Food

Simple, seasonal and sustainable: Review of food at Narchuvayagam

The team behind the food

The team behind the food   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Narchuvayagam from Seeragam Native Store, offers no-fuss, no-frill meals that are nutritious and tasty

A nutty fragrance welcomes me into Seeragam Native Store. “That’s the chekku kadalai ennai (traditional wood-pressed groundnut oil),” smiles Gowri Madhu, one of the proprietors. As we walk into Narchuvayagam, the eating area, a member of the kitchen staff is busy packing a takeaway in biodegradable bags. Gowri walks over to ask why the customer hasn’t brought his own dabbas.

Later she explains, “Even though packaging is 100% biodegradable, it’s still going to add to waste. We don’t want to do that.” However, when the customers are patients/attendants from the healthcare centres around them, she says one can’t do anything. “They want something that is homely and healthy. And they don’t always have dabbas.”

The ela sapadu costs Rs 85

The ela sapadu costs Rs 85   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As we speak, Deepa from the kitchen plonks a plate before me. There’s a generous heaping of rice (thuyamalli, Gowri informs me) on the banana leaf and two katoris of kootu and poriyal. She then leaves a carrier with sambhar, rasam and kara kuzhambu so that I can help myself. A tomato rice vadam fresh from the kadai finishes the meal.

Gowri laughs when asked how the eatery began. “We were cooking food for our staff when a couple of people from the offices around asked if they could buy lunch from us. Some of our customers would often tease us ‘What about feeding us?’” After some thought, Gowri and her partners hired the space right next to the store and opened Narchuvayagam. The space can seat around 15 people and is well lit naturally. One wall has replicas of Indus Valley seals while another shows a rural scene with women buying and selling produce.

By now I’ve begun digging into the food: simple and tasty. The kara kuzhambu and rasam are flavourful, and the buttermilk is made of fresh curd. The taste of the dal dominates both the sambhar and kootu. The best part is the carrot and beans poriyal — you can actually taste the vegetables instead of the overpowering onion and coconut. The lemon pickle is a stand out with the mild spiciness offset by the sour lemon and sweet onion. Apart from this, Narchuvayagam also offers chapathi with the kootu of the day and a variety rice (either tomato, coconut, coriander or curd) with a rice appalam. “Three times a week, we also offer ragi kali,” says Gowri.

Though they began with lunch, Narchuvayagam expanded to offer breakfast, dinner and evening snacks. Idli and dosa are available for both breakfast and dinner but, on alternate days, there is an either pongal or puri at breakfast. At dinner, there are a few extra items: chapathi, idiyappam, millets adai, alu paratha, paniyaram made of cholam...

Kozhukattai made of seeraga samba rice

Kozhukattai made of seeraga samba rice   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the evening, the vada is a permanent fixture but the ingredient changes: plain urad, masala or ragi. Sweet and savoury kozhukattais and aval perattal are other options. Chukku kapi is the only drink on offer now. “We’re planning to add flower-based and herbal teas and panagam for the summer,” says Gowri. If the supply of milk is regular, buttermilk too will become a feature of the menu.

Narchuvayagam has very clear rules: The ingredients for the menu depends on the stock available at the store. “So regulars may find themselves eating the same vegetable for a couple of days. Also the rice may change, as we use only native varieties.” Their decision to use seasonal items also causes a few problems. “It limits choices but when we explain to customers, most people are okay with it.”

Info you can use
  • Breakfast is available from 8.00 to 10.15; lunch from 12.30 to 3.00 pm; snacks from 4.30 to 7.00 pm and dinner from 6.45 to 9.30 pm
  • The cost varies depending on what is chosen but is very reasonable. The unlimited ela sapadu, for instance, is ₹85.
  • Packaging charge will be extra for takeaway.
  • Narchuvayagam is at Seeragam Native Store, 27 E, Bharathi Colony, Peelamedu
  • Call 9843644455 for more details and to book a place

Since they make only a limited quantity of food, customers have to call and book a place. Gowri is very clear that neither she nor her partners are interested in Narchuvayagam growing. “We are not running a restaurant. What we are trying to do is to offer a healthy home-cooked meal for those who want it.”

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 8:30:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/review-of-food-at-narchuvayagam/article30751586.ece

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