They are unpretentious but delightful. Chitra Deepa A. picks five stalls from the streets of Chennai and explains why she savours them
Soup on the go
Maamis Soups (since 2004), located at the Station road intersection, on Lake View Road, close to the Mambalam Railway station, is buzzing with activity in the evening. School and college students, shoppers, office-goers, senior citizens...throng this place for a cup of steaming hot soup. The USP of Maamis Soups are their range of herbal soups. Not just that, customers can choose from seven different types of soups on all seven days of the week. Tulsi, athimathuram, vilvam, nellikkai, arugampul, navadhanyam and manathakkali soup is available on different days of the week. Sunday special is French Onion Soup! Maamis Soups uses only herbal powder for soup preparation. Herbal powder only used as sourcing fresh herbs is not easy. Chittibabu, the proprietor, of the shop is also the master chef who has standardized the soup recipes after months of experimentation. As a film distributor, Chittibabu has travelled frequently to Singapore and Malaysia and that is how he developed interest in soups.
58, Nungambakkam High Road, is the most happening place after 5 p.m and until 11 p.m. Ramesh Bhai's bhel puri and jaal muri are a big hit among his customers. Phoolsingh on the other hand is breaking golgoppas and filling it with potato masala and dipping it in pani and serving his customers non-stop and on weekends he breaks close to 1000 golgoppas. It was J.B. Mittal's (proprietor of Karishma, the exclusive dress material shop) idea to set up this shop right in front of his shop as a kind of marketing strategy to attract more customers to his shop. Ramesh and Phoolsingh hail from Kolkata. Puffed rice used here, arrives from Kolkata on a weekly basis. The shop is well patronized by the employees of the offices nearby. he shop is open from 1 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 11 p.m. everyday.
Myanmar in Madras
If you are a hardcore foodie, then a not-to-miss is the Burmese fast food fare served in Second Beach Lane Road, close to Burma Bazaar. Until you take a closer look you may dismiss it as a regular thattu-kadai serving South Indian fare. Athouk a very popular Burmese salad and Mohinga a traditional Burmese soup preparation is served here. Due to popular demand, these vendors also serve fried fish also. Noodles, cabbage, onions, chili flakes, roasted channa dal powder, tamarind juice, bejo (similar to golgoppas), garlic oil, coriander leaves and ajinomotto are the ingredients of Athouk. You have the option of eating it with boiled egg or without. This popular Mayanmarese street food is eaten with the accompaniment of Mohinga, a soup made with plantain stem, onion, ginger, garlic, chili, turmeric and rice flour. It is no doubt an awesome combination. There are at least a dozen such Burmese food stalls on this road, and immigrant Myanmarese set these up in the early 1960s and the business is still thriving. Interested? Head to second beach lane road (parallel to Burma Bazaar) between 6.30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Pan and Kulfi
For long time residents of Besant Nagar, V.M. Ghouse is a well-known face. Since 1979, he has been selling pan/beeda at the same location at second avenue (front of Eden). From toddlers who accompany their parents to senior citizens, his shop is a compulsory stop after eating out in one of the restaurants in Besant Nagar. There are many of his customers who just stop by only to greet him. Nithyatambool, the bunk shop, customises Beeda as per customer requirement. Ghouse makes sure his beeda is prepared with branded ingredients and under hygienic conditions. He says he adds only ayurvedic ingredients and nothing else. Customers can choose from the range of betel nuts, and other ingredients that are displayed on a brass plate. Your beeda can be made with orange peel, vannathippakku, chocolate chunks, badam, and dry ginger to name a few. Also available is Kulfi, that are home made under hygienic conditions.
Hema Milk Depot, tucked away in a corner, off Pycrofts Road, gets into brisk business after 8 p.m. Office goers and shoppers throng this 40-year old shop for a glass of goodness! Everyday, 100 liters of milk is procured from a diary farm in Thiruvallur (the supplier has not changed in the last 40 years) around noon time and it is poured in a huge shallow iron kadhai (from Rajasthan) and heated on a slow flame. To this is elaichi, saffron, pista and sugar is added in the required quantity. The milk boiled this way acquires a good flavor and a creamy layer of malai is formed on top. Kadhai doodh is ready and is sold in glasses of 100 ml or 200 ml. Customers can ask for doodh with or without sugar. For a slight variation, try their milk with a pinch of turmeric and pepper powder. As there are many schools in the locality, Hemraj, the proprietor of this shop, makes it a point to sell 20 grams of milk khoa at a very reasonable price of Rs 1. as there are many schools in the locality surrounding the shop. From 11 a.m to 2 p.m., one can taste delicious sweet lassi and salted butter milk.
Check it out at 64, Pycrofts Road, Tiruvallikeni.