South India is the one place where you get some of the tastiest and healthiest street food. Yes, healthy! Our trip to Madurai was truly enlightening and beautiful. After our trip to Jallikattu, where we experienced Pongal celebrations with the locals and got to taste some amazing food, we made our way to the city.
Beginning our journey in the Spice Bazaar along with our lovely host Praveena, we visited S V Sweets. Here, we tried a sweet dish called Adhivarasam which is made from rice flour and jaggery, shaped like a doughnut and deep-fried like one too. As very well put by our host, “it is shaped like a doughnut, tastes even better.” This is an authentic Tamilian dessert and is sold only for Rs. 6. So if you’re in the mood for some desi-style doughnuts, this is your best bet!
Our next stop was Gopu Iyengars Tiffin Centre. This place is a century old and is known best for its Vellai Appam. Located right next to the Meenakshi Temple, this 100-year gem serves its meal traditionally on Banana leaves, that are easily disposable as well as hygienic. The vellai appam is made with rice flour and urad dal and served with coconut chutney, sambhar and a super hot green chilli chutney. The food in Madurai, in general, is quite hot and pungent, and according to the locals the philosophy behind so much chilli in such hot weather is that ‘you have to eat the heat to beat the beat.’
When in South India, you just cannot ignore a good cup of filter coffee. We went to Visalam Coffee Bar for some delicious and strong filter coffee. This is the kind of coffee that will wake you up from any kind of stupor.
We next walked to a shop called Burma Idiyappam Shop, serving idiyappam from the same spot for 42 years. Idiyappam is made from rice flour that is pressed into noodle form and is topped with coconut shavings and sugar. The dish is super light and healthy since there is zero oil in it and it is steamed. Later in the day, we tried Keppai Puttu, which is basically ragi that is shaped like a cylindrical cake and steamed, then it is topped off with coconut shavings and jaggery. We also tried Keerai and Keppai Vadai. The Keerai Vadai is made with a special kind of herb known Mullumurungai, which is mixed with rice flour and the deep fried. The Keepai Vadai is made with ragi or finger millet, shallots, green chillies and curry leaves, and the deep fried as well. Despite being deep fried in oil the vadai is super light and is not heavy on the palate at all.
We visited the Meenakshi Bhavan for their Special Rawa Dosai that is made with sooji or semolina, carrots, cashews, pepper, chilli, jeera and a bit of desi ghee. The dosai is super crispy and has a beautiful nutty texture to it. What is even better is that it is served with quite a few chutneys so one can take pick and choose between them. Finally we went to Sree Sabreesh for the Adai Avial. This two-part dish is truly mouthwatering. The adai is a very healthy lentil dosai that is served with avial- a vegetable dish stewed with a variety of spices and coconut milk. For dessert we tried the Paal Pandiyaram, which is rice balls in sweet coconut milk.
Our journey came to an end with a super healthy, nutrient rich banana. Eating a banana after a heavy meal is a tradition here, so we obliged. Our special thanks to Praveena from Foodies Day Out, it was an absolute pleasure to be in the company of someone who loves and appreciates food as much as we do.