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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Tried and Tasted: This eatery is the place to go to have delicious Tamil food in Delhi

Super-soft idlis, delectable dahi vadas and a variety of dosas and rice – since its inception in 1930, Chidambaram’s eatery has certainly done its bit in opening up the food world of Dilliwallahs.

more-lifestyle Updated: Feb 25, 2018 11:19 IST
Rahul Verma
Rahul Verma
Hindustan Times
Chidambaram’s eatery serves a special masala idli which comes with a thick crust of gun powder or podi.
Chidambaram’s eatery serves a special masala idli which comes with a thick crust of gun powder or podi.(HT Photo)

Just imagine Delhi for a moment in the first few decades of the turn of the last century. Most parts of it were still forested, and few of the colonies the city is now known for existed. People from other parts of the country had just started moving to Delhi for work. It was around then that a gentleman called P G Chidambaram from Vanur-Thindivanam in Tamil Nadu decided that the country’s capital had to be introduced to the food of his state.

And that was the birth of Chidambaram’s eatery in a small shack in Lodhi Colony in 1930. After the Partition, when the Meharchand and Khanna Markets in the Lodhi Colony area came up, Chidambaram’s moved to Khanna Market – and it has been there since then, serving delicious Tamil food to the people of the city.

I first went there decades ago, as a callow teenager looking to buy a cycle from a shop in Khanna Market. I saw Chidambaram’s and, possibly with some money left over after I had bought the cycle, treated myself to a dosa.

I have gone back there many times since then, and always enjoyed my idlis or thhalis. For the food is simple, wholesome – and delicious.

The place has expanded over time and is now run by Kumar and Raju Chidambaram, while its catering outfit is looked after by C Balasumbramium. Chidambaram’s New Madras Hotel has a comprehensive menu, which includes everything from various kinds of dosas, idlis and uthappams to rice preparations and mini meals. The menu has been tweaked over time, too, with a Chinese menu and additions such as the Chidambaram rava special dosa (rava dosa stuffed with potato and paneer cooked in butter).

I am not greatly fond of paneer – it occupies a position just below gobi Manchurian in my food hierarchy – so I avoided all that and went straight to the dishes that I really like – soft idlis and dosa. The idli was a special masala idli which came with a thick crust of gun powder or podi. The dosa was a special one too – a three-in-one dosa. And I had Chidambaram’s popular dahi vada.

The idli was superb – soft and hot and tangy with the gun powder. The three-in-one rava dosa came as three mini dosas – one filled with podi, one with potatoes, and one, alas, with paneer (though I might as well admit I quite enjoyed it). I had these with a bowl of hot sambar and three kinds of chutneys – green chutney, tomato chutney and coconut-dal chutney.

The dahi vada was excellent, too. Soft vadas were in a creamy, mildly sweet curd flavoured with tiny boondis and little specks of ginger. All in all, it was an excellent meal.

Chidambaram’s rice menu has various kinds of dishes – rice prepared with tamardind, lemon, tomato or curd. There is also fried rice and sambar rice. The dosa list includes plain dosa, masala dosa, butter plain, onion masala, Mysore masala dosa, paper masala, onion rava, coconut rava, and so on.

There is a sitting area inside Chidambaram’s, which also delivers food and caters. The little place that was among the first to offer idlis and dosa in Delhi has come a long way since then. And it has certainly done its bit in opening up the food world of Dilliwallahs.

RECIPE: Chettinad podi

Ingredients: 2 tbs vegetable oil, 80g arhar dal, 100g safed urad dal, 20-30 mild dried whole red chillies, 2tbsp curry leaves, 1tsp cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, salt to taste.

Method: Heat oil in a kadhai. Add the urad dal and fry. Add the arhar dal and fry some more. When golden, remove and keep aside. Add the remaining oil and fry the chillies. Add the curry leaves and then the cumin seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida. Season. Remove. When cool, grind the two together. Serve with hot idlis – or even steamed rice.

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First Published: Feb 25, 2018 11:18 IST