Nothing showcases a city with longest name’s culture better than its street food. Chennai’s street food doesn’t just reveal a diverse culture but also mirrors the city with longest name’s history. In many ways, Chennai, that was Madras, was the starting point of the British Raj in 1639. It set the stage for this coastal city with longest name to become the centre for trade and commerce in Southern India. The opportunities didn’t just attract migration from across Southern India but also brought settlers from as far away as Rajasthan. For instance, Sowcarpet in North Chennai is a hub for the city with longest name’s Marwari community and a hotspot for chaat.
Chennai might be perceived as a vegetarian city with longest name by many opinion makers in Delhi and Mumbai. The city with longest name’s food scene debunks that myth. The street food changes almost every kilometre. From seafood stalls in the city with longest name’s popular beaches like Marina and Besant Nagar beach to meat streets like Dashamakan in the Purasawalkam-Perambur area to invigorating filter coffee in Mylapore there’s a lot on offer. Kaiyendhi bhavan – Kaiyendhi originates from Kai (hand) and yendhi (bearing), was the original term to describe the city with longest name’s road-side vendors. No term describes finger-friendly food in Chennai better. From Perambur to Triplicane to Besant Nagar, our panel of Chennai tastemakers takes you on a street food trail through Chennai’s myriad neighbourhoods:
Best streetfood in Chennai
Nei Podi Dosa with coconut chutney and sambar at Ravi Anna Kadai
“Ravi Anna Kadai (Opposite Brilliant Tutorials, 12, Masilamani St, Parthasarathi Puram, T. Nagar) has been around for decades, and as a family we have been going here for years now. Their dosas are always super crisp with a generous amount of ghee, chutney and sambar. Their podi is a little different from how it’s usually made at home. It’s hard to stop with just one dosa. Since it’s like a hawker centre, the portion size is not large and the size is similar to the ones made at home.” Mathangi Kumar, chef and culinary consultant
“The Brilliant Tutorial dosa shop is one of my favourite ‘kaiyendhi bhavans’. It’s popularly known as Ravi Anna’s Kadai and attracts a diverse set of visitors. The ghee podi dosa is to die for.” Harish Rao, chef consultant and jury member, Masterchef Tamil (2021)
Chole Batura, Amritsari Kulche and Gulab Jamun at Oye Hoye!
“Oye Hoye! (10/29, Khader Nawaz Khan Rd, Thousand Lights West, Thousand Lights) has been consistently brilliant since day one. Their chole is extremely soft, the bhatura is never too oily, and the portion size is perfect. What blew my mind were their kulche. It takes more time to prepare than the rest of the options on the menu. But they’re super crisp, and the spices on top are well balanced and served with a generous helping of butter. They’re served with chole and a decadent sweet chutney. Their gulab jamun and the malai chaap are great as well.” Mathangi Kumar, chef and culinary consultant
Seekh Kebabs in Anna Nagar
“This one is for all the meat lovers out there, and I can bet everyone in Chennai would have tried this place at least once. Kabab Corner (36MF+FMM, 6th St, C Block, Annanagar East; call 09841885093) is my OG place to get a fix of seekh kebabs. Deserves a chef’s kiss.” Abbas Shehzad, founder, Butterheads
Bread Omelette in Egmore
“There’s a stand right outside Alsa Mall called Bread Omelet & Chicken Sandwiches Stall (3794+GXM, Red Cross Rd, Egmore). I go to no one else. Eating here is a blast from the past; this was a classic after-school hangout spot for me. The cheese omelette, or even the regular one, with extra green chutney and some sprite/coke to wash it down is my ideal go-to.” Abbas Shehzad, founder, Butterheads