Category Archives: essential food

Venkatadri Vantillu

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Now that I am back in Visakhapatnam, I have the opportunity to go and visit all those lovely simple tiffin places that serve the most superlative authentic South Indian tiffins. Light as air idlis, crispy flavorful dosas, wadas, uttappams, rawa dosas, poori and curry…Droooooool.

 

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Masala Dosa and MLA Pesarattu

In Vizag, if you ask people about the best tiffins, each one will have their own choice. After all there are so many to choose from. However there are a few whose names will slip off the lips more often that others. Two of these are Sai Ram Parlour and Venkatadri Vantillu. Known for their quality of food and the reasonable pricing.

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Both these establishments started off serving simple South Indian food from roadside shops. Quintessential South India Fast food. But such was their fame and quality that Sai Ram can no longer be called a small joint. They have also diversified into serving Chinese and Mughlai food.

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The tea-coffee counter

For the purpose of this post I would like to talk about Venkatadri Vantillu. Started many years ago by an enterprising lady, Mrs. Indira, who made her talent in cooking a means of livelihood by selling food from a roadside stall. Such was her popularity that she had to shift out of her first location due to the traffic jams caused by her throngs of customers. Some difficulties later she opened a shop on VIP road in CBM Compound, which is where I went to get my Sponge Dosa fix.

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Unlimited sambar and chutneys

I would recommend that you try anything off the menu and it will be great. Food is cooked fresh, with oodles of ghee and chutney podi and served sooper fast to the hungry masses clamouring outside. However, I would not miss the sponge dosa, the MLA Pesarattu, the Ghee roast and the Idlis. Oh and the Pongal is great too…and the coffee…and the…well just try everything, but in small doses. As I said the ghee is generously drizzled over everything. Be warned that if you go during their busy times you will have a wait in front of you.

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Mrs. Indira at the cash counter

I love Venkatadri not only for the fabulous food. Its also the people who man (or should I say woman) the place that make it such a pleasure. There is the ever smiling Mrs. Indira who welcomes you to the joint. There are the efficient and feisty servers and cooks who keep up an animated exchange with the customers. One thing I especially like is the fact that the Vantillu employs many women. Its a change from the normal tiffin parlours where you only see men.

 

 

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The lady who calls the orders out to the cooks

I couldn’t get any pictures of food I ordered. Call it my greed but I clear forgot. So the next time I go, I have to control myself and take some pictures. I want to show you the sponge dosas and the pooris and the coffee and the ghee roast…well till next time then…and knowing me and my craving for Venkatadri, it will be sooner than later… ūüôā

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Santha in Vizag

During my two year stint in Visakhapatnam, I had the pleasure of going twice a week to a village Santha where villagers would come and sell their vegetables, fruit, fish, meat and other wares. These were my impressions of the Santha at Scindia Junction in Visakhapatnam…

Below is a picture of the flower seller at the Santha. He sold Jasmin or Mullapoo as it is called and Sampangi, Chamanthi, Kanakambram, and tulasi malas for the hair as well as loose flowers including roses for pooja.

The Andhra Chilly is famous for its intense heat and this old lady is selling some of these. The heat of these chillies can be made out by their size, and colour. The smaller, the thinner and the darker green they are, the spicier they will be.

Below is a picture of my fish lady…she sold me amazingly fresh fish that she brought all the way from the Yarada fishing Village.

My fish lady had a fish cleaner lady who sat beside her. She chopped and cleaned the fish for a paltry sum of 5 Rupees.

After they saw that I was taking pictures they all wanted their pictures taken. Before I left I printed out the lot and gave it to them. They laughed themselves silly at the results!!!

Street Snack vendor selling Onion Samosas, ¬†Dal Vadas, Arusu, Bobbattu and Gaari’s¬†

Juicy, tangy, yummy Jamuns at 20 Rupees a glass…

This is a¬†picture¬†of the lady I bought vegetables from every week…we became quite good friends.. ūüôā

I just love the smile on the Lady…she looks beautiful…

The Black and white bag is one of many that are found in abundance in the Santha. They are hand made from plastic thread or strips and can only be ordered from some ladies who make them at home. Approximate cost 150/- rupees.

I love this picture and the way the lady looks but when I gave her her picture she told me frankly that she thought I knew nothing of photography and that I had taken a horrendous picture. Chandalam is the word she used. It means disgusting!!!! LOL

Colourful Fryums…eaten as a snack or as an accompaniment to a meal of rice, lentils and a vegetable fry.

The market has two tea sellers who walk around carrying this bag with thermos flasks filled with tea and small plastic glasses. They are a total lifeline for the villagers. The tea is milky, sweet and laced with ginger, cardamom and cloves…Masala chai!!!

The Bullock Cart that transports the produce to the markets.

Onion Seller. She looked like she had woken from a restful nap.

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Chai

Chai wallah

The chai-wallah (tea seller) is the most ubiquitous sight in India. You will find one in any part of the¬†country. And the chai you get at the chai-wallah’s is like nothing you can conjure up at home. It could be the fact that they boil their chai much more than we do at home or the dust and the dirt combine to give the chai its taste. At any rate a potion of this strong cuppa can drive away the sleep and put a bounce back in the step.

Cutting Chai

Chai-wallah chai is usually made with anything between a 50-50 to a 25-75 proportion of milk to water. They use strong tea powder that is locally bought from the tea wholesaler. Most of them have their own individual blend of masalas that they put in their brew. These differ from ginger to cardamom and clove. Some even add tulsi (holy Basil) leaves. These masalas are ground fresh or stored in bottles and added when the tea reaches a boil.

fresh ginger and cardamom masala

The tea is served in small thick glasses with biscuits, rusk or khari. In bigger shops they may even have samosas, pakodas and pau. Other than the regional differences in chai, there is also chai that can be distinguished by the communities they belong to. So you have the Parsi tea which is eaten with brun-maska. Then you have Irani chai which is served in beautiful gold tipped glasses on dainty saucers. This is black tea with a dash of lemon straight from the samovar. Iranian tea of this kind is available in Mumbai and is served with a biscuit or a piece of cake. There is another Iranian tea which is popular in Andhra Pradesh. This is a water less tea or pani-kum-chai as it is called by the locals. A tea made purely out of milk and spiced with cardamom, this is a rich tea that is very popular, though quite unpalatable to a lactose intolerant stomach such as mine. Then you have cutting chai which is half a glass of tea and the one meter chai which is chai that is frothed by pouring it into the glass from a pot held a meter high.

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One meter chai

I have had road side chai at a variety of places…I have had South Indian sea side chai, and Kumaon mountain tea and Mumbai city tea and Marathwada goats milk tea. They all tasted different, but the thing they had in common was the warm, smiling chai wallah who doled out the glasses of tea with his own¬†inimitable¬†brand of wit blended with wisdom.

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