In focus In their modest setting, a spirited team serves up millet-based dishes

We do a double take when we step into Aahaar Kuteer, besides the famous Hanuman temple on Shamlal building lane in Begumpet. Did we walk into someone’s home? The setting is non-descript with a few tables and chairs arranged in the foyer area. A few diners (not first-timers, going by their friendly banter with the management) exchange notes on politics and cinema as they place their orders. There’s a small display of different kinds of millets, unpolished rice, hand-pounded toor dal and raw sugar among other things on a wooden table. Millet laddus, murukkus and crackers are also on sale.

Aahaar Kuteer is the city’s only eatery serving primarily millet-based dishes. For breakfast, they offer idlis, dosas, vada and upma — all made with different kinds of millets such as jowar, ragi, korra and sajja. For lunch, you can get a complete or a mini thali and choose between rice and roti.

The menu is intriguing and so is the story behind the birth of this unique eatery. After more than a decade in the IT industry, monotony got the better of Sri Ram. It wasn’t just an urge to discover his entrepreneurial skills; there was also the itch to give back to society in his own capacity.

The coming together of a few likeminded people gave birth to the voluntary organisation Arrpan Trust (www.arrpan.org), working to better the lives of the physically challenged. Making ends meet wasn’t easy and Sri Ram and his friends wanted to look beyond contributions from Good Samaritans. “My friend Ram was good at cooking. He was particularly exceptional in making a number of dishes using millets,” says Sri Ram. And Aahaar Kuteer was born as a catering service. They made millet-based tiffins and meals or orders. There were good days and lean ones. The footfalls had to be better to break even.

The friends contemplated a full-fledged eatery and opened Aahaar Kuteer eight months ago, serving dinner. Unable to spend on advertising, they relied on word of mouth publicity. It was an uphill task, says Sri Ram, “This was a niche eatery serving only food that used millets. We didn’t know how it would be received. Added to that, we had opened the eatery in a modest place,” says Sri Ram. There was also the problem of finding cooks well versed in using millets.

Aahaar Kuteer today is popular among millet lovers, vegans and those looking for home-styled cooking. With time, the eatery began serving breakfast and lunch as well.

We sampled portions of Jowar roti served with dal made from hand-pounded toor, Millet Coconut Rice, Gutti Vankaya, spicy chutney made with cabbage, Millet Kheer and Ragi Ambali. The food served here scores on the health factor. Millets score over rice and wheat in their nutritive value and have the advantage of a low glycemic index and hence, suitable for diabetics. A minimum amount of oil is used and the spice is just right. The food is tasty enough to make those of us, unaccustomed to a regular diet of millets, go back to discover more.

There are a few niggling issues like limited parking and the eatery currently having to redo its terrace seating due to monsoon. It’s a work in progress, the management acknowledges. But Aahaar Kuteer scores on its food and value for money. The most expensive on the menu is the Millet Combo Thali priced at Rs. 120. The eatery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner but is open through the day for those who want to drop by and pick up millet murukkus and laddus. Made with roasted mixed millets and pure cow ghee, these laddus are delicious enough to charm even those reluctant to try millets.

(The eatery is beside Hanuman temple, Shamlal buildings lane, Begumpet. Ph: 040-27769696)

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