Work brought me to Chennai yesterday morning. The journey was pretty uneventful as I slept all through. We landed at 8.30AM, precisely 5 minutes ahead of schedule and proceeded straight for our meeting at T Nagar.
After the meeting got over, we headed to Nungambakkam High Road and Harrington Road for some more meetings. At Chetpet, I caught with a senior colleague and had an interesting and insightful hour-long chat on business and upcoming trends. I must admit that it takes courage to foresee the future and still come up with an inspiring vision, despite the all pervading gloom.
But in all this the anticipation of having great food had already started building within me. But I had to wait, looking forward for the evening to come. By 7PM, I retired to my hotel. Energy levels were extremely low and I could not dare to venture out to Sarvana Bhawan or Murigan Idlis. Instead I chose to have an early dinner at the small coffee shop downstairs as I had planned to retire early.
I chose the buffet, but stuck to the south Indian delicacies on offer. I started off with the beetroot pachadi - diced beets cooked in curd alongwith rice and fresh salads. The pacahadi gravy had a shocking pink colour, and much to my tongue's pleasure the gravy was tangy with crunchy beets heightening the taste.
Next I had a few rotis with a spicy mutton curry. The curry was absolutely astounding - the meat chunks were tender and chewy. The gravy was smooth - made of coconut, onions and tomatoes - freshly ground pepper lent the gravy an exquisite flavour and it went very well alongwith the rotis!
Much to my dismay, I took a bowl of dal makhani alongwith the mutton curry and rotis. Having a North Indian delicacy deep down in the southern heartland can be quite an ordeal - the dal was just not right - a bit sweet and slightly underdone! But the mutton curry more than made up for the disappointment. And I was reminded of how my colleague regretted having a paneer gravy earlier yesterday for lunch.
After the hearty meal, I had a very sound sleep.
Today morning, I woke quite early and was feeling quite hungry. The breakfast downstairs was the standard hotel fare. I steered clear of the continental stuff - baked beans, hashbrowns and sausages. Instead, I had vadais, idlis, a plain dosa with a generous helping of steaming sambhar along with three amazing chutneys - a coconut chutney, a tomato-ginger chutney and a green chilli-coriander-mint chutney. All the three chutneys were amazing - fresh and tangy. They reminded of the excellent and unforgettable lunch that Neeti and I had at Murugans in Madurai. The vadais and idlis were authentic enough, though Murugans had already set my bar for idlis high enough. I am certain, Neeti would have loved to have this breakfast.
It is a fact that though today South Indian stuff has become the ubiquitous fare served for breakfasts across India, it only in the South that one gets to experience the real thing.
Perhaps, it has something to do with the freshness of spices used or the honest, unadulterated method of preparation or is it just in the air or in the genes?
I really don't know all that!
All I know is that it is sacrilege not to have local fare when in these parts. When in Chennai or Tamil Nadu, do as the Tams do!