Two of the biggest real estate investment firms in Ireland have clashed over an outdoor food market at a south Dublin business park. Kennedy Wilson, a large

If you are from India, what are some unique or special foods from your hometown?

Madurai – The city that never sleeps.

Madurai’s location in the heart of Tamil Nadu has always seen a steady flow of visitors who keep ‘floating’ through the city almost round the clock.

Many would have known Madurai as the ‘Temple Town’ in Tamil Nadu. But Madurai relishes on its own culinary delights.

What makes the cuisine of Madurai so special is that it has evolved over many centuries and still retains its earthy charm and humble presence. Influenced by so many cultures like Chettinad, Sri Lankan, Mughlai and others, many interesting dishes have found a permanent place in the culinary culture of Madurai.

If you are in Madurai, be sure to drop in at any of these road-side food stalls and taste the flavorful street food in Madurai

  1. Kari Dosa at Konar Mess

The Konars were originally cow and goat herds and therefore, offal dishes are a big part of their daily menu. The three-tier dosai at Konar is now a local legend. A thick dosa, an omelet and a layer of minced mutton. This is not a dosai you can take lightly! Order a repeat at your own risk and do wash it down with Bovonto, Madurai’s very own soft drink that’s become ultra-cool post the state’s Jallikattu protests.

Where to eat: Konar Mess

2. Parotta and mutton chukka

The unleavened flaky Parotta (flatbread) is an essential Madurai staple food. It can be had with so many veg and non-veg Kuzhambu (curries). But Parotta and Mutton chukka make the best pair.

It is a treat to watch the Parotta makers flip the rolled dough into the air, slap it on the hot tabletop, grease it with butter or ghee, and serving them with your choice of curries. There are so many varieties of Parottas like Malabar Parotta, Egg Parotta, Kothu Parotta, Chilly Parotta etc.

Where to eat:

My Favourite: Kumar Mess

Others: Sulthan Restaurant, Baskar Parotta Shop, Kannan Parotta Stall, Parotta Court, Hotel Ameer Mahal.

3. Jigarthanda

Jigarthanda is Madurai’s answer to the Lassi or Falooda. It is an extremely delicious ice-cream, which is hand-churned, and prepared with condensed milk, fruit syrups, almond jelly, and tree gum. It is a dessert that is unique to Madurai and is believed to have been brought by the Nawabs of Arcot with them. The perfect antidote to all the spices and flavors of Madurai’s meat dishes.

Where to eat: Famous Jigarthanda Shop

4. Kola Urundai

This wonderful meat dish is a culinary highlight of Madurai. Minced mutton balls are prepared by mixing them with various spices, and deep frying them in oil. This makes them crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside.

They are then tied with banana fiber strings and served with chutneys or sauces. Eat them dry or dip them in Kuzhambu (curry). Whatever way you have them, they burst into your mouth with strong flavors and spicy tastes that will linger on, long after you’ve eaten them.

Where to eat: Chandran Mess, Kumar Mess, Konar Mess, Amma Mess

5. Fluffy Soft Idlis

An essential comfort food for every South Indian, the idli is a steamed rice cake that can be eaten alone, with sambar or with an assortment of different chutneys. It is extremely nutritious food that can be had at breakfast, lunch or dinner. This simple dish has so many variants like dahi idli, Kanchipuram idli, fried idli, etc., but the steamed idli still remains the unanimous choice for millions in India.

Where to eat:

My Favourite: Murugan Idli Shop

Others: Madurai Idli Shop, Meena’s Idli Stall, Konar Mess, Amma Mess, roadside idli shops

6. Elumbu Roast

This spicy dish of Madurai is a non-veg treat to meat lovers. Boiled goat bones, along with the mutton are cooked and fried with mashed onions, garlic, and ginger. Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, pepper, and vegetables are also added to them and served with a garnishing of curry leaves, and served piping hot.

Where to eat: Kumar Mess, Konar Mess, Arumugam Evening Mutton Stall

7. Paruthi Paal

Madurai’s food scene truly comes alive just before the sun sets. It’s about the same time you will find push carts hitting some of the city’s streets with Paruthi Paal (translates to cotton milk). Cotton seed extracts are combined with a small quantity of rice flour, cardamom, dry ginger and sweetened with palm sugar. Tasty and full of goodness.

Where to eat: road-side vendors

8. Meen Kuzhambu at Amma Mess

This spicy fish curry is a delicious dish of Madurai. You are never alone when you eat here. It’s not just the never-ending sea of diners but also pictures of celebrities – mostly Tamil film stars (who have dined here), that stare at you from every corner. The highlights from this home-style menu are the fish gravies (try the Muthal Mariyathai Meen kuzhambu, that takes its name from a popular 1980’s Tamil film). If seafood is not your scene, do sample their truly unique bone marrow omelet.

Where to eat: Amma Mess

9. Idiyappams

This South Indian dish, where rice flour is made into noodles, and then steamed, is a typical breakfast food. It is generally served with coconut chutney, korma, or curries. The delicate dish has definitely earned its place as a must-try food dish when you are visiting Madurai.

Where to eat: Burma Idiyappam Kadai, Konar Mess

10. Vazhiyal (Kalaki)

This egg dish is another famous culinary delight of Madurai. It is made of a batter of beaten eggs, onions, salt, pepper, and then mixed with three types of mutton gravies. The addition of gravies gives a gooey consistency to the preparation. The strong spices, along with the overall taste of eggs, make the dish a delectable food.

Where to eat: Tallakulam, all road-side stalls

It’s partly due to this enormous popularity of street foods of Madurai, that it has earned the title of ‘Thoonga Nagaram’, the city that never sleeps. And this title is apt, considering the rich trade network that connected Madurai with other places in India and the world.

It also opened Madurai to different cultures and cuisines. Its markets had to be open at all times, and with the markets, is the need for food for the traders and the common man. These street food stalls cater to that growing demand for food at all times of day and night.

Nandri 🙂