Tag Archives: India

Venkatadri Vantillu

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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.




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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Santha Revisited

FirstShot_0348It seems the circle has come around and I found myself one Wednesday evening at the Santha once again. Having the trusty Canon for company always wonderful leaves me with wonderful memories to look back on. And so it was, that having bought my weeks quota of vegetables and fruit, I left my purchases with my old vege-seller lady Lakshmi and headed out to capture some new images, some new impressions.

The first thing you notice as you approach the Santha is that it is located in the Hindustan Shipyard Colony at Scindia Junction. The HSL Colony as it is called is a throw back to the era when companies provided housing for their employees in a more socialistically inclined time. Since then the houses have aged considerably and the approach to the market is like a trip into another era. Image

There are cows and bullock carts, old tile roofed houses that hark back to the sixties or seventies and earlier, huge wells, bore well pumps, ancient trees and quaint tea stalls. On non market days its great fun to roam around here and just take in the sedate atmosphere and interesting folk art on the doors and walls. But that’s for another post.


The above picture is of an old mill that is quite dilapidated and abandoned. Walking around here always reminds me of the village sets of old movies like Karan Arjun or Sholay.


And as you walk through all this quite and peace, you start noticing a change. A charge in the air, a purpose to the stride in the people about you. Heavens! you begin to notice people and lots of them!!!


And so you reach the Santha…that hubbub of humanity that keeps you coming back.



The Samosa seller, an old acquaintance, though happy to see me was not willing to be photographed. And so I captured his yummy samosas all ready to be dunked in piping hot oil to be browned and crisped till the spice potato stuffing is steaming and ready to burn your tongue.


And the yummy road style noodle guy was there with his charming wife. Indian road side noodles are unlike anything you will eat anywhere, especially in China, the birth place of their namesake. Spicy (read garam masala) and greasy, with very few vegetables but abounding in flavor, they are a once-in-a-while treat I never fail to indulge in.



The noodle sellers wife.


My favourite vege lady, Lakshmi. She was really happy to see me back!!! And her veges are as fresh as ever.


Lakshmi, her family and her stall. I am their loyal customer.


Garlic, ginger and tamarind sold in huge mounds.


There is always time for a chai break.


Some vendors come and sell just one fruit or vegetable. Like the boy selling bananas or the old man selling tindli.


Tomatoes are a delight…and so abundant. Here are some ladies trying to choose the best of the lot.


The cows are always a part of an Indian market landscape. The vendors tolerate them as long as they don’t mooch off their produce. Totally fearless, the cows amble around the market shoving people out of the way. This cow is walking on the wall alongside the fruit market that is located on the far end of the Santha.


No matter how many other vegetables you buy, the onion and the potato has to be on the list. This was at a time when the price of onions were quite high. The onion seller was surely feeling the strain.


The lime seller has such a simple yet pretty stall along the fruit lane. Lime is expensive this time of the year. I got 4 for Rs. 10/-


Even the most energetic market has pockets of quite and silence and frankly sadness.


The flower seller. The gloves are a new addition. I wonder why. He is selling marigold (banthipoo) and chrysanthemums (chamanthi) Image

This lady was selling papaya and clay piggy banks. Odd combination, but I love the colourful piggy banks and their fruit shapes. They cost about 30 to 40 rupees.


The broom, rope and wooden implement seller. This was his pose when I asked if I could take a picture. He refused to smile. ūüôā


Respite in the rush. A poor homeless man and a dog find a common platform for a siesta


As night falls the toy vendor displays his wares in all their neon brightness.


Glitter coated pine cones for the home.


More glittery dried flowers. Didn’t get to ask the price.


The knife sharpener made for a very interesting photo op. He charges Rs. 20/- to sharpen a knife.


As the sun sets on the Santha, I was pleased at a day well spent. Can’t wait for Sunday, when it begins all over again.



Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Brun Maska

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.

Tagged , , , ,