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With Eid a few days away, Ramzan festivities have the gripped the country. Ironically, the season of fasting also brings along some of the most gluttonous meals of the year. Iftar hogging is all rage these days - from Bohri Mohalla in Mumbai and Charminar in Hyderabad, to Jama Masjid in Old Delhi - there has never been a better time for food lovers to indulge in festive binging.
Here’s where to head for a feast in Chennai:
Kabab Corner at Thousand Lights, Greams Road
For a city not at all known for its kababs, this little kabab joint serves exceptionally good grills. Kabab Corner is small eatery located on Greams Road, close to the Thousand Lights Mosque which is gorgeously lit up during the holy month. Dainty eaters will love the neat, white-marbled interiors and clean open grills. Primarily a take-away place, there are a few standing tables if you can’t resist the temptation to pop one in, straight off the skewer.
The sinewy owner tells me this is the closest I’ll get to homegrown kababs in Chennai, and their offerings are indeed novel. The hunky seekh kababs are not as juicy as the beef seekhs of Delhi, the meat crumbling in your mouth with a sharp spice hit, egging you to stuff in more. Rolled up in a Roomali Roti, they make perfect Beer grub, which perhaps explains Kabab Corner’s roaring take away business. Also great is their Murthaba, a meat-filled fried parantha similar to baida roti. Popular in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Malaysia it is filled to the brim with a spicy Keralite beef fry. My favourite item on the menu is the malai veal kababs, where large chunks of veal are coated with cream and grilled to velvety tenderness. If you’d rather stay off red-meat, try the subtly-spiced surthi chicken tikka.
It is highly recommend to pick up the all-time favourite, tender coconut souffle at the Chennai institution next door - Fruit Shop on Greams Road, to soothe your blistering palate after all those kababs.
Boti Soup Carts, around town
Here's a Chennai street delight that even locals aren’t often privy to - Boti. Not to be confused with the eponymous kababs popular elsewhere, Boti is an offal soup sold off street carts. It is essentially a spicy stew made from the digestive organs of the goat - intestines, gizzard, et al!
Quite an accidental discovery for me, I am yet to come across a better cure for cold and shivery days than steaming a bowl of Boti, teeming with chewy innards. You can add toppings like liver fry, chicken fry and sliced boiled eggs to make it an even heartier meal. It’s best lapped upon its own or by dumping an Idiyappam for a delightful slurp.
To find Boti in Chennai, keep an eye and nose out for steaming cauldrons on carts around the city. My favourite one is located in Shanthi Colony, bang opposite Ente Keralam restaurant. These guys usually set shop only in the evening and run out within a couple of hours.
Tamil Muslim Biryani by Fill Belly
Chennai really does go gaga over biryani, perhaps even as much as Hyderabad. Look around town and every third eatery is a biryani joint specialising in Rawther, Ambur or Dindigul biryani styles from around the state. Add the fair number of places serving Malabar and Hyderabadi biryani and you wonder how could someone create a name in this seemingly saturated space. That is exactly what Fill Belly has done.
Started by Biryani-fanatic Murad Shahuna, Fill Belly is a delivery-only biryani service that has created quite a stir in Chennai’s food scene. Chennai’s picky eaters swear by Fill Belly’s Tamil Muslim biryani, whose magic lies in a slow cooking technique over firewood. Fill Belly strives to recreate the characteristic smoky flavour found in the biryani served at Muslim weddings. The perfect accompaniment to the biryani is of course their own ghee dripping bread halwa. Remember, Ramzan calories don’t count!
Fill Belly operates out of a kiosk in Mogappair and delivers around Chennai. Reach them at: +91-7200082333
A self proclaimed food geek and coffee nerd, Amit Patnaik enjoys his time in the kitchen as much as he loves dining out. He runs the food blog Pursuit of Yummyness and contributes to The Hindu in Chennai.