While all of North India was stuffing everything possible, from potatoes to chana , in their big fat samosas, us Chennai folks went the minimal way and made one emblematic of our motto: simplicity. I am, of course, talking about the mini onion samosa.
Just some caramelised onion bundled together in a cocoon of thin fried flour. That is all it takes. You can gobble down one at a time in fun-sized crunchy bites and let the spices melt in your mouth.
The humble kutti samosa calls out to you from tea shops and fancy bistros alike, from street vendors to your mother’s kitchen. When, on long bike rides, you are caught in the rain, wouldn’t you stop for these little triangles bobbing and sizzling in a pool of oil?
And remember when you were travelling in a train from Chennai to your hometown? The Railway offered you its dry stale bread omelette, and it was a vendor selling you crispy hot onion samosas wrapped in a newspaper (probably this very one, if I’m being honest) who brought you back to life.
Our non-vegetarian and eggetarian friends can lavish praise upon that sure-shot cure for hangover, the omelette.
But if the omelette chides you the morning after, for your excesses, the samosa is your friend from the night before, a happy memory of good times. In festive house parties, be it Deepavali or Holi, would anybody choose bread omelette with their chai, over samosas?
Sure, it may not be the healthiest snack out there, but then, what is a long life without the kutti samosa?
Sweta Akundi turns into Yogi Bear after one whiff of the samosa.
The Parsis got it right — if you want to make any food better, put an egg on it. If one of the country’s most food-loving communities can swear by the egg, who am I to shrug it off? Not only is it delicious and versatile, it is also the quickest, easiest, most fulfilling (not just filling) thing you can whip up. Chennai, with its favourite quick-fix tea-time snack found as abundantly as bajji s and coffee, seems to agree.
Sure, the city survives on multiple savouries. But all of them — except the bread omelette — need either a liberal dousing in deep woks , or overnight prepping. The bread omelette is gently fried: fast food at its simplest and deftest. Just watch how it is made, the next time you go to your favourite kadai for tea or a smoke break (which we are encouraged to discourage here).
In any other city, and even in our famed Railways, a bread omelette is just egg between two slices of bread. But Chennai’s version is the opposite: a structural marvel. The most skilful person in the establishment is the one seated by the large iron pan: cracking eggs, flipping bread, tossing the eggs over the bread, creating a cloak, leaving the bread only lightly soaked, all in a matter of minutes. The process is a joy to watch, a celebration of artful wristwork, a study in Physics — motion, force, fluid density and condensed matter.
Theatrics aside, the dish is just healthier. Compare it with a certain oil-guzzling, maida -caked alternative that disappears in half a bite. Which would your mother want you to eat?
Meghna Majumdar counts leaping devilled-eggs when trying to sleep.