How restaurants in Chennai are offering everyday essentials that make cooking at home a breeze

From ready-to-use dosa and vada batter, to podis that can be had with hot rice are available

“We are talking about the new normal, but I think that too is constantly changing,” says NS Krishnamoorthy, proprietor Prem’s Grama Bhojanam, a restaurant that specialises in millet-based food.

“Three months ago, there were no takers even for takeaways, but over the past few weeks, customers have gradually started walking in. On our part, we are playing it safe and pruned our menu to avoid wastage and serve customers with the inadequate manpower we have,” he says.

The pandemic has encouraged restaurateurs to manage resources, while adapting to a rapidly changing market. “We launched millet idli and dosa batter during lockdown. Of course, everyone was actively cooking at home then, but dosa batter saves them time. We also sell kollu podi, pandu mirapakaya (ripe chilli) pickle, multi-vegetable, lemon and gongura pickle, all of which get sold out in no time,” adds Krishnamoorthy.

Peanut chutney

  • Recipe: N.S.Krishanmoorthy
  • Ingredients
  • Peanut 250 grams
  • Tamarind, size of gooseberry
  • Kashmiri chilli 2
  • Dry red chilli 2
  • Cumin 1 teaspoon
  • Jaggery 1 teaspoon
  • Crystal salt as per taste
  • Method
  • Dry roast the peanut on a slow flame and allow it to cool. In little oil roast both variety of chilli and add to peanut. In mixer grinder, grind to coarse paste all the ingredients along with peanut and chillies. If serving immediately, you can add water or buttermilk. Or else this powder can be stored in airtight container in fridge for upto a month. When required, take the powder in a bowl, add butter milk or water and use as chutney.

A delivery-only restaurant with five cloud kitchens across the city, Suvai Bhavan, offers stay at home specials, where three types of vada batter (masala, medhu and keerai vada); pesarattu batter; idli and dosa batter; rava and ragi dosa premix and rava kesari premix, are home delivered. Accompaniments can be ordered separately.

“We opened during lockdown to cater to people who preferred restaurant-style food at affordable rates. An essential everyday requirement such as ready-to-use batter has gone down well with customers,” says Nitin Suresh, general manager, SPI Diners, who own the brand.

Nalina Kannan of Thaligai, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant, had plans to open another branch in the city. This has stalled due to the pandemic, so she shifted focus.

How restaurants in Chennai are offering everyday essentials that make cooking at home a breeze

“My kulambu and rasam powders are popular among our regular customers. Unable to come to the restaurant, they began inquiring about my podis. Which is why I decided to sell them online,” says Nalina. Assisted by two helpers and a head chef, Nalina oversees the preparation, where every day, they make eight to 10 kilograms of podi.

“Orders are couriered across India. I hope to make work from home easy for people, and such varieties come in handy in everyday cooking. Each of our podis has dual utility,” she explains.

For example, her coconut podi can be mixed with hot rice. It can also be used as flavouring for vegetable stew. She adds, “Similarly, curry leaves podi can be mixed in tamarind water, boiled and garnished to make a gravy or just added to hot rice and ghee.” Thaligai also offers idli and dosa batter.

With many people still working from home, podis, pickles and ready-to-use batter make meal planning easier. As popular Chef K Damodaran sums it up, “Sourcing ready to use essentials gives you the feel of enjoying restaurant food in the safety and comfort of your home. This is a win-win situation for restaurants and customers.”

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