When it is about Chennai cuisine, the first flashes would be that of Idly-Sambar and filter coffee. While one might naturally start off the day with this common breakfast, there are many different varieties of veg and non-veg dishes that every traveler in Chennai mustn’t miss!
Chennai was the only Indian state featured in the National Geographic’s list of ‘Top Ten Food Cities in the World’ in 2015. Distinguished by its hot and spicy Chettinad curries, vegetarian Thali, and frothy Madras coffee, the culinary picture of Chennai is too tempting. Moreover, any item you order is served traditionally on a banana leaf, adding an aesthetic touch to the Chennai food! No doubt Chennai is always one of the favorite food destinations in India!
Also Read: Chennai Travel Guide
A South Indian Breakfast in Chennai:
Idly-Sambar is the typical breakfast of Tamilians. The steamed rice cake served with sambar (lentil broth) and chutney is the must-try South Indian food when you are in Chennai. The fluffy idly and sambar at Murugan Idly Shop is finger-licking tasty!
If you love Dosa, feast on the famous masala Dosa at Saravana Bhavan or Sangeetha Veg Restaurant, which offers a pocket-friendly breakfast.
You can also try Uttapam, the thicker variant of dosa topped with slices of onions, chillies and a choice of vegetables. One more favorite dish of Tamilians is Pongal made with rice, served with chutney and Sambar. Ratna Cafe offers the best breakfast in economical rates. Finish your tasty breakfast with a hot filter coffee!
The South Indian Thali of rice, sambar, dal, rasam, vegetable curries, curd and a sweet is a simple and wholesome lunch to put your hunger pangs at rest. Arranged on a larger than life plantain leaf, the colorful and tasty Thali is perfect for your lunch. Annalakshmi restaurant in Chennai is the most-frequented place to enjoy the traditional Thali in a cozy ambience. If you are lunching at Mylai Karpagambal Mess, reach early, else all the tables would be occupied.
The signature chicken curry from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu is super spicy and flavored with a range of local spices. Chettinad restaurants are spread throughout Chennai. Try Chettinad recipes at Dakshin near the Crowne Plaza or at Anjappar, a restaurant chain with branches outside India. Head to ‘Kumaravel Chettinad Meals’ for a complete Chettinad meal accompanied by other veg curries. Never miss out on the crispy and fiery Chicken 65, the brainchild of Hotel Buhari. This recipe native to Chennai has become a significant part of Chennai’s food culture since its invention in 1965!
Biryani in Chennai:
Are you one of those staunch Biryani lovers who can eat Biryani any time of the day? Then the best reason to devour Biryani in Chennai is the availability of many varieties like Thalapakkatti Biryani native to the Dindigul region; Ambur Biryani, a special dish prepared during Muslims weddings; and Awadhi-style Biryani with a Chennai twist at Bindaas Rasoi restaurant. While Pakwan Chennai is the paradise for vegetarians, AB’s – Absolute Barbecues is the place to sample the umpteen varieties of grilled meat.
Other popular restaurants to taste Biryani: Parambriym, Anjappar, Zaitoon Restaurants and Madurai Kumar Mess.
Madras Fish curry:
When it comes to seafood in Chennai, the first priority is Madras fish curry, a succulent dish with tangy flavors of onion, tomato, and tamarind. Cater to your seafood cravings at The Marina, Nair mess, Fish ‘O’ Fish, and Savory Sea Shell. Book flights to Chennai for the best beach experience and mouth-watering coastal food.
As rice is the staple food in the South, coffee is the staple beverage in Chennai. A day, for Tamilians, is incomplete without a cup of Kaapi, which is prepared by mixing boiled milk with a decoction of filter coffee in a unique style by repeatedly pouring the mix from one glass into another until it creates a creamy froth. You should know the art of savoring the steamy coffee before it gets cold without burning your gustatory cells!
Street food in Chennai:
Anna Nagar, Mylapore, Marina beach, T Nagar, Vepery Road and the streets of George Town are the go-to places for authentic tastes of Chennai street food. Kozhukattai, Appam, Kothu parotta, Bhajji, Vada, Atho, and Sundal are some of the local snacks that have become tourists’ favorites.
Appam is a desi rice-pancake served with coconut mil and gravy, whereas Idiyappam is a light snack made with rice flour pressed into noodles and then steamed. Bhajji, a fritter made using mirchi or banana, is a perfect monsoon partner! Dip the sizzling bajji in different chutneys provided at ‘Jannal Kadai’ in Mylapore and relish the taste, which seems to be accentuated on a rainy day! Atho, a Burmese variety of noodles cooked along with fresh vegetables and spices is another popular snack in Chennai. Kozhukattais, rice dumplings filled with a mixture of coconut and jaggery, is a sweet delicacy and a religious offering to Lord Ganesha during Ganesh Chaturthi. If you wish to sample some crazy combinations in waffles, taste the veg and non-veg waffle kinds at ‘Waffles Thru the Day.’
Sundal (made with soaked chickpeas) is a preferred beach snack. If you are unwinding at the beaches in Chennai, you’ll see vendors who sell Sundal in paper cones. Walking by the beach and chewing Sundal is a common evening activity of the beach-goers.
The melt-in-your-mouth Mysore Pak (prepared with ghee, sugar and gram flour) is the defining sweet in Chennai’s list of confectioneries. Many tourists get this sweet packed from Sree Krishna sweets outlet to take back home as a souvenir.
Feel light-hearted with Jigarthanda:
Jigarthanda, literally meaning ‘cool heart,’ probably received its name for its nature of lifting up your mood. This popular refreshment made using milk, almond gum, root syrup, sugar syrup, and ice-cream, is loved as much as filter coffee!