Chennai; the city I can gladly call home, was not just a delight to my soul but also my tummy. Yes, if you are in Chennai and if you love food (of course, you love food) you have to try everything that the cultural hub of Tamil Nadu has to offer. No visit to Chennai is complete without rolling your sleeves up and going the whole hog (seriously, completely) on food larger than life. I am not kidding, the food served in the banana leaf was larger than life.
While most of you might think that the city has only Idli- Wada- Sambar to offer, you are highly mistaken and wrongly influenced. There aren’t just plethora of vegetarian varieties available but also non-vegetarian. And if you are one of those believers who think South Indian food is limited to only idli sambar or dosa, you might as well be prepared for a big surprise.
I went to Chennai as a three-day affair where I had to meet my loved and dear ones and spent a helluva time. While I wasn’t able to visit a lot of places and do my travelling rituals, my best friend aka soul master made sure I do not return home without being served the traditional Madras full meal. According to him, no visit to Chennai is complete without going completely crazy over a lot of food served on a giant banana leaf.
But before I begin, let me tell you, the happiness my tummy felt after digging my fingers into the piping hot mutton curry, chukka and that lovely South Indian rice is unmatched.
Where did I dine?
I visited the Madurai Kumar Mess in Chennai to explore a very different part of the country.
How was the food?
Well, If you are in a complete mood for some mind thrilling good quality non-vegetarian food, this is the place for you and even if you order any of the dishes or any number of dishes, let me tell you, you can’t possibly go wrong with any of the available choices. They are all prepared with extreme love, and just everything about the food is scrumptious.
Not just non-vegetarian but there are equal varieties of vegetarian food and all that I tried was tummy filling well.
What were my absolute favourites?
Non-vegetarian: Nandu Omelette, Crab Boneless, Mutton Chukka, Nattu Kozhi Kulambu, Mutton Curry, Kothu Parotta and their Pomfret fry.
Vegetarian: Kootu Curry (Curry made using yam, raw plantain and chickpeas), Cabbage Thoran (bhaaji made from cabbage, pulse and grated coconut ), and Aviyal (vegetable curry made with coconut.)
Oh, and there was papad too! It’s called pappadam, which has grown to be a snack closest to my heart.
Pretty fancy? Isn’t it?
Some quick facts that I noticed while relishing the meal: There is a unique way used to eat on a banana leaf and it was a strikingly new experience for me.
- The banana leaf is placed before a person in a way that the narrow part always points to the left side.
- Food is served from the top left corner of the leaf, and a definite order is used.
- The rice is served at the bottom centre of the leaf while the rest of the food is served to surround.
- Before eating food, you are required to pour water on the leaf, clean it and then say your grace.
- The placement of food depends on the type: things that are less used are kept on the left of the leaf and the things on the right are usually gravy, pickle and curry.
- After the food is done, you are required to close the leaf from the top. (This also depends on the host. Some communities even leave the leaf open.)
- Also, the food is to be eaten using hands.
We Indians know the art of eating with hands too well, don’t we?
Overall, with a lot of hits and a few misses here and there, the lunch was a test for my appetite. Unlike an Indori thali, the South Indian banana leaf meal is certainly an experience everyone should go for.
If you have tried a banana leaf meal before, let me know how you liked it and if you did not, you certainly should.
P.S. My meal was not sponsored. The views are all my own.
Until my next post,
Keep travelling and devouring great food!