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Iconic Dishes In Chennai You Have To Try Before You Die

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If you’re new to Chennai, you probably think all we do is slurp on thaiyyir saadam and stuff our faces with idlis. Well, you aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, we do, but did you know there are so many other legendary dishes you probably haven’t tried? Check our list of awesome dishes you must try, whether you’re a tourist or an old-school city dweller. And thank us later, yeah? We take gratitude in the form of podi idlis and filter kaapi too — just saying! 

Disclaimer: If you're doing takeaways or dining in, please follow all social distancing rules, wear masks and carry sanitisers while you are at the outlets. 


Thirsty? Jigarthanda, a popular, cool beverage from Madurai is the perfect thirst-quencher. Made with almond resin and ice cream, you can get a cool, creamy glass of it at the ever-popular Murugan Idli Shop for INR 70. It’s like drinking dessert (sort of like Falooda’s cousin) and is super filling! You can also drop in at Madurai Famous Jigarthanda for a glass of this ambrosial delight. 


These sweet steamed dumplings made out of jaggery or sugar with grated coconut enclosed in a rice flour pouch will make your palate sing! You can find them at Mami Tiffen Stall which is a Mylapore gem (been around since 1959, ya’ll!), and guess what? You can get them for just about INR 10 per piece!


Is there anything more satisfying than molaga (chillies) or vazhakkai (plaintain) dipped in batter and fried till crisp? While you’re hanging around Mylapore drop by Jannal Kadai post 5 pm and get delicious bhajjis quite literally out of a window! Dunk it in their home-style coconut chutney and slip into snack heaven. Read more here. You can also grab a plate or two at Marina beach or Bessy and chill by the sea. What a great way to spend an evening! Isn't it? 

Rose Milk

Another sweet drink close to our hearts, we absolutely love the invigorating, cold glass of rose milk one can get at Kalathi Rose Milk Shop again in Mylapore (if you’re visiting, know this, Mylapore is the cultural hub of Chennai if you want a peek of Old Madras). And you can get a glass just for INR 15. Can we just swim in a pool of this on a hot summer’s day? Please God!  Read more here.

For the best things to do in Mylapore, click here. 

Mutton Kola Urundai

Meaty, delicious goodness moulded into little crunchy balls (don’t laugh!) — we really do love mutton kola urundai! Home-made minced mutton with spicy masalas — what’s not to love? Drop by the legendary Trouser Anna Kadai in Mandaveli and make it a part of your meal there for lunchtime. Read more here.

Thaiyyir Sadam

Yes, we know there’s nothing that can match up to Amma’s creamy thaiyyir saadam but if you’re a newbie in town who’s a Chennaiite at heart, tuck into curd rice at Sangeetha Veg Restaurant or Agraharam. 

Chicken 65

One must try a dish made in the land of where it was invented, no? Did you know that Buhari, famous for its biryani, also was the first to create this popular starter we all love called Chicken 65? Rumour has it that the iconic restaurant made the dish in 1965 using curry leaves, along with ginger, garlic, red chillies and vinegar and the recipe has changed slightly over the years. But hey, we’re not complaining. Read more about Buhari here.

Podi Idli

This fabulous combination of spicy podi and soft idlies makes us drool — a delicious South Indian brekkie to kickstart the day, we think! We found our favourites at Ratna Café — dunk those idlis in their delicious sweet vengayam (onion) chutney and you’re sorted! If you want spicy podi that’ll leave your nose runny, check out Murugan Idli shop. if you're really curious, we actually compared the dish at both places. Read the verdict here.

Fried Fish

The best part of living in coastal city? Stuffing your face with fresh seafood, of course! We found some local stalls at the beach that serve up some yummy seafood and the stalls are named after the boss lady akkas in charge! There’s Sundari Akka Kadai in Marina where she whips up home-style fried fish with peanut-based masalas and more! Read more about the place here.

Liver Roast

If you find offal (the heart and other organs of an animal, used as food) not so awful, try authentic Chettinad preparations where the main ingredients are brains and liver tossed in spicy masala mixes. If you’re not squeamish, Amma Chettinad Restaurant offers authentic Chettinad cuisine and you can pair your organ dishes with kothu parotta.

Masala Dosa & Filter Coffee

Now, we know it's not a single dish, but this combo is truly a winner! Your trip or stay in Chennai is incomplete if you don’t take of a whiff of authentic filter kaapi at least once a day. Almost every restaurant or kutti tea kadai offers fresh, hot tumblers of this beverage. I personally love mine nice and strong at Hot Chips, Sangeetha, and New Woodlands Hotel.

And if idlis are not enough to fill your bellies turn to the popular favourite — thin crispy dosas stuffed with juicy bits of potatoes, tossed in masalas. Usually made with batter made from scratch, and poured onto hot pans, get your fill at popular joints like Saravana Bhavan or small but legendary places like Vishranthi in Bessy.

Murukku Sandwich

Crispy, spicy, and exclusive to Chennai, we’re proud of our murukku sandwiches. And for those of you craving them right now or haven’t tried them yet (it’s not too late), head to Links in Purusawakkam to get a plate of this simple but so tasty snack. Know more about murukku sandwiches here. 


Feeling nostalgic? We've got something that might make you grin harder. Check out this list of snacks that are bound to remind you of your younger version on LBB.