Arita Sarkar delves into ‘masala egg’ and ‘atho’ on the streets of Georgetown
Georgetown, one of the city’s oldest localities, is also one of the busiest areas in Chennai, selling a variety of merchandise. But it is the kinds of food sold on the streets of Georgetown that has been attracting hordes of people here, from across the State for over two decades. To the existing available options of dosas, vadas and idlis, there is a different, yet significant contribution of Burmese food among the various eateries here that people delve into. On 2 Line Beach Road, behind the Madras High Court near Parrys Corner, are seven food stalls selling Burmese preparations of noodles and ‘masala egg’, as a few of the vendors refer to it. In the noodles category, the most famous item on the menu is ‘atho’, a mixture of noodles, shredded cabbage and onions garnished with tamarind, salt water, friend onions, chilli flakes, garlic and ajinomoto. In addition to this, there are egg noodles, white noodles served with a special soup along with boiled eggs stuffed with spices. All the vendors echo one important sentiment: “All our food and masala is fresh and is made daily.”
The food vendors after spending hours preparing the food from 7 a.m. onwards, begin their business hours at around 4 p.m. and are open until 10 p.m. Muhammad Ibrahim, one of the vendors said, “Throughout the year we get about 50 customers everyday. But mostly we get orders for packages.” Though a majority of the stalls selling noodles serve vegetarian food, one particular stall adds fish to the soup that they serve with white noodles.
Another vendor, Farooque, a resident of Villivakkam, said, “I have been doing this job for the past 25 years. By talking to the customers, along with Tamil, I can now speak Malayalam, Hindi and Telugu.” When asked about a memorable moment in his career, recounting one such incident he said, “Some people had once come and bought food worth Rs. 3000. They were working on a film shooting with actor Vijay as the hero.”