Margazhi food round-up: Watermelon rasam & more at sabha canteens
Beetroot poori or lemon kozhukattai anyone? Caterers are constantly trying to recreate traditional recipes with a unique combination of flavours to appeal to food enthusiasts. With more than 150 sabhas in the city rolling out their banana leaves during the musical season of Margazhi we are spoilt for choice and this is one of the reasons for long queues outside the canteens. We catch up with some of the most sought-after caterers during their busiest period of the year— juggling weddings on one hand and kutcheris on the other.
Idiyappams in pink
Giving a great combination of food and music to rasikas has been the motto for this 15-year-old Gnanambika catering service. “Being one of the most popular sabha canteens, people know us and have developed a liking for our taste of cooking. Kadri Gopinath, the saxophonist, usually comes before his performance to have snacks,” says Revathi Rajan, the owner. Known for their vazhaipoo (banana flower) vadai, keera (spinach) vadai and kasi halwa, they offer— morning breakfast and evening tiffins. Beetroot idiyappam served with grated coconut and sugar anyone? That will be one of their additional items for this season. `40 upwards. Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha (Vani Mahal)
Spanning over 15 years with the Mylapore Fine Arts Club, V Baskaran of Meenambika caterers makes sure that the canteen starts 2 am sharp. Mini box lemon kozhukattai and double-decker idli with layers of chutney have been their hottest sellers. “It has been so many years and we have earned our set of patrons. Last season, Sudha Raghunathan and Aruna Sairam’s favourite was sardar vadai (made of potato) and kozhukattai,” says V Baskaran, the owner. Ilai adai served on a banana leaf and paal kozhukattai (a sweet dish made of tiny dumplings of balls made of flour in milk and sugar) will be some of the latest additions to their menu. `40 upwards.
The Chettinad food that K Ramesh serves as a part of evening tiffin is much sought after. Starting from 5 30 in the morning, Ramesh has no time for a break until he closes his kitchen at 9 30 in the night. Ilai idli, elaneer payasam and ilai dosas are their constants. But this year’s special by Sri Sathyalaya catering includes flower shaped kova jangris in sugary syrup and stuffed milagai bajji (chilli bajji).“ We will be working on our chettinad special dishes. It really motivates us when people come back to us for a second serving,” says Ramesh, the owner. `80 onwards. At Narada Gana Sabha.
No onions, no garlic. This is something that the Mountbatten Mani Iyer catering service has been following for eight years. “Innovation is the only thing that helps us to keep up a pace in this competitive industry. I want to offer food that no other sabha would, even if only 10 people appreciate it, ” says K Srinivasan, Many Iyer’s son, the owner. Starting from watermelon rasam, vegetable payasam they will be introducting paniyaram made of jackfruit pulp, rava and palm sugar. Expect pana kizhangu (palmyra sprout) vada and kombu thaen (honey) pachadi (side curry) for the season along with a special meal on Christmas and New year. `40 onwards. At Sri Parthsarathy Swami Sabha.
Ragas on your plate
Feast on dishes inspired by the raga of the day at Amudhadhwani —a cultural festival organised by Thaligai. “Every day is a feast of traditional dishes based on a specific raga along with an artiste performance,” says Nalina Kannan, owner of the restaurant in Mylapore. Starting from panakam (a drink made of jaggery and cardamom) to puli upma (made of coconut, rice, and tamarind) to elaneer payasam (kheer made of tender coconut pulp), the dishes fan out to 60 varieties and are spread over seven days. Their sumptuous spread extends to beetroot poori, morkali and Kanchipuram idli to name a few. `800 or `1,000 for the tickets and food.
Upma on a roll
Adai (in the shape of dosa made of rice and dhal) and aviyal (a mixed vegetable curry) for the patrons and chocolate dosa for children, this kitchen sticks to its original items that it has been served for years. Contrary to the other sabhas that are constantly trying to bring in new items every year, Venus Catering Service is particular about retaining the existing menu and works on improving upon it. “People come to the canteen and then only head to the kutcheri says V M Sanker, the owner. They will be putting up their stall from tomorrow. Apart from their piping hot bondas and bajjis, they have a fan following for their upma kozhukattai (rava dumplings). `30 onwards. Indian Fine Arts Society.