July 07, 2017

Chennai's menus might feature food from across the world, but its local cuisine has some all-time favourite dishes that are remarkable. There is more to this region's sapad than idli-sambhar, dosa and pongal, which of course, are delicious staples. There is robust fare such as pichu potta kozhi, kotthu parottah and meen kozhumbu that will satisfy the purely carnivorous diners


Idlis are steamed rice cakes and served with piping hot sambhar & flavoursome coconut chutney. Credit: S Badri Narayanan

Dosas and a crisp vada with aromatic sambhar are great to kickstart the morning, crowned with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter). Steaming hot idlis as soft as malli pu (jasmine flowers) are served with lip-smacking accompaniments of chilli powder with gingelly oil, mint, coconut, coriander and tomato chutneys.  

Khara Pongal is a yummy breakfast staple. Credit: S Badri Narayanan[/caption] Khara Pongal is a comfort food. Rice and dal (lentils) are cooked together and tempered with cumin, pepper, ginger and ghee to conjure up a quick and nutritious meal.

The traditional South Indian yelai sappadu (meals served on plantain leaves) comprise chapatti, kootu (dal and vegetables), sambhar and rasam, poriyal (cooked dry vegetables), keerai (greens), papad, curds and pickle. They are equally appetising when served in a contemporary style. Tangy and spicy Meen Kozhumbu (Fish curry) Credit: Subhalakshmi Roy

Spicy, marinated meat dishes from the Chettinad region such as the pichu potta kozhi (shredded chicken) or meen kozhumbu (spicy fish curry cooked in tamarind and tomato), served with idiyappam (string hoppers), parottahs or just plain rice are delicious, cooked with abundant measures of turmeric, garlic, ginger and red chillies.

More robust fare is the kotthu parottah (minced flatbread) with spicy chicken or mutton gravy from the carts on the streets - kai yendi bhavan, literally translated to mean ‘service as you reach your hand out’. Ambur Biryani served with onion raita. Credit: Subhalakshmi Roy

A cook from the Nawab of Arcot’s kitchen is said to have returned to his hometown Ambur and replicated the Arcot Biryani. Over time, the popularity of Ambur Biryani, served with onion pachadi (raita) and yennai kathirikai (fried brinjal) has reached almost epic proportions.      

Text by Capt. Seshadri Sreenivasan. If in doubt, just ask the good Captain where to dine in Chennai! You could also take a walk along the Food World Drive.

Read more about the BEST OF Chennai here.