Street food, as in other areas of India, are popular in Chennai, despite the common belief in India that street food is unhealthy. The Idly Sambhar is a popular dish, which is served as breakfast or dinner. Apart from regular South Indian street food, the city's streets are also filled with several North Indian street food outlets, most of them established by North Indian migrants themselves. Gujarati and Burmese are also available. Street food in Chennai is so popular that a game had developed based on the TV show The Amazing Race where contestants have to follow clues to Street-food spots in the city.
Idli Sambhar is a common food in South India. It's a delicacy made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice. Sambar is a lentil based vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind popular in South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil cuisines adapted in each to its taste and environment.
It is also served with coconut chutney.
Dosa is a type of pancake made from a fermented batter. It is somewhat similar to a crepe but its main ingredients are rice and black gram. Dosa is a typical part of the South Indian diet and popular all over the Indian subcontinent. Masala Dosa is served hot along with sambar, stuffing of Potato masala(Aloo Masala) or Paneer masala and chutney. It can be consumed with idli podi as well.
Uttapam or ooththappam or Uthappa (Tamil: ஊத்தாப்பம் ) is a dosa-like dish made by cooking ingredients in a batter. Unlike a dosa, which is crisp and crepe-like, uttapam is a thick pancake, with toppings cooked right into the batter.Uttapam is traditionally made with toppings such as tomatoes, onion, chillies, capsicum and cabbage mix; other common choices are coconut or mixed vegetables. It is often eaten with sambar or chutney. It is popular in South India.
Puri (also spelled poori) is an unleavened deep-fried Indian bread, commonly consumed on the Indian subcontinent. It is eaten for breakfast or as a snack or light meal. It is usually served with a aloo curry or aloo bhaji, as in Puri bhaji.It is also served with vegetable korma,chana masala and with gravies like paneer butter masala.Puri is most commonly served at breakfast.
Vada [vəɽɑː] is a common term for many different types of savoury fried snacks from India. Different types of vadas can be described variously as fritters, doughnuts, or dumplings. Alternative names for this food include wada, vade, vadai, wadeh and bara.The various types of vadas are made from different ingredients, ranging from legumes (such as medu vada of South India) to potatoes (such as batata vada of West India). They are often eaten as breakfast or snack, and also used in other food preparations (such as dahi vada and vada pav).
Samosa is a fried or baked pastry with savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils and sometimes ground lamb, ground beef or ground chicken.
A bhaji, bhajji or bajji, is a spicy Indian snack or entree dish similar to a fritter, with several variants. It is often served with chutney.
Pakodas are a kind of fritters and an all-time favorite snack in India. There are endless variations of pakodas. Mixed vegetable pakodas as the name suggests are made with a variety of vegetables. Pakodas are great as an appetizer or snack for any type of the gathering. They are perfect for a rainy day, and even more delicious paired with a cup of hot spicy chai.
Boli in Tamil Nadu is a golden yellow sweet pancake from South India. It is eaten during a traditional Sadhya along with Payasam. Several varieties of boli are prepared including thenga (coconut) boli and jaggery,sugar. Boli is especially famous in the southernmost districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, India and Nothern Sri Lanka.Boli is eaten mostly after lunch or as an evening snack. Boli is golden yellow in colour.
Jigarthanda is a cold milk beverage and cold dessert that originated in the South Indian city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. It translates to "cool heart" in English. It is generally prepared and served at roadside stalls as a refreshment during the Indian summer. The basic ingredients include milk, almond gum, sarsaparilla root syrup, sugar and ice-cream.
Atho is a variant of Burmese noodles.It is made from thick round noodles, shredded cabbage and onion garnished with tamarind, salt, fried onions, chili flakes, garlic and Monosodium glutamate (rarely) with hot soup poured over the cooked Burma noodles. It is of Burmese origin and served by Burmese refugees working as vendors in Chennai.
A parotta, porotta or barotta, is a layered flat bread of Kerala and some parts of Southern India, notably in Tamil Nadu made from maida flour. This is a variant of the North Indian Lacha Paratha. Parottas are usually available as street food and in restaurants across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka. At some places it is also served at weddings, religious festivals and feasts. It is prepared by kneading maida, egg (in some recipes), oil or ghee and water. The dough is beaten into thin layers and later forming a round spiralled into a ball using these thin layers. The ball is rolled flat and roasted. There is one more special dish made out of parotta called Kothu parotta or mutta parotta which is widely available in mostly all Chennai hotels serving parottas.
Chapatis are made using a soft dough comprising Atta flour, salt and water. Atta is made from hard Gehun (Indian wheat, or durum).It is more finely ground than most western-style wholewheat flours. Traditionally, roti (and rice) are prepared without salt to provide a bland background for spiced dishes.
Pani Puri is a popular street snack in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. It consists of a round, hollow puri, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavored water ("pani"), tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas. It is generally small enough to fit completely into one's mouth. Originating from central India, this food has penetrated into the south, too.
Idiyappam, or string hoppers, is a traditional Tamil, Kerala, Kodava, Tulu and Sri Lankan food consisting of rice flour pressed into noodle form and then steamed.Idiyappam is served with korma or Coconut milk.
Muttai Dosai is a variant of Dosa. Dosa is a fermented crepe made from rice batter and black lentils. It is a staple dish in South Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. It is also popular in other parts of India, and other countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore (All countries with significant Tamil population live. Muttai Dosa or simply, Egg Dosa, is simply a dosa with egg added.
Biriyani is a hugely popular food in Chennai. It is a mixed rice food with vegetables. It is popular amongst Muslims, and so there is a theory that the Mughals brought it with them. However, this is unclear and there are other theories that suggest that the Biriyani is an Indian invention. Several Variants of the Biriyani are available. Kushkas are Biriyanis without meat. Other variants include Chicken Biriyani, Mutton Biriyani, Egg Biriyani, etc., for which no explanation other than their names themselves are needed.
Kulfi has similarities to ice cream in appearance and taste; however it is denser and creamier. It comes in various flavours. The more traditional ones are cream (malai), rose, mango, cardamom (elaichi), saffron (kesar or zafran), and pistachio.
Several other street food varieties thrive in Chennai, Some of them are listed here: