Eat your way through Sowcarpet – one of Chennai’s most ‘colourful’ neighbourhoods
Sowcarpet. It’s busy, overwhelming, colourful; you need special skills to walk through its narrow alleys and yet it’s one of Chennai’s most distinctive neighbourhoods. It’s fair to say the British Empire in India took wings from Fort St. George. Not far from the fort is George Town once the city’s financial nerve centre and still a busy trading hub. Characterised by grid-like streets like Victorian London where each street possessed its own niche or speciality wares. For instance, Govindappa Naicken Street is still the city’s electrical goods hub.
A large part of this area is now referred to as Sowcarpet. By the early 19thcentury this was a bustling trading zone with the Chennai port in the vicinity. Traders came from all over, including the first wave of Marwaris who made Sowcarpet home. The Marwaris didn’t just become a catalyst for trade but eventually left their imprint on the culinary scene in the area. Sowcarpet is a foodie’s paradise. These culinary experiences certainly make it worth the trek:
Maya Chats: You can’t find a tastier Kachori (check out the slow-mo video shot on the iPhone XS below) anywhere in Chennai. Diners make the trek to Maya Chats for two types of Kachoris – a spicy onion version and my favourite – a sweet, mawa kachori that tastes best when it’s piping hot. Must try: Pyaaz (onion) kachori and sweet kachori. Address: 36/10, General Muthiah St, Elephant Gate, George Town, Chennai -1. Phone: (+91) 98401-94323. Google Maps location
Ajab’s Ajnabi Mithai Ghar: one of the oldest Chaat brands in Chennai with multiple outlets across the city. While regulars keep coming back for their popular staples like their Bhel (probably the best in town), this eatery keeps innovating and adding new dishes. Their Khakra sandwich is a case in point. Cheese spread is slathered on custom sandwich-bread style khakras and filled with a coleslaw (eggless) style filling and then topped with a layer of grated cheese. Must try: Khakra sandwich, samosa, bhel puri and their new cocktail-size corn and cheese samosas. Address 23, Elephant Gate St, Elephant Gate, George Town, Chennai – 108. Phone: (044) 4272 5768. Google Maps location
Kakada Ramprasad: about a year ago, this iconic eatery added a second, more plush outlet in Kilpauk to its footprint. That hasn’t kept the crowds at Sowcarpet away. Most of then queue up for their badam milk that’s thicker than most thick shakes with a generous serving of almonds and saffron strands. Aside from their badam milk, it’s their version of Aloo tikki – crispy, hot tikki submerged in a bowl of creamy dahi and topped with a cube of paneer, that’s totally worth the trek. Must try: Aloo tikki, badam milk, jalebi. Address: 348/343, Mint Street, Sowcarpet, George Town, Chennai – 1. Phone: (044) 2538 2851. Google Maps location.
Anmol Mohit Patiala Special Kesar Lassi: located next door to Kakada,this Lassiwala is already an Instagram sensation and is not shy of posing. The lassis are ultra-creamy and come with a hint of saffron (kesar) and just like those lassis in Amritsar, they are a meal in itself. Address: 343, South Mint Street, Elephant Gate, George Town, Chennai, – 108. Google Maps location.
Novelty Tea house (Mint Street): one of the few places where you can dine in air-conditioned comfort. But there’s still not enough room to stretch your legs. That’s a small discomfort that stands in the way of their scrumptious pav bhaji with a comforting knob of butter. Must try: Pav bhaji, Tawa pulao, rose milk. Address: 72/355, Mint St, Park Town, Chennai – 3. Google Maps location.
S Chinnappa Sandwich Centre : The classic two states story where North meets South. This one’s an interesting ‘twist’ (murukku also means twisted in Tamil) of the classic Mumbaiyya sandwich. Bite-sized pieces of cucumber, tomato and onion with mint chutney are parcelled into murukkus (chaklis). Must try: Murukku Sandwich. Address: