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Bridging north-south food divide

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Madurai Kuzhi Paniyaram draws large numbers of North Indians.L. KANTHIMATHI reports

‘Madurai Kuzhi Paniyaram’, a modest road-side eatery on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Besant Nagar, is a big draw in the evenings. Clad in a simple cotton saree, Kalyanai hands out plates of paniyarams (rice dumplings) with chilli and coconut chutney to a cluster of customers.

A customer looks up from his plate of paniyarams and calls out for a glass of paruthipaal, another reason for people mobbing this four-year-old shop.

“Made of fresh flour and garnished with onion, vegetables or paneer, our paniyarams have a special flavour,” says Kalyani.

“Our paruthi paal, which contains thippili, sithurathai, chukku, jaggery and cardamom along with soaked cotton seeds, is equally popular.”

She says the eatery draws a cosmopolitan crowd. “Besides a large number of north Indians, people from north-eastern States and foreigners visit the shop. We have a customer from Punjab who makes it apoint to come to our unit whenever he visits Chennai. Our customers includes IT professionals, children, senior-citizens and college students. Some of our customers have asked us to open outlets at food courts in IT offices and in college canteens. Our celebrity customers include Ministers, IAS officials, police officials and film personalities.”

Kalyani says she and her husband alone run the shop.

“We have avoided going in for helpers fearing they may bring down the standards of hygiene and quality,” she says.

The shop takes party and marriage orders provided the order is worth a minimum of Rs.500. The eatery is open from 5 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. daily.

A cup of paruthipaal costs Rs.15 and paniyarams are priced between Rs.20 and Rs.30.

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