The new age foodie is most likely spending more time reading up some lip-smacking reviews on blogs before he orders hors d’oeuvres at exotic restaurants.
As food bloggers in the city write up a gamut of cuisines ranging across the truly traditional to the Continental, French, Italian, Chinese and even Vietnamese delicacies, they are expanding both the gourmet’s tastes as well as their own reader base.
Priya Suresh is one of the well-known names in blogosphere who is regarded by peers as a ‘pioneer in food blogging’ with a penchant for coming up with ‘unique combos’ in her recipes.
Every post of hers on the two blogs that she manages, Priya's Versatile Recipes and Cook N Click, are inundated with feedback in the form of comments and queries. What has also endeared her to her followers is the importance she attaches to the comments section, responding to every doubt and always ready with a tip or two to her fellow food bloggers.
Puducherians must love this food blogger all the more because she is very much a home-grown talent. Born and brought up in Puducherry, her star-studded lineage includes the imposing presence of Chevalier Sellane Naicker, an influential advocate and political leader during the French rule. Now living in Paris, she says she is proud of her Puducherry roots. Priya got into blogging around five years ago. Many of her recipes are traditional Puducherian dishes which have been passed on to her by her grandmother and mother. The city’s cuisine has been influenced by French, Chettinad, Sri Lankan, Andhra and Kerala styles, she says.
“We love our special spice powders and our seafood. You cannot miss the French influence either, whether it is the adapted gratin or the varieties of stuffed capsicum and potatoes found in French-influenced restaurants in Puducherry,” she says.
The famed French macarons -- the meringue-dipped confection can still be found in some old bakeries of Puducherry, the blogger points out. Through her blogs, she keeps in touch with other Puducherian bloggers now living in Chennai, Paris and the U.S. Food blogging in Puducherry is also slowly evolving to include reviews of restaurants in the city.
An early member of the Facebook group, Chennai Foodguide, Mani Prabhu from Jipmer started out by writing reviews of Puducherry restaurants. He later decided to start his own blog, PondyFoodie, where he shares his experiences of the food scene in the city. The blog has a guide which lists reviews cuisine-wise. “We have some quality speciality restaurants, but they tend to be overpriced. The diversity of cuisine ranges across Chinese, Italian, Continental, French and Vietnamese foods,” he says. This is a city where such exotica-serving restaurants co-exist with tradition-bound North Indian and South Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian restaurants. “But tourists who come here want to sample our French and Continental food. Sometimes, because of high expectations and a misunderstanding of what constitutes Continental cuisine, they tend to get a bit disappointed,” says Mani.
Restaurant owners here do not see online food forums as potential marketing places. “This is the difference with cities like Chennai where restaurants get themselves featured as ‘premium’ for a cost,” the blogger says.
Food blogs that review restaurants are definitely picking up, he adds. The newest entrant on Puducherry’s food blogging scene is KnowYourFood started by Shruti Kumar, an IIM Bangalore graduate from Puducherry working in Bangalore. Having grown up in Mahe and Puducherry, Shruti still stays in touch with the food scene here. The blog is managed by a three-member team.
“Four years in Bangalore turned me into a complete foodie,” says Shruti. After visiting more than 120 restaurants and food chains in Bangalore, she started suggesting places, dishes and cuisines to friends.
As Puducherry is a favourite weekend tourist destination for people from Chennai and Bangalore, her friends sought his recommendations often.
“This was when I realised there was very little online content on this.”
Soon she, along with her sister Smriti, set up a food blog dedicated to Puducherry’s weekend tourist junta as well as its residents.
“The food culture in Puducherry is still developing, where eating out is a necessity among residents and not a hobby or passion,” she says.
She points out that though cafes have come up in areas such as Mission Street, White Town and Airport road, there is hardly any way of finding out unless one happens to see them or via word-of-mouth publicity. Online content is close to negligible. Tourists are also looking for such information.
“Our food blog is trying to bridge this information gap,” says Shruti.
What food bloggers fancy
While Priya enjoys the biryani at Aristo, the vegetarian fare at Sadguru and chaat at Mithai Mandir, she says she finds traditional Puducherian cuisine missing. “I would love to see Puducherian cuisine being served in restaurants,” she says. On visits here, she goes for ‘beach sundal’ which is her favourite. Among Mani’s recommendations are idli-vada-sambar at Indian Coffee House, sizzlers at China Town and Daily Breads, pizza at Tantos in Auroville, Parathas with butter chicken at Punjabi Dhaba, sandwiches at Café Ole, ice cream at Naturals and Richie Rich and cakes and breads from Baker Street and Bon Bakes. “A Mexican food joint would be welcome given their spices and ingredients are close to that of Indian, and especially south Indian cuisine. “ I would also love to see a dedicated food street with authentic chaat, samosas, jalebis and momos as Puducherry gets more cosmopolitan,” concludes Shruti.