If you’re new to Chennai, you probably think all we do is slurp on thaiyyir saadam and stuff our faces with idlis. Well, you aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, we do, but did you know there’s so many other legendary dishes you probably haven’t tried? Check our list of awesome dishes you must try, whether you’re a tourist or an old-school city dweller. And thank us later, yeah? We take gratitude in the form of podi idlis and filter kaapi too — just saying.
Thirsty? Jigarthanda, cool beverage, is a popular drink from Madurai and a perfect thirst-quencher. Made from almond resin and ice cream, you can get a cool, creamy glass of it at the ever-popular Murugan Idli Shop for INR 60. It’s like drinking dessert (sort of like Falooda’s cousin) and perfect for Chennai summers.
These sweet steamed dumplings made out of jaggery or sugar with grated coconut enclosed in a rice flour pouch make our palates sing! You can find them at Mami Tiffen Stall that’s a Mylapore gem (been around since 1959, ya’ll!) and guess what? Get them for just INR 8 per piece!
Is there anything more satisfying than molaga (chillies) or vazhakkai (plaintain) dipped in batter and fried till a crisp? While you’re hanging around Mylapore drop by Jannal Kadai post 5pm and get delicious bhajjis quite literally out of a window! Dunk it in their home-style coconut chutney and slip into snack heaven.
Another sweet drink close to our hearts. We absolutely love the invigorating, cold glass of rose milk one can get at Kalathi Rose Milk Shop again in Mylapore (if you’re visiting, know this, Mylapore is the cultural hub of Chennai if you want a peek of Old Madras). And you can get a glass just for INR 15. Can we swim in a pool of this on a hot summer’s day? So refreshing!
Mutton Kola Urundai
Meaty, delicious goodness moulded into little crunchy balls (don’t laugh!) — we really do love mutton kola urundai! Home-made minced mutton with spicy masalas — what’s not to love? Drop by the legendary Trouser Anna Kadai in Mandaveli and make it a part of your meal there for lunchtime.
Yes, we know there’s nothing that can match up to Amma’s creamy thaiyyir saadam but if you’re a newbie in town who’s a Chennaite at heart, tuck into curd rice at Sangeetha Veg Restaurant or if you want something homelier you can order from Sweet Kaaram Coffee who cater traditional home-style
Chicken 65 Buhari-Mount Road
One must try a dish made in the land of where it was invented, no? Did you know that Buhari, famous for its biryani, also was the first to create the popular starter, Chicken 65? Rumour has it that the iconic restaurant made the dish in 1965 using curry leaves, along with ginger, garlic, red chillies and vinegar and the recipe has changed slightly over the years. But hey, we’re not complaining.
This fabulous combination of spicy podi and soft idlies make us drool — a delicious south Indian brekkie to kickstart the day, we think! We found our favourites at Ratna Café — dunk those idlis in their delicious sweet vengayam (onion) chutney and you’re sorted! If you want spicy podi that’ll leave your nose runny, check out Murugan Idli shop.
Sundari Akka Kadai
The best part of living in coastal city? Stuffing your face with fresh seafood, of course! We found some local stalls at the beach that serve up some yummy seafood and the stalls are named after the boss lady akkas in charge! There’s the Prawn Akka Kadai on ECR for the succulent prawns obviously and Sundari Akka Kadai in Marina where she whips up home-style fried fish with peanut based masalas and more!
If you find offal not so awful, try authentic Chettinad preparations where the main ingredients include brains and liver tossed in spicy masala mixes. If you’re not squeamish, Amma Chettinad Restaurant offers authentic Chettinad cuisine and you can pair your organ dishes with kothu parotta. Oh and did we mention the place is run by the ex-Chief Minister of TN, MGR’s personal chef?
Masala Dosa & Filter Coffee
Your trip or stay in Chennai is incomplete if you don’t take of a whiff of authentic filter kaapi at least once in a day. Almost every restaurant or kutti tea kadai offers fresh, hot tumblers of this beverage. We love ours nice and strong at Hot Chips, Sangeetha and New Woodlands Hotel.
And if idlis are not enough to fill your bellies turn to the popular favourite — thin crispy dosas stuffed with juicy bits of potatoes, tossed in masalas. Usually made with batter made from scratch, and poured onto hot pans, get your fill at popular joints like Saravana Bhavan or small but legendary places like Vishranthi in Bessy.