Seena Bhai’s Oothappam

There’s a certain thing about eating out. You know, the whole ‘different’ experience. And then, when you eat stuff outside home that you would anyway get at home, the experience is, hmmm, well, kinda better.
I am not making any sense, am I? It’s like this – you first went out to a restaurant to eat food you wouldn’t get at home normally. Then you went there for food that was made differently. Now, though, restaurant sell themselves on how food they make is exactly like food back home. Full circle?, all that preamble is to introduce to you dear folks is Mr. Seena. Or, to the tamils, Seena Anne and to the Hindis/Marus/Gujjus of North Madras, Cheena bhai. Seena annan makes oothappams. Thick, small pancakes with onion, chillies and ‘மிளகாய் பொடி’ (Gun powder to those who know it)

Seena annan shop, oops, little hole in the wall is located in that part of Madras fondly referred to as Town. Chennai’s answer to London’s City and NewYork’s Lower Manhattan. A part of Madras that is trying to salvage its once-upon-a-time glory as the city’s commercial and financial centre.

The Seena bhai shop is on Mint street, and according to locals and aliens (south Madras types) the best place for a quick snack on Dosai/Idly/Oothappam. Having tasted the stuff, I would almost agree. He does make the best darn Oothappam I’ve had outside of home and Saravana Bhavan (see, there was a point to all that preamble) But what makes the experience real cool is that you are surrounded by Hindi speakers, relishing a Tamil dish, in a part Tamil, part Telegu city, in a street that bears an English name.

After Oothappam, (which was hot, spicy and super good within certain parameters) I set out on Idly. Idly is only about half the size of the ones I am used to. Yet, very soft, eatably good and is served with generous amounts of gunpowder. One can easily polish of 20 of them and not know where they went to. That’s how light and small and tasty the snack is. Wholly recommended.

So, if you find yourself in North Madras, and also find yourself hungry, Seena anna is the to-go guy.

4 Comments so far

  1. Peter (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 5:13 am

    Please tell us unenlightened foreigners what “gunpowder” is. Enquiring minds want to know!

  2. WA (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 5:21 am

    oothappam followed by idlis is called snack???

  3. vinod (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 11:03 am

    gunpowder = chilli powder, just like chutney and sambar it is an accompaniment, you add a little of the powder mix it with ghee or oil and have it with the idli’s and dosas…

  4. Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan (unregistered) on July 30th, 2006 @ 6:46 pm

    Gun powder, MiLagai podi in tamil, is the spicy powder made from chillies, pusles and assorted condiments, to go with dosai and Idly. Spicy enough for some western tongues, they dubbed it Gun powder, and the name stuck.

    WA: Well, yes. To me, and to a lot of people there. The Idly was tiny, and the oothappam only relatively bigger.

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