A food walk through Mannady

My friend Krishin of Madras Eats knows lots about the little eateries in Mannady. He keeps going there whenever the fancy takes him or whenever his cook is in a bad mood. His food posts about the places there makes the rest of us salivate. Finally, one day, I asked him to take me with him on his next trip. The true food-lover that he is, he was all set to go there despite the rains a couple of weeks ago. Not an outing I was keen on as the rain makes North Madras streets messy and that's putting it mildly. So one fine evening, the weather cooperated and along with Smitha of Global Theeni, we met up outside the Indian Bank at Broadway at the unearthly hour (according to Krishin) of 7 pm! Apparently 9 pm is the preferred time!



The first stop was the atho man near Second Line Beach Road. Atho is a Burmese-style dish of noodles and egg, very popular as street food at Chennai. On a gigantic iron tawa, he stirred a huge quantity of noodles. A sizable crowd waited patiently for him to complete his task. On a cart parked nearby, men were making masala eggs, a side dish for the noodles. A slit is made into hard boiled eggs, fried onions with masala is stuffed into them and that's it. The atho man had finished cooking by then and was dishing out the noodles into thermacol bowls. But it was a truck parked beside the stall that had our complete attention now. There were bags of noodles in it along with mounds of cabbages and at the far end sat a man grating it all. We asked if we could buy just the uncooked noodles; he told us to ask the boss. Since we had just started on our walk, we were not too keen on carrying anything as yet. So we decided to leave the atho for our next visit.

Kebab Centre Fast Food


Kebab Centre Fast Food was just a 5 minute walk away. It's a tiny shop located in a corner; skewers with colourful kebabs hung over the brazier. There were chicken kebabs, tangdi, reshmi, tandoori and beef kebabs too. We asked for a beef seekh  kebab with rumali roti to be packed. It was still good the next day when we ate it, the sliced onions were fresh and the meat was tender yet smoky.

Chicken on the spit 

Chicken-filled shawarma

Krishin suggested we order a chicken shawarma. Slices of grilled chicken were cut from the rotating spit, mixed with cabbage shreds and scooped onto pita bread. The filling was topped with garlic mayo, rolled up and wrapped in butter paper. Standing on the steps of the shop, we split the roll three ways. They had been generous with the filling; the cabbage was rather bitter but the garlic mayo yummy. Except for the cabbage, it was one of the best rolls I've had in the city. I think there were a couple of chairs inside but most people buy the rolls and eat there or do a takeaway.
Ambiance: Nil.
Cost of a beef seekh roll: 70/-
Cost of a chicken sharwarma - 60-/
Kebab Centre, 8/69, Mannady Street, Muthialpet, George Town.

Al Bismi Hotel

Al Bismi Hotel

From Kebab Centre, we walked down Moore Street, past shops selling attar and hijabs. Traffic was fairly light; we only had to make sure we didn't get in the way of bikes and bicycles. We went down a little side street to Angappa Naicken Street to an unassuming little restaurant, Al Bismi Hotel. Since we were early, the restaurant was empty. Large aluminum pots were arranged along the front of the restaurant, the servers dished out portions from each pot for us to photograph. There was fish curry, mutton shanks, chukka, curry, spare parts like liver and brain fry and also chicken, country chicken and quail fry and curry.

Array of meats and gravies

A meal of parottas and special mutton curry

We ordered 2 wheat parottas, 1 maida parotta and a portion of mutton curry. A bowl of salna was served gratis. It was a thin gravy to which ground peanuts had been added, perfect with the parottas. The lamb gravy, a speciality of Ramnad district, was dark brown and thick, not too spicy but absolutely delish; the parottas were thick and flaky and not oily. I particularly liked the one made with wheat; there was already a lot of oil in the curries so it made sense to order the wheat version.

Parottas being cooked  outside Al Bismi hotel

Since it was such a tasty meal, we decided to do a takeaway of some parottas and the special mutton curry. As we stepped out, we saw parottas being made on the giant tawa in the opposite shop. The parottas were thick and they have 3 - 4 varieties including veechu or layered parottas. That's for next time.

Ambiance: basic but they have a sink to wash hands. Service is quick.
Cost of 3 parottas - 55/-
Special mutton curry - 180/-
Total: 235/- (excluding takeaway)
1, Angappa Naicken Street, 2nd Lane, Mannady.

Minar Mess

All kinds of curries at Minar Mess

Fish head curry

There are plenty of Malaysian influences in Mannady if the number of "Malaysian Murtabak" stalls is any indication. We stepped into Minar Mess with a bit of trepidation. It was full up but one of the waiters told us that there was seating in the air conditioned room. But even that was full so we went around looking at what was on offer. At the entrance, in the display area were huge pots with various curries - fish head, chicken, beef, paaya, chops, squid, fish and prawns. Also murtabak and Ceylon egg parottas along with plain parottas!


At the other end of the restaurant, there were 6 appam pans with appams being made simultaneously. These are not the lacy ones like those made in Kerala. There were trays of eggs and if you wanted an egg appam, well, you'd get one. There are also idiappams and idlies.

The parotta master was a sight to watch. His movements were precise - two flicks of the wrist and the ball of dough was stretched out as thin as a newspaper. A couple of folds more and it looked like a little ball. It was then passed over to the man outside to flatten into parottas and fried ... on what else... a huge tawa!

Maasi sambal

The appams are served with maasi sambal, a coarsely ground paste of dried fish, chillies and coconut.  A bit of Sri Lankan influence here but not as spicy as the SL version. The other thing the waiter recommended was the crab curry; the crabs, he said, were from his hometown in Ramnad district.

Appam, maasi sambal and crab curry - a meal to remember

One bite of the combination and we knew we had a winner. We forgot the crowds, the heat, the uncomfortable seats and concentrated on the food. The appam with sambal was a match made in heaven. I've never had crab so fresh and tasty. It was medium sized and quite fleshy; the gravy was wow!

Minar Mess

Ambiance: basic and crowded but they have a sink to wash hands. Service is quick.
Cost of 3 appams - 60/-
Crab curry - 170/-
Pepsi - 40/-
Total: 270/- (excluding a takeaway.)
No.14, Narayanappa Street, Seethakadi Nagar, George Town.

Milkrim Jigarthanda

Milkrim shop

Milkrim jigarthanda store was just down the road. It's a corner store with a a couple of freezers and a couple of stools to sit on. We ordered the smallest portion of jigarthanda to share. It tasted like condensed milk, suitably gooey but Krishin felt it did not taste as good as the one he had on an earlier visit.


The menu

Ambiance: Nil.
Cost of mini jigarthanda - 40/-

Sweet stall

Dum ka roat; black rice halwa

We hailed an auto to take us to the other end of Mannady Street. We could have walked the distance, it wasn't that far but it was getting late. There was a sweet shop that we went to first to try their dum ka roat and black rice halwa. The dum ka roat was delish but the halwa was so absolutely delightful. More purple than black, it was not too sweet and had a milky aftertaste. You can just about make out the texture of finely ground rice in the middle of the gooeyness. The owner told us it is one of the most popular sweets in his stall, the one that gets sold out first. Could believe him too as he scraped out the last of it to pack for us as takeaway. We didn't get around to finding out the name of the stall but not a problem as it's opposite Hatimy's.

100 gms black rice halwa - 50/-


Hatimy's storefront

Our last stop was Hatimy's, well-known for Bohri cuisine. It's a small restaurant with a seating area and has air conditioning. In the display case, there were ready-to- fry chicken rolls and crumbed chicken pieces.

Crispy chicken

The appetiser was crispy chicken, covered with a mesh of wanton strips. Fried, of course, but well drained. Under the mesh was a super-tender fillet of chicken which didn't need that colour. It came with mint chutney and in spite of being fried, we could slice it with a fork.

Shanghai mutton chops

Shanghai mutton chops was a dish of mutton ribs coated in a bright orange sauce. The meat almost fell off the bone, the sauce was thick and probably a good accompaniment for parotta or even rice. There were lightly sauteed onion slices on the side. We decided to skip the bread and had it on its own.

Murgh Irani 

Murgh Irani leg is chicken drumstick that has been roasted and smothered in a yellow cheesy sauce. The sauce was addictive and the combination was finger lickin' good.

Hatimy's meats are cooked in a combination oven and that probably accounts for the meats being super-tender and moist. This is a restaurant that certainly merits a few more visits. I've also heard that they make some of the best kulfi in town. 

Ambiance: Decent and the air conditioning helps. Service is fast, especially if you let them know your order ahead.
Cost of crispy chicken - 50/-
Murgh Irani leg - 120/-
Shanghai mutton chops - 220/-
2 soft drinks - 80/-.
Total: 470/- (excluding a takeaway.)
31, Mannady Street,  Muthialpet, George Town.

Mannady has quite a few restaurants that serve good food at really competitive prices. If you are willing to overlook the ambiance, or rather the lack of it, you will be pleasantly surprised by the food you get there as it is freshly made and the variety is commendable. Ask the staff at these places to suggest the best dishes. They do know their food.


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