Food is an important part of the culture of a city; therefore, eating and drinking in Chennai should be well-researched and taken care of. Travelers may wonder what the must-eat food in Chennai are. It is one of the most principal questions running through everyone’s mind since people say that you have never really been to a place without partaking on its local delicacy. So, what is there to drink and what to eat in Chennai?
Chennai, formerly known as Madras, has a distinct culture of Tamil tradition and modernity. There are many restaurants offering various cuisines around the city and near the beaches from affordable to expensive rates. There are also street stalls, fast food restaurants, coffee shops, tea kadais, food courts, bakeries, and fine dining restaurants.
Chennai cuisine is greatly influenced by Tamil culture and tradition. Typical Tamilnadu cuisine includes rice, which is the staple food. It is served with variations of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes made special by a variety of flavors from spices and condiments used in Tamilnadu cuisine. Many vegetarian dishes are made with coconut, tamarind, and asafetida (giant fennel). Garam masala is avoided in Tamilnadu cuisine, though.
Breakfast includes one or more of dishes like pongal (sweet or salted mashed rice and lentils with cashew nuts, ghee, pepper, and cumin), dosai (fermented crepe that is accompanied by sambar), idli or idly (steamed savory rice cakes), chapathi (unleavened flatbread), sevai (rice noodles), uppuma (cooked semolina flavored with cumin, pepper, dried lentils, and mustard) and aval (flattened rice). Two kinds of Vadai or deep fried donuts — medhuvadai (soft vadai) and parappuvadai (lentils vadai) with coconut chutney, sambar (dish made of pigeon pea), and Milagai podi (mixture of ground spices) — are also served during breakfast.
Tiffin is sometimes taken as an evening snack and is usually accompanied by filter coffee, a sweet and milky coffee made from dark roasted coffee beans that is similar to cappuccino. Sometimes, chicory is added to enhance the flavor and aroma of the coffee before it is served in a uniquely tumbler-like coffee cup. Strongly brewed tea is also a good accompaniment to breakfast dishes. They are available in many tea stalls around Chennai.
Lunch and dinner are usually served with a good portion of steamed rice called sooru with sambar (vegetable stew seasoned with exotic spices), rasam (lentil soup with coriander, cumin and pepper), kottu (vegetable and meat dish), dry curry, and thayir (a curd Indian’s call yogurt) or buttermilk.
Other popular Tamilnadu dishes include Puliyodarai, which is a rice-flavored dish with tamarind paste fried in sesame oil with curry leaves, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, split chickpea, groundnuts, dried chili, asafetida, turmeric powder, light jiggery, and salt. There is also Uttapam which is a crisp, crepe-like dish that is sometimes called Indian pizza. It resembles a thick pancake topped with an assortment of vegetables and coconut that is cooked with the batter. There are also non-vegetarian hot and spicy dishes cooked with chicken, fish, and mutton typically served with crisp Papads or Appalam (crisp crackers).
Food in Chennai can be enjoyed by many during any time of the day served hot and fresh. As there are many restaurants offering Chennai cuisine around the city to choose from, it is advisable to avoid eating in open places to ensure health and safety. By following these guidelines and recommendations, eating and drinking in Chennai will surely be an enjoyable experience.