“Put kadalai? You mean pottukadalai ?” In response, my colleague sent me a poster on WhatsApp, confirming that it was indeed Put Kadalai.
When I bring up the name with Nisha Venkat and Vidya Senthilkumar, who run the show along with their husbands Harish Venkat and Senthilkumar, Nisha laughs. “We had the name before everything else. Last May we were considering starting a snack bar with healthy options, and couldn’t come up with anything. Then Senthil suggested peanuts and Harish came up with the name. We registered it over dinner.”
Put Kadalai, as the name suggests, is all about peanuts. Nisha points out that there is a misconception that peanuts are not healthy. She ticks off the positives: sustainable nut (actually legume), very reasonable, available everywhere, diabetes friendly, unsaturated fats, rich storehouse of minerals and vitamins, contains folate naturally ... “But we don’t value it enough,” she concludes dramatically. “When we started working with peanuts, we realised how versatile it is: Thai and Malaysian cuisines use it extensively. In India too, there’s peanut chutney from Pollachi, we add it to puliyogare , bisbele , poha and sabudana khichdi ... it can be sweet or savoury.”
The next step was to look at menu options. The initial idea was to have roasted peanuts in different flavours. “We thought of a kiosk or vending machine,” recalls Vidya. Nisha continues, “This will be our flagship store to promote the brand. We want to have ramped-up versions of the peanut cart in malls and other places.” They’re also planning pop-up weekends where chefs will present different cuisines using peanuts.
From roasted peanuts, they now have desserts, drinks, cotton candy, peanut butter in three flavours, peanut powder and a trail mix. “Everything is natural and made in house,” emphasises Vidhya. “We don’t use any preservatives. The cotton candy (Fluffy Bears) is made with organic sugar and natural flavours.”
I opt for the Peanut Bhel and my mother-in-law the Beach Kadalai. Both are served in coconut shell cups. The bhel has boiled peanuts, grated carrot and beetroot, chopped onion, masala covered with crisp sev . The beach kadalai has coconut and mango shavings and is finished off with a dash of lime.
- Put Kadalai is at 283, Race Course, oppposite Tata Motors showroom
- Open from 6.30 am to 10.30 pm, the outlet will offer snacks, cold-pressed juices, and coffee
- Apart from peanut-based snacks, chocolates, eclairs with peanut butter, regular shakes and peanut milk shakes are also available
- The only plastic Put Kadalai uses is the packets for the takeaways. Even these are re-sealable and can be reused once you finish with the peanuts. However customers are welcome to bring their own containers as well.
- The bestseller in the cold-pressed juices is ponangani keerai, says Nisha. It’s a mix of the green with sorakkai (bottle gourd) and pineapple. “Those who are not too sure about it are offered shots,” she smiles, “and they love it.”
- Contact 8110910910 for details
If you prefer peanuts with the shell, they have boiled and sand roasted. They offer five varieties each of roasted and coated peanuts and two with a glaze. The peri-peri and ginger cinnamon peanuts are excellent but the chilli caramel is the most addictive. It begins sweetly and ends with your tongue on fire.
To douse that, we try the 7 Elephant cold-pressed juices — The ABCG (Apple, Beetroot, Carrot and Ginger) and Pear It Up — which arrive in square bottles. “Woodward’s Gripe Water,” I squeal but the m-i-l takes a more robust view. “Quarter brandy bottle,” she announces firmly. “It’s just the right shape to fit into a pocket for people who are going on a walk,” explains Nisha.
Before we left, thanks to Senthil egging us on, we had packed two flavours of roasted peanuts and a bottle each of the Peanut Garlic Podi and Peanut Butter with Honey. The stone-crushed podi has a coarse texture and tiny chewy bits and goes well with plain rice, idli/dosai or even sprinkled over toasted and buttered bread. A spicier version made with Guntur Chillies was too hot for us. Peanut Butter is also available in a savoury form — with Jalapenos — and a sweet chocolate version.
While seating at the outlet is limited, the ambience is lovely. Bar tables and stools have been placed under a huge neem tree on the ground floor. On the first floor, the branches hide the road from view and give the impression of being in a tree house. “But we have to plan for the rains,” says Nisha ruefully.