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Epiphany and the Idli

`Namma tiffin' draws the crowds, even late into the night at Murugan's Idli Shop

Pics. by M. Moorthy

THIS IS a paean to the idli and dosai. Besides rice, there are no other dishes that represent the South Indian way of life better than these two. Dosai or thosai is mentioned in Tamil Sangam literature.

Idli makes its first appearance on record in 920 AD in `Vaddaradhane', a Kannada work.

Health experts are constantly dinning into us how wholesome the idli is. The traditional Tamizh dosai, the thicker variety, too is a healthy option.

Looking at the white fluffy idlis steaming on green plantain leafs at the Murugan's Idli Shop on G. N. Chetty Road, T. Nagar, I had one of those epiphanic moments when beauty and wisdom are revealed. The din in the background faded and the senses were sharpened. I understood why the ancient Tamizh poets were entranced by idlis. They have been compared to the moon and jasmine flowers in literature. It was with reverence that I ate those perfect pieces of culinary art.

I admit that I am impressed by the fact that these idlis cost only Rs. 4.50 a piece and that I had to wait nearly 10 minutes on the pavement on a Wednesday night at 9.30 to snag a table.

Better idlis may be available at more exclusive places or private homes. But that does not diminish the success of Murugan's Idli Shop.


It is here one can have an excellent sample of a typical Madrasi tiffin; say two idlis, an Onion Uttappam and a good coffee for less that Rs. 40. No wonder, there is a queue outside even late in the night!

Now let's move on to Onion Uttappam (Rs.18) that was nonpareil. It is thicker than usual and pale brown on both sides with the softest, tastiest middle. The semi-browned onion topping is like the icing on the cake.

Having been impressed with the thicker one I proceeded to the thinner Ghee dosai (Rs. 22). Murugan knows his fundas; thick or thin, his dosais are fabulous.

There are Milk Pedas (Rs. 26/200gm) for those who want to finish on a sweet note. The service is fast and efficient. The waiters are an indefatigable lot, always looking out to see whether anybody is running short of chutney or sambar.

So one hardly has to ask for anything except order the dishes.

Ambience: it's bedlam out there, but there's method in the madness.

Go and experience `namma tiffin' at the Murugan's Idli Shop. Here are the phone numbers: 28155462/52025076.

MARIEN MATHEW

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