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The comforting old friend

The thali offered at Chidambaram’s New Madras Hotel

The thali offered at Chidambaram’s New Madras Hotel   | Photo Credit: 19dmc rahul2

Chidambaram’s New Madras Hotel has embraced Chinese but it’s the South Indian thali that continues to draw food lovers

I had an early morning appointment with some friends one day. So, naturally, I left home after a frugal breakfast. Once our work was done, I was assailed by that familiar hollow feeling in the tummy which told me that I need to recharge my internal battery. I was on my way home, where lunch awaited me. But the stomach was grumbling about home food – it wanted comfort food, but something that was a little different from the usual home-cooked daal, roti and sabzi.

I was on Barapullah and you know that’s the road that connects me to various food places in the city. I had just reached Lodhi Road when I had a brainwave. How about stopping by at Chidambaram’s, which used to be a favourite eatery of mine once? I hadn’t gone back in ages, and I thought I need to renew our old friendship. No sooner thought than done. So I parked and made my way into Chidambaram’s New Madras Hotel which is open on all days of the week, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

One of the best things about the place is the wonderful smell that wafts towards you when you enter the shop. It tells you that the food is going to be good!

The place looked warmly familiar, too. People were seriously digging into their dosa and chutney, or large mounds of rice with a crater of sambar, when I went in. There are tables and chairs in the main room, a kitchen at the back where food is cooked, and an open kitchen at the side with hot cases where the food is assembled.

Chidambaram’s has been around for 70 years, long before Saravana Bhawan or Sagar came to Delhi to introduce people to south Indian vegetarian cuisine. It started out as a small shack, but is now a regular eatery. And people who know their sambar onions from red onions know that this is the real McCoy.

It has also expanded and diversified over time. Now they have a Chinese menu, too (vegetable Manchurian, chilli paneer, spring rolls and so on), and some interesting desserts such as gadbad ice cream.

The most expensive item on the menu is the Chidambaram rava special dosa with potatoes and paneer, cooked in butter, and served with vegetable raita, butter milk, rasam and papad (Rs. 200). A three-in-one uthapam or rava dosa –– with three kinds of flavours in one serving –– comes for Rs. 130. The three flavours are chilli garlic, cottage cheese and coconut. Another new item is the masala idli.

A lunch/dinner thali (Rs. 140) consists of a vegetable dish, rice, lemon rice, puris, sambar, rasam, curd, sweet, papad and pickle. A special thali has all this and several more dishes and costs Rs. 250.

I asked for two thalis to be packed. The journey back home was a bit torturous, for the heavenly aroma that filled the car was doing an intricate Kathakali dance in my stomach. I reached home, and filled my thali with all the items. I first had the hot and spicy rasam, and then ate some plain rice and sambar. Then I tried out the lemon rice. I had the two puris with the most delicious mixed vegetables (so mashed that I couldn’t tell what was in it – though I thought I saw some dal and beans). Then I had the pineapple halwa. I left the curd for another day. What, you wanted me to stuff myself?

It was, as I expected, a delicious meal. My old friend was as comforting as ever.

Add: 7 Khanna Market, Lodhi Colony

Tel: 011-24611726 and 02

(Rahul Verma is a seasoned street food connoisseur.)

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 12:55:23 PM |

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