How far would you travel to taste your favorite food? I once traveled 450 km, from Coimbatore to Ernakulam and back, for a single reason: to treat my palate to the familiar, addictive taste of Aiyla fish meals at Petit restaurant, off MG road in Ernakulam.
Much as I can live on anything edible most times during travel, there are instances when I just have to feel the complicated spices on my palate. Like for instance, I pinned down a restaurant in Pune that serves “Sorse llish” after I got enchanted by its description in “Following fish” written by Samanth Subramanian. Madurai was very kind to me that way in treating my taste buds. In this post, I am sharing five foods/drinks which I feel is enough reason for me to revisit Madurai; some of them I heard and tasted for the first time and some, though available elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, this place served it best.
It is Uttapam (I know they call it dosa) with two layer topping— fried egg in the middle and chunks of red chicken pieces with curry leaves on top—served on a banana leaf, accompanied by spicy chicken curry. The taste of cooked rice batter, peppered egg, crispy curry leaves, and spicy chicken—all made for a heady mix. Though priced high at Amma mess, it is still worth a try.
Kambang Koozh (Pearl millet porridge):
High on nutritional value and known for its cooling effects on human body, Kambang Koozh served on small carts is much sought after in summers. It is prepared by cooking ground pearl millet with raw rice in water. I had one large bowl of it and skipped a meal thereafter—it was satiating. The taste of it is bland, but when had with one of the many interesting ‘side-dishes’—shallot/pickle/fried vathals—this is one satisfying comfort food!
Sukku malli kaapi:
Prepared by mixing sukku powder (dried ginger powder, coriander seeds, pepper corns and jeera) and crystallized palm sugar with water, Sukku malli kaapi has a strong aftertaste. It is widely known as a good home remedy to treat cold and digestion problems. In my opinion, sukku kaapi, and sundal to munch with it, is a perfect combination.
Jigarthanda is a refreshment drink, the taste of which I had highly underestimated. Prepared with almonds, brown khoa, milk cream, nannari sharbat and vanilla essence, the seductive richness of flavor left me dizzy for a moment. It is a perfect drink to tame the effects of Madurai’s scorching temperatures. Originally introduced by Muslim settlers, this drink was apparently a fixture at wedding nights.
Murugan Idly shop:
A popular chain of restaurants in Madurai, it is known for the variety of idlis being served. For me though, most noteworthy were the accompaniments. Idlis were served with puli karaisal, coconut chutney, pudina chutney, tomato chutney and malli chutney. Since I am partial to restaurants serving unlimited chutneys with dosas and Idlis, Murugan Idly shop tops my list of favorite restaurants serving South Indian food.
As I am writing this, I can’t shake off this feeling—to book a train right away and get to Madurai. But, by doing so, I will put my Goa plans in jeopardy. So when and while you are in Madurai make the best use of its culinary offerings and gobble up my share too 🙂