There are many food memories when it comes to a place like Madras. I started eating out only after I joined college. My friends and I used to search for places to eat, but we only had a few options. Our favourite was the Woodlands drive-in restaurant. Students from affluent families spent time there. At that time, there was a craze for Mysore food and this place offered tasty masala dosa, thayir vada and bondas. Opposite the US embassy, there was a complex that housed three theatres — Safire, Emerald and Blue Diamond. Safire is the first 70-mm theatre in India and people used to throng this place to watch movies. Blue Diamond had a seating capacity of 300 and the theatre played continuous shows throughout the day. You can watch movies at any time. During the daytime, one can find many college students and tourists in the theatre complex. They served mainly north Indian dishes like chaat, paav bhaji, etc.
Roaming around Marina beachside was one of our favourite pastimes during college. My friends and I just sit there watching the waves and gossip! We also discussed our future — higher studies, job opportunities and so on. Vendors sold sundal, sliced mangoes and homemade murukkus. While returning from the beach in the evening, we could see the rush in front of Buhari hotel in Mount Road. They served the best non-vegetarian dishes in the 70s. Apart from the various types of biryani, their mutton dishes were also famous among locals and visitors. Murali Cafe in Triplicane (I guess it is still there) was famous for its reasonably priced idlis and vadas. Another vegetarian hotel Shanti Vihar in Luz Corner, Mylapore, had family crowds coming over. People from the elite class dined out quite often. For others, eating out was a luxury. But today, dining out has become a matter of pride for many.
Thayir Vada; Bhaskaran
I lived in three localities in Madras — Purasaiwalkam, Ashok Nagar and Adyar. Luckily, I got to enjoy all types of food. Those days, we mainly get south Indian food in most of the localities. If someone wants to have Gujarati or Maharashtrian delicacies, they have to travel to Purasaiwalkam or Parry’s Corner. Today, you will get North Indian food in OMR and ECR as well. After I retired, I decided to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city and we are residing near OMR now.
By the early 80s, Madras started witnessing restaurant chains. People here love to experiment with food and it didn’t come as a surprise when multi-cuisine restaurants opened across the city. With the influx of people from other states and countries, Chennai became popular for its various food joints.
PULI MILAGAI RECIPE
Try out these traditional Madras recipes
Spicy green chillies: 15-20| Tamarind juice extracted from one big lemon sized tamarind: 2 cups Sesame Oil: 100 ml (5-6 tbsp)| Mustard: 2 tsp| Asafoetida: 1 tsp or Hard Asafoetida: 1 big piece| Turmeric Powder: 1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds: 1/4 tsp| Required rock salt (kal uppu)| Sugar or Jaggery powder: 2 tsp
Chop 15-20 spicy green chillies into thin slices
Soak a big lemon sized tamarind and extract 2 cups of juice
In 6 tbsp sesame oil, crackle mustard, hing and fenugreek seeds. Add the sliced green chillies, required crystal salt, turmeric power and saute for few minutes in medium-low flame till the green chillies start to wilt a little
Add the tamarind extract, cook till it becomes semi-solid, add sugar or jaggery. When the oil starts to come out, switch off the heat, check for salt and adjust
Puli Milagai; (inset) Shanthi Ramachandran
Always add crystal salt while sauteing the chillies to avoid coughing
Adding more sugar will spoil the taste, so add very little just to enhance the flavours
Don't forget to sprinkle a little more sesame oil after serving
- Recipe by Shanthi Ramachandran
VAZHAIPOO CURRY RECIPE
Vegetable Oil: 1 tbsp| Fresh curry leaves: 2| Onion, sliced: 1| Ginger-garlic and green chilli paste: 3 tbsp| Cloves: 2| Cumin seeds: 1 tsp| Amchur (dried mango) powder: 1 tbsp| Ground turmeric: 1 tbsp| Cinnamon Stick: 1 Ground cumin: 1 tbsp| Ground coriander: 1 tbsp| Ground Chilli: 1/4 tsp: Dried whole red chillies: 4| Full bay leaves: 2 Coriander seeds: 1 tsp| Mustard seeds: 1 tsp| Light coconut cream: 400 ml: Banana Stems: 600g| Banana leaf to cook banana stem| Fresh coriander leaves, plus extra sprigs, to serve steamed basmati rice: 1/3 cup| Lime wedges
Heat a large pan over a medium-hig heat and add oil. Add cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom and gently fry for a minute until spices start to splutter
Now add onion, ginger, garlic, chillies and curry leaves and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown
In another vessel, heat water and let it boil, take the banana stem and wrap it with the banana leaf, to the stem, rub salt, turmeric and lemon. Let it boil for 10-15 mins. Alternatively, a steamer can be used to steam it
Once the onions are brown, add the spices and let them dry roast for 1 min, post that add coconut milk and bring to boil
Now, add the vazhaipoo and let it simmer for 3-4 mins
Take in a dish and serve with fresh coriander, parotta and rice.
- Recipe by Deepali Nichani