Street food of Chennai
Street food, as in other areas of India, are popular in Chennai, despite the common belief in India that street food is unhealthy. The Idly Sambhar is a popular dish, which is served as breakfast or dinner. Apart from regular South Indian street food, the city's streets are also filled with several North Indian street food outlets, most of them established by North Indian migrants themselves. Gujarathi and Burmese are also available. Street food in Chennai is so popular that a game had developed based on the TV show The Amazing Race where contestants have to follow clues to Street-food hotspots in the city.
Idli Sambhar is a common food in South India. It's a delicacy made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. Sambar is a lentil based vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind popular in South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil cuisines adapted in each to its taste and environment.
Uttapam or ooththappam or Uthappa (Tamil: ஊத்தாபம் ) is a dosa-like dish made by cooking ingredients in a batter. Unlike a dosa, which is crisp and crepe-like, uttapam is a thick pancake, with toppings cooked right into the batter.Uttapam is traditionally made with toppings such as tomatoes, onion, chillies, capsicum and cabbage mix; other common choices are coconut or mixed vegetables. It is often eaten with sambar or chutney. It is popular in South India.
Samosa is a fried or baked pastry with savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils and sometimes ground lamb, ground beef or ground chicken.
A bhaji, bhajji or bajji, is a spicy Indian snack or entree dish similar to a fritter, with several variants. It is often served with chutney.
Atho is a mixture of noodles, shredded cabbage and onions garnished with tamarind, salt, fried onions, chili flakes, garlic and ajinomoto (rarely). It is of Burmese origin and served by Burmese refugees working as vendors in Chennai.
A parotta, porotta or barotta, is a layered flat bread of Kerala and some parts of Southern India, notably in Tamil Nadu made from maida flour. This is a variant of the North Indian Lacha Paratha. Parottas are usually available as street food and in restaurants across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka. At some places it is also served at weddings, religious festivals and feasts. It is prepared by kneading maida, egg (in some recipes), oil or ghee and water. The dough is beaten into thin layers and later forming a round spiralled into a ball using these thin layers. The ball is rolled flat and roasted. There is one more special dish made out of parotta called Kothu parotta or mutta parotta which is widely available in mostly all Chennai hotels serving parottas.
Pani Puri is a popular street snack in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. It consists of a round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavored water ("pani"), tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas. It is generally small enough to fit completely into one's mouth. Originating from central India, this food has penetrated into the south, too.
Re-affirming the North Indian penetration into Chennai's street food is Bhel Puri: a savoury Indian snack made out of puffed rice, vegetables and a tangy tamarind sauce
Muttai Dosai is a variant of Dosa. Dosa is a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils. It is a staple dish in South Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. It is also popular in other parts of India, and other countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore (All countries with significant Tamil population live. Muttai Dosa or simply, Egg Dosa, is simply a dosa with egg added.
Biriyani is a hugely popular food in Chennai. It is a mixed rice food with vegetables. It is popular amongst Muslims, and so there is a theory that the Mughals brought it with them. However, this is unclear and there are other theories that suggest that the Biriyani is an Indian invention. Several Variants of the Biriyani are available. Kushkas are Biriyanis without meat. Other variants include Chicken Biriyani, Mutton Biriyani, Egg Biriyani, etc., for which no explanation other than their names themselves are needed.
Several other street food varieties thrive in Chennai, Some of them are listed here:
- Kalaan or mushroom
- Masala Puri, made with Peas, Corn and Masala (Some times small, cruncy Puris are also added
- Burmese Egg Masala
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