Monday, December 07, 2009

South Indian Meal


As I wrote in my blog on talent, I eat a lot. And I love the meal or saapadu as it is called in Tamil.

I must say, amongst all the restaurants in Chennai that I have eaten, Tanjore is easily the best for saapadu. Like McDonalds’ QSCV, I can say Tanjore must be following the QQP dictate - Quality, Quantity and Price.

The place is absolute value for money. Costing about Rs. 60, you have to buy a token at the counter before you go the first floor at New Woodlands, Cathedral Road. Do not expect luxury though seating is comfortable. The bucket or balti service reminded me of a Tamilian wedding. The tables are straight and long; not like the rectangle four or six seater tables usually found in restaurants. Food is served on plantain leaf.

The food tastes like home cooked. It is tasty, sumptuous and non-greasy. It is more in TamBrahm (stands for Tamil-Brahmin, for those who didn’t know) style.

None, whether it's New Woodlands' other restaurant like Vrindavan or Sangeetha or Saravana Bhavan or any other, came close to it.

As I had mentioned in my blog on restaurants in Chennai, the others cannot be called authentic South Indian Meal. First thing that puts me off is Rotis or Chapattis. Wheat is not the staple Tamil Nadu; it is Rice, Rice and Rice. But, I guess the fascination of South Indians to eat wheat has led to the inclusion of Indian breads. Two, I love the fact that it is bucket or balti service. This means that the food is served hot. Other places give you accompaniments and gravies in cups or kinnams (in Tamil and katories in Hindi). First, all kinnam items go cold by the time they arrive at your table and, second, they are just not sufficient. So, you have to think twice before asking for more because consistent reordering for kinnams might lead to people think that you are a glutton. Further, if the restaurant is crowded, by the time kinnams come, your fingers would have dried up and so would your appetite.

For those who are aware, typical vegetarian Tamilian saapadu (pretty much the same for other South Indian states, I think) comprises of Rice (the staple), Paruppu (lentils or dhal), Sambhar (dhal and tamarind gravy), Kara or Vattal Kuzhambu (hot and spicy), Rasam (a thin soup made with Tamarind as base), Kootu/Poriyal (veggies) and Curd. Appalam (Pappad) and pickle are also part of the meal.

For desserts, a plantain. For digestion, a beeda (beetle leaf and beetle nuts).

So if you are in Chennai and are looking for a place for a typical and authentic saapadu, head to Tanjore.
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