Archive for the ‘Madras’ Category

Juice shops have always been extremely popular in Chennai. With the blistering heat and fruits that cost one’s weekly wages, the best bet in Chennai would be to step into a juice joint. I am not a big fan of  the commercial juice places like Fruit Shop and the slew of others that have mushroomed off-late. In any case, you wouldn’t need my guide for that, just enter a mall or a theater complex. I am talking more of the roadside juice places, the nimbu pani walas of Madras if you will.

If you happen to lurk around the Mylapore-Alwarpet-R.A.Puram areas (which is my stronghold), you are in literally in pazhamuthir cholai. At the Luz signal, near the Pillayar Kovil, there is what I call ‘fruit shop for Dummies’. You will find a man in a Sunil Gavaskar cricket hat manning a juice cart. Codename Cricket Captain has a modest menu – badam milk, chocolate milk and a juice that I have only ever seen in Tamil Nadu – fruit juice – but they are amazing on a hot summer afternoon. My personal favorite there is the badam milk (ask for a scoop of ice-cream, he sometimes has it), but I am informed reliably by similar-tongued friends that his fruit juice is the best in the city.

Name: Hanuman Juice shop. Informal : Cricket Captain. Location(s) : Luz Signal (either sides) or outside Amrutanjan factory/ SBI.

On the other side of the Luz signal, a few thousand yards away is the Pop Tate’s for Chennai tuition kids. Just outside Sanskrit College is a juice shop – P.Sami’s. This, unlike Hanuman’s, is not a mobile cart. He has a small shop, with fruits and stuff decorating facade. After a grueling school day, followed by hours of tuition classes, this is heaven. There cannot be favorites here – badam milk, chocolate milk, orange, lime and fruit juices – everything is great. If you push me, I’d say the lime juice, but that’s unfair to the others. Go and give it a shot.

Name: P.Sami Cool Bar. Informal: 12C. Location: Outside Sanskrit College, Royapettah High Road.

On the 3rd side of the Luz junction is the baap of chocolate milks. Once a madly popular juice shop/bakery, then bought over by another guy or tried expanding themselves or something as disastrous and now surviving on its ancient reputation, is Senthil’s. Senthil was a craze in the early 2000’s, mainly because of the bakery. Panner puff and chocolate milk after exams were what Friday night beers are now.  This is upper crest compared to the other two, but road-side in its heart. Go there in the evening, have a puff or two here, down it with a juice and take a walk to the beach. Bliss.

Name: Senthil (original), Food Nest (new, bigger one). Location: Kutchery Road, somewhere near Spencer’s Daily

The undisputed God of road-side juice shops is Bakes and Corner on C.P.Ramaswamy Road. From location to crowd, pricing to friendly owners, this is a corner shop in every sense. This has a more extensive menu and has the best fresh juice arsenal in the entire city. They had a modest start, their only customers being the spill-overs from the adjoining Kolkata Chaat, but recently the shop has come into its own. A few years earlier they came up with a marketing coup by making it known that all their juices are made using mineral water. If you’ve been in Chennai for long enough, you’ll be clapping now. With tall cocktail glasses and refills, this place is a steal. The shakes are thick, the juices bleed freshness and Good Lord, both of them go with chaat! This place is infested with school kids, college people and finding a market for professionals as well, I have my money on this place to be Chennai’s Haji Ali. The joke among regulars is that every time you go there you will find someone you know.

Name: Bakes and Corner. Also answers to Kolkata Chaat Location: C.P.Ramaswamy Road and 2nd street

There are many more throughout the city, many of them enjoying a legendary status within the locality. These are the ones I used to frequent when I was living in Chennai and will vouch for them. If you go to T.Nagar or Mambalam, then guides will be useless – there are as many juice shops, stalls and carts as there are people. Thiru-vi-ka Road (the one that has Sathyam Cinemas) has a couple of good shops. There is a huge fruit shop opposite Nageswara Rao Park, which makes pretty good stuff, but that’s more or a fruit and vegetable marketplace. And of course, there are the nameless yelaneer guys on the road and sugarcane-juice guys on the road and specifically in Marina Beach.

I hope you find the guide useful. If you’re in Chennai and want to do local food, drop me a mail. I’ll help you out or I’ll put you on to people who can do better 🙂

Hunger helpline – bhargavrajan [at] gmail [dot] com.


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c/o platform

I haven’t traveled a lot. I am not an expert on cuisines. I am not a bon vivant or a gourmet chef. Agreed I make killer sambar, but make up for it by over-boiling the rice. To cut a long story short, I am hardly an inspiration for Ratatouille. But the thing about food, says the same rat, is that anyone can comment on it! So here it is – my Food Guide.

However, unlike other guides, this one will tell you only about the local food haunts in Chennai (and occasionally other cities as well). Don’t expect reviews, stars or similar high-minded stuff ‘cos they beat the purpose of eating road-side. This just a Kaiyenthi Bhavan Yellow Pages.

Juice shops

Coming soon – Chaat, bhajji, omlettes, roadside eateries, tea and coffee shops.

I hope you find the guide useful. If you’re in Chennai and want to do local food, drop me a mail. I’ll help you out or I’ll put you on to people who can do better 🙂

Hunger helpline – bhargavrajan [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Mood: Completely zapped out thanks to the Floridian sun.

I was talking to my mom last week and she got senti about some dish she had cooked that I like a lot. I started teasing her for getting nostalgic over something as ‘everyday’ as food. (An hour later when I made myself a bowl cornflakes for dinner, I regretted trivializing food, but that’s another story). The very next day, I made myself look like a jackass when I got senti over the most mundane of things – the sun!

I was waiting at the bus-stop under an unforgiving sun and was filled with an overwhelming feeling because of the monstrous heat! I’ve always thought of nostalgia as a bitter-sweet feeling triggered by innocuous things, like a movie-stub, or an audio cassette or an old progress report (which has only bitter memories) or maybe even food, courtesy mom. But something as noxious and offensive as the sun triggering pleasant memories is really quite something. Thankfully the bus (air-conditioned and uncrowded) arrived soon enough and I got to muse about the past 15 minutes sitting in my favorite seat – the last one on the left. I realized that this was but natural.

My entire childhood was spent in one of the hottest places on earth – Madras (or for any non-Madrasi readers wanting to Google-map it, Chennai). There are only 3 seasons in Madras – summ, summer and summerer. Being a coastal city, it was is humid as it is hot and I lived less than 4 k.ms from one of the longest coastlines in the world – Marina beach, which only made things damper (and saltier). I never used to travel a lot on account of my dad being a workaholic. So, all summer and ‘winter’ holidays were spent at home, barring a few visits to Delhi (some relief!) and rare vacations to hill-stations. Taking all this into consideration, it was only natural for me to get nostalgic over a bitch of a sun.

The most striking memory of my summer vacations is the things I (and my cousins) used to do to keep the temperature down. We used to cover every curtained-window with blankets to make it as dark as possible. Following my mom’s rustic advice, we’d keep a bucket of water underneath the fan in the hall. It was pretty effective and worked like an air-cooler, but over-time it made the entire place damp. Then came copious amounts of anti-prickly-heat powder (After trying one brand every season, I discovered Shower-to-Shower had the best effect and Cuticura gave me rashes). Then came hose-pipe baths in the backyard and bath-tub ablutions. Of course, these earned us the wrath of our neighbors, owing to their water crises. When everything failed, we’d give up and go into the godsend a/c room. Orange Tang played the single largest part in helping me through the summer without a single episode of sun-stroke. Kissan grape and my athai’s home-made squashes tied for a close 2nd.

I’d get up early and run to school for the seasonal inter-section cricket match (and later, football). Of course, ‘early’ is a subjective term and by the time everyone got to the ground, so would the sun. We’d play for a couple of hours and when the first guy collapsed from dehydration, jump the wall to the adjoining Shanti Vihar and pool our summer booty for a juice or milkshake each. Come back in time for the slew of afternoon cartoons, starting from with the Little Lulu Show at 11 till Power Zone at 3. With hand-delivery of lunches, mini-lunches and rehydrates, I didn’t move any muscle that didn’t aid digestion. I used to go to the beach often, either with friends or cousins, but always convincing ourselves that the evening breeze cooled us. I’d come back, dinner and finish the day of with Scooby Doo Where Are You? and the Popeye Show. School days weren’t a lot different, except that I didn’t have to roam around in the sun too much. Exam days were horrific when you had to cycle back in the bitch of the afternoon sun. Of course, cycling is never complete without the mamool half-hour talk at the street corner. Madras was hot as hell. It was great.

I’ve done everything under the sun, under the sun. P.C.Sorkar Jr., The Great Russian Circus, Mahabalipuram trips (which were “just another 10 mins to go”, according to my dad), Wrestlemania X-XVI, Children’s Park, Nehru Planetarium, Lion King, Aladdin, India vs Pakistan/Australia at Sharjah (which was okay ‘cos they were D/N matches), Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, Tinkle, Asterix, Mango, chess with my bro and upturning the board when I was going to lose, Ludo, snakes and ladders, Dangerous Dave, Prince of Persia, Mario, Contra, Sonic and even my birthday – the sun had a part in everything.

My life has been one helluva long summer! And still is…

P.S.: Veyil is Tamil for heat or sunshine or summer. It means a lot to us Madrasis.

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This is the Chennai I grew up in. This is the Chennai that grew with me..

Marina Beach. Filter coffee. Rajnikanth. School friends. PTC bus. Panagal Park. Traffic. Kapaleeshwarar Kovil. Molaga bajji. Vidya Mandir. Street cricket. Light house. Gangotree. Auto stand. Traffic police. Chennai Central. Sachin Tendulkar. Landmark Quiz. Ratna Cafe. A R Rahman. Metro water lorries. Madras bashai. Pongal. IIT coaching. Power cuts. Mosquitoes. Sun TV. Summer vacations. Satyam Cinemas. Lifestyle. The Hindu. SPB. Maruti 800. Dappankoothu. Spencer Plaza. India vs Pakistan. Deepavali. Woodlands drive-in. Stella Maris. Kutchery season. Avani Avittam. Bharathnatyam. Pepsi Uma. Thirumailai. Samsa (Not samosa). Navarathri Golu. Children’s Park. Kamal Haasan. Gandhi statue. Road-side shopping. Tuition. Cafe Coffee Day. Kaiyendi Bhavan. Kite flying.  School culturals. Independence Day sweets. Hero cycle.  Baasha. Christmas thatha. Shanthi Vihar. R D Sharma. Myalpore Tank. Adyar Bakery. Mega serials. Thali meals. Koovam.

I have changed a lot in 21 years. Chennai has changed a lot more…

And I don’t like it. 😦

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