How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mealy-mouthed

Every night we friends at YMCA debate on where to have dinner. Chennai's traditional restaurants offer rice-based meals served on banana leaves (of which there seems to be an unlimited supply available), as can well be expected. These can be difficult for a non-South Indian to have every day. Fortunately, I don't have a problem with rice, and of course, there are many other options available in Royapettah. I actually like the rice meals a lot, since there's a lot of variety.

These meals-serving places are mostly called 'Bhavan's - Raj Bhavan, Sri Krishna Bhavan, Vasantha Bhavan, and the most famous, Saravana Bhavan, etc. - similarly to Bangalore's 'Sagar's. However, unlike those Bangalore joints, there is no consistency in the quality and the basic offering across restaurants.

One place here offers full meals and mini-meals. The full meals consist of unlimited rice (a significant attraction to most people here), and a host of preparations to have that rice with - sambar, rasam, vegetables, tarakoLam, curds, buttermilk, etc. (all of them unlimited). The fried papad (appaLam) is also important. The mini-meals consist of limited rice, but has 4 different types of rice dishes - plain rice, curd rice, sambar rice, and masala rice. Soup is offered in a little steel glass, and is plainly artificial. Another category of restaurants is the Chettinadu variety, but not all of them are authentic. Also, one may not be able to make out much difference between Chettinadu and non-Chettinadu food in vegetarian meals.

At one restaurant, a friend ordered chhole-bhature, as he saw people having it. But the waiter did not understand. So he told him it's also known as chana-bhatura. Still, no response. Then, the waiter took initiative and called an emergency meeting of all waiters to find out what my friend was saying. They discussed in rapid Tamil, but were clueless at the end. Finally, my friend went to the manager and asked him. He said chhole-bhature was known here as sola-puri (corruption of chhole-puri). Sola-puri sounds like a Maharashtrian dish :).

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