10 Tamil Nadu delicacies you must try in Chennai

What is the cuisine of Tamil Nadu? It is impossible to define this in one sentence or with a binary response. As in all regions of India, the culinary traditions of Tamil Nadu date back several centuries. But not all dishes have a timeless legacy, much of what we define as Tamil cuisine today may in fact have taken shape in restaurants in the state capital and other culinary destinations like Madurai. There is no better place to explore Tamil Nadu’s vast culinary repertoire than Chennai. It is impossible to make an exhaustive list of dishes, but our list is a good starting point:

Kari dosai: The three-tiered dosai at the Konar Mess in Madurai is a local legend. A thick dosa, an omelet and a layer of minced mutton. This is not a dosai that you can take lightly. Order a rehearsal at your own risk and wash it down with Bovonto, Madurai’s own soft drink. This is now available at their point of sale in Chennai.
Try it at Konar Kadai, Whannels Road, Egmore

Dindigul Biryani: Dindigul’s biryani derives its unique flavors from local lamb, small grain rice (seeraga samba), and water sources near town. The Chennai version comes a little closer. Thalappakatti Biriyani is one of the flag bearers of the Dindigul style biryani. The restaurant began in Dindigul and took its name from the founder’s penchant for wearing the turban (thalappakatti).
Try it at Dindigul Thalappakatti, 11th Avenue, Ashok Nagar

Curry Vada: a typical Chennai dish, it is a mixture of coarse dal in a tasty sauce. It is almost the same preparation as the popular masala vada. One of the theories surrounding the origin of Vada curry is that this dish was made with leftover pieces of vada that are tossed in a sauce. By all accounts, curry vada was invented in a restaurant before it became a popular Sunday breakfast option in many homes. It is usually served in many houses and restaurants with idli, idiappam, set dosa. I like to dig in the bowl with a spoon.
Try it at Mari Hotel, Saidapet or Motel Mamalla, East Coast Road, near Mamallapuram

(Also Read: 8 Best Restaurants In Chennai You Must Visit)

Curry Vada

Idiappam Paya: Idiappam or string hoppers can taste similar everywhere, but there is a marked difference in the accompaniments. Some of Chennai’s iconic restaurants prepare a baked pepper paya with mutton’s trotters. Samco is one of those legendary restaurants that hasn’t changed its Pepper paya recipe since the 1960s. It’s like Nihari Gosht cooked with lamb shanks. Many meat shops in northern Chennai offer specially smoked pieces of lamb shank for the paya.
Try it at the Samco Hotel, Eldams Road, or Zum Zum Hotel, Second Line Beach, Parrys

Sakkarai (sweet) Pongal: is an integral part of the menu on the day of Pongal Thirunaal or Pongal which is the most important day of the Pongal festivities. This harvest festival is the largest on the state’s festival calendar. Sakkarai is the Tamil word for sugar, but oddly enough, Sakkarai Pongal is usually cooked with jaggery, not sugar. Melting the jaggery is the key process of this dish, this syrup is mixed with a mixture of rice and green gram. There is also a hint of camphor which gives the dish a unique flavor.
Try it in the Murugan Idli store (T Nagar or Besant Nagar)

Uthappam Onion: to the uninitiated, Uthappams can be very similar to a dosa but it is not quite the same. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, this is almost where the dosa meets the idli and it’s a popular snack or dinner dish that can be cooked in a jiffy. It tastes even better with a slightly sour dosa paste. The Onion Uthappam is the most popular version and is cooked with chopped onions and green peppers with the reassuring flavor of gingelly (sesame) oil.
Try it at Murugan Idli (Besant Nagar) or ID store at Chennai Airport (domestic departures)


uthappam onion

Meen Kuzhambu: there is a legend that the cooks of the Velu Military hotel still speak of. Their founder (Velu Ambalam) must have smelled their signature Meen Kuzhambu (fish sauce) every day when he entered the restaurant (at least a few buildings). If he didn’t, he would rush into the kitchen, throw in the cooked sauce for the day, roll up his sleeves, and make the Meen Kuzhambu from scratch. This fish sauce is deeply rooted in popular Tamil culture and in homes across the state. It is just as delicious with rice as it is with idli or dosa.
Try it at the Velu Military Hotel, Eldams Road

Adhirasam: RThe records of this popular candy date back to the reign of the formidable Chola dynasty nearly a thousand years ago. This fried treat is basically a combination of two ingredients – jaggery and rice flour; the flavor is enhanced by the quality of the oil (gingelly oil or peanut oil). The cooking process is laborious and requires as much skill as it does experience.
Try it at Grand Sweets Adyar or Suswaad Mandaveli

Filter coffee: Ask any true blue Chennaite what they miss most when away from home, you are very likely to hear filter coffee. It’s not just a drink that most Chennaites wake up to, it’s an emotion. Chennai’s version of filter coffee is quite similar to the state’s famous Kumbakonam degree coffee. Most restaurants brew this drip coffee in large percolators and serve it in tumblers and davaras (cups). Strong coffee with thick milk that is most likely to coat your tongue is always invigorating.
Try it at Sangeetha Adyar or Mami Mess Mylapore

(Also read: 8 of the best Chinese food restaurants in Chennai)


Filter coffee

Pallipalayam Chicken: One of Tamil Nadu’s best known chicken dishes and a dish synonymous with the Kongunad region in western Tamil Nadu. The dish takes its name from a small town near Erode where this unique spice blend – Pallipalayam chicken powder, was perfected. It enhances this dish with chicken nuggets cooked with coconut chips. While some homes and restaurants have switched to broiler chicken, the traditional recipe for Chicken Pallipalayam involves free range chicken.
Try it at Kovai Alankar Mess, Anna Nagar or Junior Kuppana Nungambakkam

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