"Taste of Chennai" Festival at Paprika Cafe

Street food is immensely popular the world over and one of the cheapest ways of having a quick and delicious meal on the go. It's no different at Chennai, but there are many who are wary of eating at these stalls, hygiene, or rather its lack, is often the reason.

Courtyard by Marriott Chennai has brought the street food of Chennai into Paprika Cafe. A group of us were invited for a tasting session and believe me when I tell you that the only things we missed were the crowds jostling for space in front of the stalls, dust from passing vehicles, the honking of a thousand vehicles and perhaps even the salt-laden sea breeze (and maybe some sand) from the Marina Beach... not!!
(As it was a blogger's meet, we were served some items from the menu of the subsequent days as well.)

Sowcarpet specials: Chaats; dhokla, laddu, jelabi; pav bhaji, samosa and kachori; papdi chaat; pani puri, samosa chaat 

"Taste of Chennai" has been divided into 4 popular hubs - Sowcarpet with its chaat stalls that included the ubiquitous murukku sandwich, Triplicane and the Marina beach for biryani and bajji (and fried fish!), Mylapore for rose milk and variety rice and T'Nagar where you can have your fill of appams, kal dosa, idlis with everything to accompany from chutneys to sambar to vadacurry to a delicious mutton roast.

Murukku sandwich
Customers at a chaat stall

Whistle stall

The cafe had been set up to resemble street-side stalls and names of shops reflecting famous localities. There was even a "pavement" stall selling whistles.

The making of... pav bhaji

Chole batura and sandwich stall
Testing the jelabi batter; frying jelabis; jelabi, laddu, khandvi & dhokla

Sowcarpet had a guy making fresh jilebis, pani puri, pav bhaji, chole batura and muruku sandwich. There were also dhokla and khandvi and large orange-coloured boondi laddus. If you found the chaats spicy, ask for a glass of thick, sweet lassi to cool your mouth with.

The lassi stall

Freshly fried masala vadas, banana bajjis, crisp fried sankara fish, nethili and squid strips represented the iconic Marina beach.

Fresh seafood specials - squid, sankara, nethili

From Triplicane, the fragrant chicken biryani served with raita and a tangy brinjal curry was a winner. For the vegetarians, there was the veg version of biryani.

Fragrant chicken biryani; veg biryani with raita and brinjal - the taste of Triplicane

Hot off a Mylapore mami's kadai - masala vadai & bhajji

Delicious tamarind & lemon rice with wafers; rose milk (so yummy); paniyaram with chutneys 

Mylapore was represented by lime and tamarind rice...and pastel pink rose milk with aniseeds that was so delicious and cooling. Don't forget to order a steaming cup of filter kaapi to end your meal.

Dosa with fried mutton; idlis with chicken kolambukal dosa with vadacurry

T'Nagar was amply represented by dosas and a melt-in-the-mouth mutton fry that also had chunks of garlic and shallots. Kal dosa and vadacurry was a lovely combination, a first for me. There were also soft idlis accompanied by a delicious chicken kolambu.

Desserts with an Indian twist - baked yoghurt, malai moussegulab jamun cheesecake, coconut jaggery mousse; fruit strudels

The selection of desserts included gulab jamun cheesecake, malai mousse, coconut jaggery mousse, kheer, carrot pudding as well as regular ones like a decadently pink strawberry gateau and baked mango yoghurt.

There's even a rickshaw parked in a corner; jump in for a great photo-op! On your way out, do stop by the paan shop for a bite of the popular digestive.

The men behind the fest - Chef Vinesh, F&B Manager Bharath, Executive Chef Jacob

Here's the schedule of the Festival:
July 22 - 23 - Sowcarpet - samosa, pani puri, chaats, dhokla, badam milk, murukku sandwich;
July 24 - 25 - Triplicane and Marina Beach - mango salad, candy floss, peanuts, sugarcane juice, seafood fry, variety bhajji, bhel puri, kebabs, biryani;
July 26 - 27 - Mylapore - masala/keera vadai, aloo bonda, parotta, paniyaram, variety rice, idli;
July 28 - 29 - T'Nagar - frankies, bread omelette, dosa, paratha, jigarthanda.

Paprika Cafe is at Courtyard by Marriott, Chennai. The festival timings are from 7 -11 pm. Cost per head is 1475/++.
Do call 044 6676 4000/ 66764488 for reservations.


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