Food

Chaat with a local flavour

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 16/07/2015: Rudra and Abirami, owner of Thattu Vadai Settu Kadai at Gopalapuram in Chennai. 
Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 16/07/2015: Rudra and Abirami, owner of Thattu Vadai Settu Kadai at Gopalapuram in Chennai. Photo: R. Ragu

On a weekday evening, the fried potato and burger kiosk on Lloyd’s Road was empty, save for the guy manning the counter. It was surprising, really. Instead, a new pushcart saw people tucking into what looked like thattai with beetroot, carrot and onion. Healthy chaat? That’s what Uthra Lakshmi D. of Salem Thattuvadai Settu Kadai thinks too.

So what do they offer? Salem Thattuvadai Settu Kadai primarily features, what they call, a ‘thattu vadai settu’. An easy way to identify it would be to compare it to a South Indian papdi chaat.

“The basic recipe is to take two small thattai discs, smear both sides with chutney and sandwich between them shredded beetroot, carrot, onion and masala powder. You can build on this recipe: add shredded mango and it becomes a maanga settu, shredded coconut makes it a thenga settu and so on,” she says. They also offer a piquant garlic settu that comes soaked in coconut oil.

A combined love for food prompted Uthra and her friend Abhirami Sivakumar to start the venture. When Abhirami visited Uthra in Salem, she fell in love with the thattu vadai settu and was enthusiastic about bringing this to Chennai.

“I was interested in baking and wanted to set up a bakery once I finished my Master's degree. But setting up Salem Thattuvadai Settu Kadai came about as a way to satisfy my cravings,” Uthra says. Although Uthra hails from Salem, she studied in Chennai throughout, visiting her hometown only during summer holidays.

During that time, she would devour delicacies from the city’s ‘chinna kadai veedhi’. The thattu vadai settu was started by an old man on that street, 85 years ago. Now in every nook and corner, the thattu vadai settu is found on thallu vandi s, explains Uthra. Their venture was started purely out of a passion for food, so much that the women, who are in their early 20s, have separate day jobs and also pursue their studies.

Chaat in Chennai has always been a luxury. Good chaat, even more so. The Salem Thattuvadai Settu Kadai offers what can be called South Indian chaat (plain settu is priced at Rs. 30). Uthra is surprised but appreciates the comparison.

“It’s a different concept. I’m most happy when people ask me ‘How can something that has beetroot and carrot, taste so good?’” If the similarities to chaat end there, they also plan to introduce a Chennai staple — rosemilk. And to make the experience completely local, they will feature an Aadi koozh that is primarily served as prasadam in Mariamman temples — it’s currently the flavour of the month.

If the usual thenga and maanga settu don’t satisfy your chaat cravings, try the cheese settu, which will be a new addition to the menu soon.

( The Salem Thattuvadai Settu Kadai kiosk is located on Lloyd’s Road, opposite D.A.V Girls School Gopalapuram)


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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 5:51:26 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/chaat-with-a-southern-twist/article7522307.ece