Mornings in Madras

We have returned! What began as the trip-that-wasn’t-to-be turned into that-which-would-never-end, but all things, good or not, must come to an end.  Overall, it was an amazing, exhilarating, eye-opening experience, worth every penny spent.

Currently I’m under house arrest due to an infernal cold, the expected result of fatigue and weary traveling, and this time to myself and my thoughts has allowed the opportunity to reminisce over the glorious morning treat I had nearly every day in Madras—the most fulfilling chai in the universe. I know a lot of the husband’s friends, whom I met for the first time and whom he hadn’t seen for seven or more years, are probably wondering if/when they will be the subject of a post, but I must save their rapid fire speaking and relentless desires to eat out for later, my mind cannot stray from that glorious milky drink that brought a sunrise to my soul.The husband and I were fortunate enough to stay in a cozy, comfortable, and super-welcoming “service apartment” which rang similar to a bed-and-breakfast. Converted from a childhood home of one of Gautam’s old classmates, the Mellow Inn brought exactly that, mellowness and peace in the midst of a chaotic Madras (btw: Madras is currently known as Chennai, but as the husband refuses to call it anything but Madras, I will follow suit). I honestly cannot stop raving about the home and its simple beauty, brightness, cleanliness, warmth, etc etc etc. Furthermore, a portion of their profits goes to fund a school outside of Madras established for HIV-afflicted children. If anyone ever needs a place to stay in that city, seriously, ask me for details. The two-hour daily power outages didn’t even phase me while there, that’s how much comfort it brought. But of course, there was another reason who came in the form of a little, head-bobbing caretaker ever-present with a smile—Mr. Kavoo.

madras mellow inn balcony

What can bring more joy then to be welcomed every morning with, “Good morning madam. Tea?” Nothing, except perhaps the prospects of two cups of chai, since I never really pointed out in the first week that “Sir” doesn’t drink tea. What? I won’t like, it was delicious! And probably super fattening too, but when in Madras…

Kavoo also brought us a daily breakfast ensemble every morning at our request, ranging from idlis, dosas, sambar, chutneys, pongal, vadas… If you’re new to South Indian cuisine, majority of these items are made from rice and urad daal (lentil) batters, either steamed, fried, made into crepes, etc. Truly, being presented with a freshly made idli (steamed patty) wrapped in a banana leaf is nothing short of supreme. And I could have drained 3 cups of the sambar, a type of stew/broth made with red lentils and tamarind (I think)! Delicious! Of course, my tummy couldn’t handle this on a daily basis, but on occasion I would feast for breakfast in traditional South Indian style.

While reminiscing about these treats, I thought perhaps my first post into the adventure that was South India (we unfortunately did not make it to Delhi et al due to a family emergency, but not to fret, all is well!) could expose you to the various morntime dishes I experienced. Be forewarned, if you haven’t eaten you might start salivating on your keyboard.

Fresh from the banana leaf, at our request!
Dosa, Idli and Sambar with coconut and mint chutneys

One morning we went with a friend to Saravana Bhavan, a popular place for these items as well as full meals (description of those to come later!).  G’s dosa (like a savory crepe) was like a sunrise on a plate.

The husband ready to feast on a massive dosa

He also dined on a vada (fried patty) and various chutneys, served with utmost care and authenticity.

Vada and Idlis with chutneys galore: coconut, mint, tomato, and tamarind

I on the other hand dabbled in more tea:

Happiness, thy name is Alya!!

One day we ventured down to Pondicherry, which was once a French colony: remnants of France persist from the street names to the officers in French police garb.  But nothing can quell the South Indian Spirit, and the massive Dosa that awaited us there…

A Tunnel of Taste!
In the Eye of the Stormy Dosa

I had something new, I believe this is Pongal: a boiled mixture of rice and yellow moong daal, with distinct South Indian spices including but not limited to curry leaves.

a Mushy delight of Pongal

Our penultimate day in Madras began with a trip to the beach at Sunrise (resulting in the captivating first photo) and then a sojourn to New Woodlands Hotel. Ahh, there’s something new to share: evidently (according to G’s uber-helpful and super talkative friend) restaurants cannot serve alcohol unless they offer rooms to stay as well. Hence a number of restaurants are called, and are in some form or another, hotels.  This cleared up years of confusion when I would always correct the husband for wanting to go to a hotel for dinner.  Anyhoo, random tidbit.  This was my breakfast.

a final treat: Upuma... primarily made of rava (a type of grain according to the husband)

So there: just a gander of the traditional South Indian treats to be had for breakfast… lunch… or dinner, I imagine.  granted, we tried a whole slew of restaurants–er, and some hotels hehe–so I’m happy to say I didn’t get fat only on idli and dosa.  No, there was a LOT of rice in other forms to be had.



  1. Niiiice. Why didn’t you post this when i was still in Madras??!! My mouth’s watering and i can’t even go back for another bite, brrr!!! 🙂

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