Anu Popnani’s Soniya Hot Chaat is a must visit. Gourmets make a beeline from even far-off places for his food joint at Police Barracks

For those passing by the busy Police Barracks junction, the whiff of freshly ground spices that gently wafts through the air is hard to resist.

As you inch towards the place to treat yourself to a range of evening snacks, Anu Popnani greets you with an impressive smile at Soniya Hot Chaat.

Hearing-impaired by birth, Anu juggles to customise his dishes -- samosa, kachori, chaat, pani-puri and gulab jamun, as per one’s choice. His signature dish is ‘samosa chaat’, for which he has regular customers from distant places such as China Waltair, Dwarakanagar, Doctors’ Colony, Beach Road, who make a beeline for the venue almost every evening.

Once you place the order for samosa chaat, in no time Anu dishes it out by crushing the triangle-shaped crispy snack in a steel bowl, adding a ladle of hot and mildly-spiced gravy before topping it with onion wedges and a dash of lemon.

“I don’t use any artificial flavours. The spices used are homemade and have no added colour to it,” explains Anu in sign language. And that’s what makes his dishes a hit. It has been a decade since Anu started his food business.

He picked up the nuances of the craft from his father Lakshman Das 10 years ago. Today, Anu’s food business is not limited to the chaat centre.

“I also focus on catering business and take orders for wedding parties and special occasions,” he communicates in writing.

Those who have tasted Anu’s lip-smacking delicacies say that his preparations continue to be their favourite. “I have been visiting the centre for the last two years. Here, the taste stands out for two reasons — firstly, the dishes are packed with mild spices that leave you asking for more and secondly, the way Anu serves us with love,” says Lakshmi Narayana Raju, one of the customers who works as Central Excise Inspector.

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