Eating out Kambankoozh, parotta, thaen mittai … Thattukadai celebrates street food

S ivaji Ganesan stares out of a poster of “Vasantha Maligai”, villagers crowd the “Madurai to Theni via Andipatti” still and Vijay bares his anger in “Madura”. There are push-carts with coconut frond thatches that bear notices screaming the latest news. Elsewhere, a puncture shop stacked with old tyres, and ‘mile kals' (milestones) greet you. Oh yes, pulsating dabbankuthu rents the air. Thattukadai, the street food festival at Park Plaza, has got the ambience bang-on.

The food fest, featuring an all-vegetarian menu, follows a culinary trail, starting with nannari-enhanced sharbat. It then moves to kambankoozh redolent of onions and coriander and served with vadagam and raw mango slices. The smell of M olaga and vazhaikai bajjis, dosai, pani puri, paniyaram and so on fill the air. Grilled sandwiches, of the roadside variety, are delicious and not drenched in butter. They are filled with a combination of tomato, onion, capsicum, coriander, chillies and a sprinkling of cheese, and leave you asking for more. But, take your time before you decide what to sample.

Forgotten treats

You'll discover kadalaikai barbi, thengai barbi and some native cookies in glass jars. They even have the utterly sweet thaen mittai that transports you back to your school days.

Some days, they also serve bhel puri, ragada patties, kothu parotta, vadai and aapam.

Mention must be made of the chutneys — rustic tomato and onion and the usual coconut one — and the sambar, which tastes just the way it does in your favourite aachi shop.

Added to the street food, the regular buffet also offers you a sizeable spread. It has colourful, health-giving salads, a tart mango dal, subzis with paneer, a flavourful dish with fenugreek leaves and cream, bowtie pasta in a tomato sauce, a fragrant pudina tikki, jeera pudina pulav, and more. They also serve fluffy phulkas and other Indian breads at the table.

The dessert section has crumbly, cream-filled tarts that are a must-have. So is the wheat kheer. But, don't stop with that. Round off your meal with kaapi, tea or masala paal, prepared the traditional way. An added bonus is that you get to watch the master at work, ‘pulling' tea and coffee and serving it in all its frothy glory.