Lord of the Fries Food

Chennai gets a taste of Andhra Pradesh at this roadside shop

Molaga bajjis are stuffed with onions and peppered with chilli powder

Molaga bajjis are stuffed with onions and peppered with chilli powder   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

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How an unassuming food stall, nestled between the gigantic buildings of Pondy Bazaar, has become home to those yearning for spicy Andhra snacks

A little over 50 balls of punugulu, a popular Andhra appetiser made of rice batter, wobble in the frying pan until they form a thick golden layer on the outside. The piping hot resultant is garnished with onions and chilli powder before being served to customers, who watch this preparation with bated breath. This spicy, mouth-watering snack, with a crunchy top layer, is the USP of G Suryanarayana Snacks Centre, whose authentic Andhra savouries are a hit in T Nagar. “I have not been cooking much these days, but I make sure that I visit the shop every day and personally monitor the preparations,” says G Suryanarayana (67), who runs the business along with his son Sivaji.

A crispy affair

Suryanarayana migrated to Chennai from Andhra Pradesh in the early 1970s, at the recommendation of matinee idol NT Rama Rao’s close confidante, Arjun Rao. Having successfully run a canteen in Andhra Club, situated in T Nagar, Suryanarayana had a brief encounter with the movie industry, wherein he was asked to supply lunch and snacks for the outdoor unit. For instance, if a Telugu movie was to be shot in the then Madras, then it was almost certain that he would bag the contract to take care of the food, “Film offers came very rarely. But when it did, I hadn’t missed a chance to impress celebrities. From biryani to pakoda, I’ve done it all,” he says, adding that he has cooked for Sivaji Ganesan (in Vishwaroopam), Rajinikanth (Baashaa) and Kamal Haasan (Indian).

G Suryanarayanan snacks shop in Pondy Bazaar

G Suryanarayanan snacks shop in Pondy Bazaar   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

Suryanarayana Snacks Centre, which was initially started as a sweet shop, has undergone several changes over the past 35 years. But what has remained constant is the menu, which has an assortment of Andhra appetisers — from gatti pakoda, masala pakoda, molaga bajji to potato bajji — not more than ₹30. Potato bajjis, Sivaji says, sell like hot cakes when the shop comes alive at 4 pm, on any given day. What attracts customers is how these bajjis are presented — stuffed with onions and sprinkled with a liberal dose of kara podi and lemon syrup. Another popular snack is fried chilli bajji, where already fried molaga bajjis are once again dipped in the oil and deep fried. “It is quite crispy compared to the regular ones. Some of them prefer this because it is like eating chilli chips,” adds Sivaji. It is right to say that the shop has become a go-to destination for anyone craving for a quick evening snack that goes well with their tea/coffee.

Potato bajjis are a hit among customers

Potato bajjis are a hit among customers   | Photo Credit: R_RAVINDRAN

Suryanarayana Snacks Centre, in fact, has earned a loyal customer base, thanks to its home-grown green chutney and kara podi, prepared by grinding red chilli, jeera, garlic and coriander. Has there been an instance where the potency of the spice left a cascading effect on customers? ‘No’ comes the response from Sivaji. “They throng the shop primarily for our kara podi,” he laughs, adding, “People like the flavour of Andhra, but there aren’t enough places in Chennai that give you that taste. You could say ours is one.”

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 2:30:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/sells-like-hot-bajji/article30087523.ece

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