As someone who was born and had grownup in Madurai, Good food (especially non-vegetarian dishes) is something I terribly miss after coming to Bangalore. Madurai for me is a foodies' paradise - both at home and outside. This post is just a nostalgic journey, looking back on some of my favorite food that bring back flavorful memories... (the list is in no particular order).
1. Sura puttu (Shark Scramble) - Sea food is always my favorite, as most of my friends know. So its no surprise that Shark finds a place in this list. Sharks (Milk Shark / Paal Sura) were not commonly available in those days and were considered a delicacy whenever so. They were prepared only in the 'puttu' form- scrambled with spices and coconut gratings and had a unique flavor and taste.
The best puttu I have tasted outside my home was at 'Kumar mess'. The quantity was less and overpriced , but the taste was authentic.
|My wife's prepration!
2. Mutton sukka /chukka( Mutton fry/dry) - Deep fried Mutton preparation always brings back memories of my grandma (Annie aachi). She used to make the best ones and she always used to give it as a snack on a small plate to me fresh from the pan.
In those days , Konar kadai (simmakal) was my favorite joint to taste boneless chukka along with Kari dosai..
|my try at Chukka
3. Urundai kari / kola urundai (meat balls) - another dish that brings back memories of my grandma. As a kid, I used to sit by her side and watch her roll the meat balls by hand. As soon as they come out of the pan, she'll give them to me fresh and hot...They will melt in my mouth in their full textural and flavorful glory!
You can get decent ones in places like Amma mess & Chandran mess, but nothing can replace the perfection of homemade ones.
|My wife continues the tradition...
4. Ayirai meen Kolambu (Loaches) - I have fond childhood memories of hunting for these little fishes in the muddy streams (that connect to vaigai river) for my aquarium. These fishes have a distinct muddy flavor that comes with their source and need good cleaning before cooking. They are generally put inside a pot of butter milk to make the fish spitout the mud. Amma mess and Kumar mess prepared the best ayirai meen kolambu. My late friend Mr.Balan always made sure that there was Ayirai meen from Kumar mess on the lunch menu whenever I visited Madurai to meet him.
|The first Kumar mess at Chinna chokkikulam
5. Viral meen (snakehead murrel) - Another fish that comes alive in the market. Whenever I accompanied my grandma to the Karimedu fish market as a toddler, grandma always used to get one of the smallest ones for me and it used to survive for a few days inside a Horlicks bottle!
Its one of the tastiest fishes I have tried and the fried fish is quite popular in most restaurants in Madurai. The Viral meen kolambu at home was always lip smacking !
6. Uppu kandam (dry mutton) - This was a preparation of meat invented before the era of refrigeration! As a kid, I remember this was a common scene - lines of marinated meat pieces on jute string left to 'sun-dry' on the terrace... Uppu kandam with curd rice was divine! This is a dish that has vanished from our kitchen after the advent of refrigerators!
7. Mathi meen (Sardines) - my favorite fish any day and arguably the tastiest sea fish of them all ! I can eat unlimited fried Mathi fish. Even the kolambu prepared by my mom was uniquely tasty.
8. Savvurotti varuval (Goat spleen fry) - One of my most favorite dishes. It is made in the mutton Chukka style and needs some cooking skill to make it perfect.
I remember frequenting the Sri Janakiram hotel at Thalakulam at night during my younger days. This food joint is a mandabam that gets temporarily vacated during the Chithirai month for the deity to rest as the procession passes through Thalakulam. Rest of the year they made the best Savvurotti varuval in those days!
9. Nethili (Anchovy fish) - One of the tastiest fishes in any form - fried , dry or in kolambu ! Nethili karuvadu (dry fish) can be eaten as a snack. Fried fishes go well with any main course.
|home made Nethili fry
PS : Here I have not included my favorite dishes like regular Goat meat, Liver, Brain, etc and sea food like Crab, Prawn, Squid, Seer fish, Emperor fish etc that are part of my regular & frequent diet. The list only includes food items or preparations that have become occasional on my table now a days...