Chennai’s street food ventures are remarkably resilient during the pandemic

There isn’t any stopping Chennai’s small food ventures: from Sundari akka’s Marina seaside barbecue to Mylapore’s Jannal bajji store. Despite months of lockdowns, and all the challenges related to COVID-19, they are busy once more. We be a part of the queue

Sometimes, you crave a samosa and also you simply must eat it. No matter what.

During the preliminary months of lockdown, the thought struck Balakrishnan Yadav, who runs Bombay Lassi on Ellis Road. He drove to a distant retailer to purchase a samosa for ₹35.

As restrictions have been eased, his common prospects started to name him, asking when he deliberate to reopen. When he did, they steadily returned. Today, Balakrishnan is glad that each branches of his store, specialising in samosas, carrot halwa, kachori, and jalebi, are again on their toes.

Several of the metropolis’s most iconic street-food ventures appear to be doing properly regardless of recurring lockdowns. Even as giants in the enterprise wrestle to maintain their kitchens working, the small street distributors appear to be remarkably resilient.

Who yearns for rose milk from a nook retailer during a pandemic? Lots of people in Chennai, judging by Kalathy’s enterprise over these previous few weeks. The rose milk served in the retailer, which is over 90 years outdated, is synonymous with Mylapore; a lot so that individuals have been asking for all of it by means of the lockdown.

“We’re doing quite well,” says Okay Mani, who’s from the third technology of the founding household. “People continue to come for our rose milk, especially from 11 am to noon and 4 pm to 7 pm.” He provides: “If there’s a dip is sales, it is due to cold weather and rains; not the pandemic.”

Jannal Bajji store on Ponnambala Vathiyar Street in Mylapore, is functioning with renewed vigour. The outlet, that features out of the window of an 80-year-old home, was closed for 40 days when Sivaramakrishnan, the founder’s brother handed away because of COVID-19.

Defying all odds, they reopened earlier this month, and the famed window even has a recent coat of blue paint. In pre-pandemic days, for a lot of in Chennai, a go to to the bajji store was necessary if we even stepped in the course of Mylapore. The ritual continues.

Okay Sargunanathan, the brother-in-law of the founder, says the eatery continues to serve its signature delicate idlis, ghee pongal, crisp vadas and translucent pooris, to not point out their sought-after onion chutney.

At Bombay Lassi, Ellis Road

At Bombay Lassi, Ellis Road
| Photo Credit:

The seashores should be abandoned, however there is no such thing as a stopping Sundari ‘akka’, whose stall was all the time full of prospects at the Marina. She is now figuring out of her house kitchen at Lock Nagar, Chepauk. “Before Corona, I went in an auto to Kasimedu to buy fish every morning; now I go with my son on his bike; that’s the only difference,” laughs Sundari. “I now cook smaller quantities; that too only on order-basis.”

Customers name her to put their order the earlier day. Her menu is straightforward: fish curry, barbecue, prawns fry, squid fry, rasam, and rice. “I take advantage of fish that’s obtainable recent: at this time, I’m making paarai curry,” she explains over cellphone, her voice coming in snatches owing to her stirring the simmering curry in between. “I’m getting a call. It might be a customer,” she indicators off.

Guru Mess’s mutton and hen biryani are now promoting out quick, because of folks driving previous the restaurant on ECR.

Located in Mamallapuram and identified for Chettinad-style food cooked on wood-fired stoves, the restaurant initially suffered a setback since most of their prospects are vacationers, based on Okay Pandian, the proprietor. But issues are trying up now.

C Kunhiraman General Stores in Royapuram too, is “limping back to normalcy”, based on Akilesh Baskaran, considered one of the managing companions of the store that makes legendary mango ice-cream.

Food blogger Shabnam Kamil has been documenting her experiences with these food ventures on her Facebook and Instagram account, Mytrystwithfood. She admits that it did take lots of deliberation on her half to step out of house, at first.

She went to Gopaul Dairy at George Town, identified for its bun-butter-jam. And then to Thanjavur Military Hotel, Park Town. Then Kunhiraman’s. Then Sundari akka’s. Every the place she went, she noticed lengthy queues.

“People are going to places they were always loyal to; that they trust,” she says. And in a smaller joint like these, Shabnam feels there’s a sense of confidence as one can see the food being ready proper in entrance of them.

Restaurants have additionally upped their sport. “Kattayan (Thanjavur Military Hotel) is over 100 years old; the owner formed a WhatsApp group, which he updates with food photos and even short videos from the kitchen,” she says. Who can resist piping sizzling mutton pulao?” Finally, Shabnam drove to Kattayan to gather her order.

She has extra locations on her record. “People are willing to visit most of them,” she says. “Initially, I thought I was the crazy kind,” she laughs. “Looks like I’m not alone.”

(With inputs by Chitradeepa Anantharam)

This is the fourth in a seven-part collection on Chennai and its folks, in lockdown, celebrating 381 years of resilience.

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