Food

Vishnu AS collates his food trips in his blog ShappattuRaman

Vishnu AS at an eatery at Kannoorkkonam

Vishnu AS at an eatery at Kannoorkkonam   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He has come out with a list of flavour hubs in and around the capital city

At 10.30 pm, Vishnu AS is in a thattukada at Cheeranikkara, about 25 km from the city. Sasi, who runs the makeshift diner, is busy making omelettes in the glow of an emergency lamp and a torch light balanced precariously above his left shoulder.

Sasi annan whipping up omelettes in the torch light is the latest addition to Vishnu’s Facebook page, ShappattuRaman, where he waxes eloquent about his explorations with food at all kinds of diners in and around the district. For a photo session, he travelled all the way to a “naadan” food court at Kannoorkkonam, some 32 km from the city, where the spread is tapioca, pork thoran, turkey roast, rabbit roast and, at times, emu roast.

“George Bernard Shaw has said ‘There is no love sincerer than the love of food’. That’s true in my case,” laughs the 28-year-old. He writes about different outlets and people who serve food — from fine-dining places to tea shops, home chefs, bakers and bakeries to take-away counters, food trucks and street food.

Recently, he collated 251 of them in a list he calls “Ente naattile ruchiyidangal” (flavour hubs in my home town). There is another list of 13 joints for those who relish beef, “beefaholics” as he calls them. “Except for a few, I have been to all these hotels more than once,” says Vishnu, an employee of MRF Tyres in Gujarat. Now on two weeks’ leave, he shows me two Excel sheets on his phone when we meet for an interview. He says: “One is the list of places I plan to check out during this break and the second one is of eateries where I want to try the pork dishes!”

It was in 2017 that Vishnu started writing about food, thanks to several food groups on social media platforms. “Food review is a subjective topic. Neither can I force my opinion on others nor can anybody do that to me. So I decided to have a space of my own and that’s how I started ShappattuRaman,” he explains.

He points out that people often remark that he writes mostly about places that are run by “elderly” people. “That is not deliberate. There is a lot to be heard and learnt from them. Profit is the last thing on their mind; it’s all about day-to-day survival. At a time when food joints are shutting down within six months or a year of their opening, there are these no-frills places that have been around for years. They might not have a great ambience to speak of; cleanliness and service might not be the best, but the food makes up for all the shortcomings,” he observes.

Food travels
  • Since he worked in Chennai for some time, Vishnu’s blog also has expeditions to food spots there such as Jayarams Hotel in Sirkazhi “where you get the best prawn roast”, Iruttukadai Halwa in Thirunelveli, famous for its halwa, and Thanjavur Military Hotel in Chennai famous for its “curry dosa and biriyani”. He has also explored a few places in Hyderabad. Now that he is in Gujarat, he is relishing the “delicious Gujarati sweets.”

With over 4,500 followers, his page has people writing in with appreciation, advice and friendly criticism. Some of them, for instance, feel his posts are a tad too long. “That is because I include the history of the place and people who run it,” he explains. He also learns about new food joints from those who comment on his page.

So, does he have any favourites? “It would be unfair to pick just one. Each place has its own USP. For example, there is this hotel at Vattiyoorkavu which, I think, serves the best karavada in town; there are small outlets at Ottasekharamangalam and Palaikkonam where we get a dosa for ₹1; I have a list of 12 places that come up with the best bonji (lime juice) in town; I have my favourites when it comes to beef or chicken dishes as well,” he goes on.

Memorable moments

He says there has been many memorable moments during his food expeditions. He talks about a sarbath outlet at Palayam that has been around for 20 years. “Many of us are familiar with ‘Sarbath Kakka’ who runs the place. I spent half a day with him to learn more about him. He was happy to go down memory lane and was elated that someone had cared to ask him his name, Ahamed Kabeer,” recounts Vishnu.

Vishnu says he became a “gourmet” because of his mother, A Aswakumari. “She used to equate healthy with chubby. Being an only child, she enjoyed feeding me to her heart’s content! Though she is physically challenged, she enjoys cooking and experimenting with ingredients. She used to call me, ‘Shappattu Raman’,” he says.

Most of Vishnu’s food travels have been in the company of his wife, Nayana S, who works in Technopark. “She is my biggest supporter. At the same time, she complains that my phone has only photographs of food!” he chuckles.

Since Vishnu enjoys experimenting, there have been upsets as well, physical and taste-wise. “I have this habit of trying weird combinations, such as black tea and mixture, beef and boli, beef and soda… Sometimes, these experiments backfire!” But nothing stops him from going in search of new food spots. “I have this drive for food,” he asserts.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 10:21:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/vishnu-as-blog-shappatturaman-is-about-food-spots-in-thiruvananthapuram-city-and-its-outskirts/article30284959.ece

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