the chutney. I liked the pongal rather, it was the tamil version of our very own khichdi smeared by crushed black peeper, garlic flakes and few curry leaves- combined with the spicy red chutney, I personally loved it. The idli was fluffy as ever. The vada was probably fried long back and hence, not so appetizing, however, with a filling of crushed black peeper and curry leaves, it was not bad either. The filter coffee is and was always the strength of Tamilnadu and they kept up their standard.
For breakfast, I was in for a nice surprise the next day. I had work in such an area where there was no such darshini hotels. Bhookha, I started walking on the road, where I met this old lady, who was serving these egg-dosas tawa-fresh. Now, dosa and egg, for the light-hearted, it was a culture shock. But what she did, was unusual and innovative. While, flattening the dosa batter on tawa, she poured the egg on it and mixed it with some chilly powder (based on preference) and seasoning. The result was fantastic and at 20/- a piece, it was great. The problem was, the lady couldn’t understand a word of hindi or english (not that she should either) and my knowledge on tamil was equally great. I was helped by the co-eaters, at least while paying and ordering a second piece of the beauty. I was told by the crowd that its a very, very standard roadside food in tamilnadu and was widely popular.
That day or the next day, dinner, we visited a typical muslim brast chicken shop- Al Raidan Roast. At the entrance, we were greeted by a large griller machine, where whole chicken pieces were skewered and getting roasted. A whole chicken was around 280/- a piece and was quite ok for a 2 heavy-eaters. The unique thing was, they were all with the skin and were cut and served like that. The outside skin got crunchy and the inside meat was succulent and juicy. How I was wishing for some beer to go with it, but alas, seems there can not be complete happiness, as these guys didn’t serve beer.
These grilled chickens were served with a combination of pita bread pieces, mayo and pickled carrot and salad. The combination was awesome. It was very very less spicy and even my son loved it.
The next item that we took was a mixed biryani. It comprised of mutton, chicken and shrimps. A little spicy, one portion of that thing was sufficient for 2 adults, after the grilled chicken as starter. The whole meal was ended by the Royal Falooda they insisted and served. It was kind of a tooti-frooti icecream, only with some falooda in it, various fruits and generous scoops of icecream. We were about to burst, but still, being good players that we were, finished it off.
The next day was our train towards Hyderabad, Telengana. We were supposed to pack some dinner from the railway station and was supposed to be happy with it. Surprise awaited us at the Chennai Central railway station. There was a counter for the famous dindigul biryani. Dindigul biryani was a little lesser-known-variety-in-other-states biryani variety cooked using the fragrant jeera sambar rice. One of the most famous chains for the same is Thalappakatti chain ( http://www.thalappakatti.com/ ), whose traces can be raced back to 1957. The rice is finished using some small chunks of chicken 65 (not sure about the mutton variety) and was different- in fact great, in fact fragrantly brilliant. They served 1 small container at 80/- for the chicken variety (one person safely needs 2 portions of the same). Packing was great (especially for carrying at train) and was a great experience.
Thus, we were leaving tamilnadu- happy because, some parts of it was covered gastronomically- yet lots were yet to be uncovered. Travelling towards the foodie Hyderabad, Tamilnadu has definitely not disheartened us.
We are coming, Hyderabad…..
Bon Apetite !!!
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