“Sabalangadi giri giri, Saidapettai Vadacurry!” These fun lines, delivered in classic Madras bashai in countless Tamil films, show the love people of the city had for food and the migrant origins of the metropolis too. The vadacurry had a humble beginning in West Saidapet as recycled vada, but has now made its way onto the breakfast menu of many hotels.
The delicious dish is an accompaniment served for breakfast with dosa and idli. With Bengal gram as its main ingredient, the deep-fried fritters are served in flavourful curry. Earlier, leftover masala vadas from the previous day were repurposed, with some extra masalas, into the breakfast menu through the vadacurry.
However, Saidapet’s signature vadacurry was discovered with freshly made bengal gram fritters at Mari hotel, in Saidapet about 70 years ago. The hotel continues to offer the dish with the hand-down recipe from its founder Marimuthu Devar. M. Kumaran, who runs the hotel now along with his brother, said the signature vadacurry masala prepared with spices, including cloves and cinnamon, added more flavour to the dish. Recalling that it had cost around one rupee when it was introduced, he said the hotel still offered the dish at a nominal price.
Though there are variants to the dish, the original vadacurry recipe leaves out tomatoes. The fun phrase in Madras slang also found a place in lyrics of a yesteryear song featuring actor Kamal Haasan.
Chicken 65 is another Chennai’s very own delicacy that has found its way into the world’s top 10 fried chicken dishes ranked by TasteAtlas. Though there were many theories on the number, the iconic dish was invented by A.M. Buhari in 1965. Chennai is also home to Madras curry powder, a ready mix of spices, which has travelled to other countries.