Do you know Madurai, Tamilnadu, India is a popular pilgrimage spot and center of many attractions in the Indian Tourist Map – not for its innumerable heritage Temples alone, but also for the best, inexpensive and alluring Madurai Cuisine? If not, really you are missing something.
It is no hype that Madurai being a busy pilgrimage center, with a heavy floating population (6000 devotees per day in the Meenakshi Amman Temple), is ever ready to serve multi-cuisine, to cater to assorted types of visitors every day. It is only here in this “City that never sleeps” a visitor at the dead of night can confidently walk into any roadside restaurants (equivalent to the western countries’ fast- food counters) to eat his belly full, hot (in both the senses of - heated and chilly-spicy) food varieties. (In cities like Chennai, all the vegetarian hotels close maximum at 10 pm and then on, only non-vegetarian hotels will be available.) You can also see sign boards of hotels….. Bhavan by day…and ….Bhavan by night, only at Madurai.
That said, normally South Indians, particularly Tamilians, prefer certain food items wherever they are (like the Chinese longing for Noodles). The foremost of them is Iddly – a rice cake baked in the oven (from rice plus urid dhal batter, soaked for hours to make the end product soft). You will relish the taste, if you dip it in Sambar (gravy made of tamarind with dhal) and send it down. Added to Sambar, Madurai restaurants place an array of side-dish chutney (hot chilly paste) varieties – coconut chutney; onion chutney; coriander chutney; puthina chutney and chilly-powder mixed with oil and so on for Iddly.
For the breakfast, you can have – Iddly; Dosai (a round shaped item made of rice batter; here again a host of varieties like plain dosai; onion dosai; masala dosai; paper roast etc.) Pongal (cooked rice with ghee and dhal); Vadai (fried cakes of urid dhal batter); Idiyappam (rice noodles); Poori (made of wheat-flavor and fried in oil) Chapatti (same flavor but roasted without oil); Paratha (same as chapatti but made of autta-flavor) – just to quote a few.
The Lunch and Dinner in Madurai Vegetarian hotels will normally be – South Indian Meals (served on banana-leaves traditionally – both hygiene for every individual and saves time cleaning plates) consisting of – Rice; Chapatti or Poori; Sambar; Rasam (diluted version of sambar) cooked varieties of vegetables – fried; churned; baked; and mixed with coconut paste; Payasam (sweet semi-liquid) Curd; Pappad (fried dhal-made wafers) and Pickles.
For non-vegetarians, you have a very wide choice to choose from unlimited varieties of items, made of chicken; mutton; fish and eggs. Your meals can be rice with any of these dishes or Paratha with side dishes. Many foreigners visiting Madurai go in for these vegetarian and non-vegetarian items, as a welcome change from their routine – white bread; cheese and hamburger.
In non-vegetarian dishes, you can have some of the Madurai specials – “Ayirai Meen Kuzhambu” (a hot sauce with small fish); “Dhum Biriyani” (Chicken or Mutton rice); “Kozhi Varuval” (chicken cooked with spices) or “Moolai Varuval” (lamb brain cooked in traditional masala) etc.
The best part is after a sumptuous meal, you will have a pleasant surprise on seeing the bill, for it would be just a fraction of the amount, what you would have paid in your country!
Madurai is a prominent pilgrimage center, situated 498 Kms (308 miles) south-west of Chennai (formerly Madras), the capital of Tamilnadu State.