Comprehensive Guide to Street Food in Chennai

Street food is an emotion. And no one can deny that! From push carts, food trucks, sidewalk vendors, beachside eateries and even speciality restaurants serve popular street foods from across the country in Chennai style!

If you thought Chennai’s food scene is all about sambar vada and chutneys, Chennai’s rich street food culture will change your mind! Here is a list of must-try street foods if you are in Chennai and the places you have to visit to try these irresistible dishes:

Chaat – The one food which is an universal favourite of Indians – Gol gappas, bhel puri, dahi puri and of-course the drool worthy vada pavs. Other than the many restaurants that serve Chennai-style chaat regularly, you should not miss the authentic joints at one of Chennai’s popular chaat street – the Mint Street. Kakada Ramprasad on this street is always buzzing with crowd which is an indicator of the lip-smacking food. Other places that serve equally chaat are Gangotree, Kailash Parbhat and Mansukh’s. The recently renewed Pondy Bazaar stretch is specificall popular ofr joints like Hot Chips and Snacks and smaller outlet. Don’t miss the typical Bhel Puri of Chennai!

Kothu Parotta – THE kothu parotta (fondly called as Barotta down south) is an omnipresent dish in most South Indian speciality restaurants in Chennai. Of course in Chennai, every street corner, we have a joint that serves delicious kothu parotta off push carts. Sometimes also Mushroom Manchurian that kothu (smashed and jammed!) are popular in most places. If you are looking to sit and dine – Parotta street at OMR street food offers a specialized menu of a variety of parottas. From girlfriend parotta to papaya stuffed parotta, this joint is one of the best for street food in Chennai. Other places which serve lip smacking parottas are Dindugal Thalapakatti and Ponnusamy restaurant.

South Indian Parotta

Hot Jalebis – The very name makes us salivate – one of the best and crispiest sweets, the NorthIndian cousin of our very own Jangri. Mansukh’s sweets in T,Nagar serves piping hot jalebis every morning and be sure to grab them before they are off the shelf. Shubh in Nungambakkam is also one of Chennai’s best jalebi stall. Another place from where huge crowds pick their favourite sweet is Kakada Ramprasad’s in Sowcarpet and Shree Mithai’s various outlets.

Mansukh Chennai
Hot Jelebis from Mansukh, T. Nagar

Jigarthanda – Picking up from top joints from Madurai – the all-time favourite drink, Jigarthanda which literally means “cold heart”, is a refreshing drink special to Tamil Nadu. Known for its cooling properties, this drink is available in many spots in Chennai. Madurai Vilakuthoon Hanifa on Ranganathan street, T.Nagar, is your go-to place to lay your hands on this delicious nectar. Madurai jigarthanda is another great place which serves this frozen drink with the goodness of Nannari. Murugan Idli Shop’s various outlets in the city are another sit-down and sip place to go for the best Jigarthandas.

Image Source – Pinterest

Bread omelettes – An intermediary between a snack and a meal, bread ‘omlets’ are a trademark of Chennai street food. With many street vendors and small joints serving this dish, there are a few places in Chennai known for this speciality. Alsa mall, Egmore, has a legendary small joint outside the mall, which serves delicious bread omlets and other sandwiches. Popular amongst college goers and the young crowd, the egg bread omlet with green chutney will leave you wanting for more

Chinese – Every Chennai city highway has 24 7 fast food joints (if you are concerned about hygiene especially in the Covid19 season please ensure you have your sanitizers with you) serve Chicken fried rice and Noodles, the life saver of many hungry young professionals who work at night.

Chicken Fried Rice

Bajji – Anyone who knows Chennai, knows that one of the best and main street foods of Chennai is its Bajjis and Vadas, easily available on cart in every street corner or tea stall any time after 3 PM! No one goes hungry in this city with these being available at very cheap rates everywhere; the beaches (Marina, Elliot’s and Kottivakkam) in Chennai are one of the hottest places to find 5 style Bajjis with hot chutney. Don’t miss the Gobi 65! The Grand Sweets and Snacks is another place to be in Chennai for all types of paniyarams, adais, polis, chaats and of course bajji, vada, bondas!

Kuzhi Paniyaram

Bonda Vada
Bonda Vada

Lassi – You wouldn’t think you would see Lassi in the list of street food to try in Chennai, but you just did! With the temperature always scorching in Chennai, chilled beverages are a relief! Bombay Lassi in Triplicane serves one of the best Lassis in Chennai. The street in Chennai behind Devi theatre is a relief, not only for the heat of the city, but also to our taste buds. Anmol Mohit Lassi in George town also serves one of the best kheer lassi and on a hot, humid day, this is the best quencher.

Lassi

Samosa-patani-sundal – This is a typical Chennai-style “healthy” snack found on push carts everywhere especially by the beachside. Our very own version on Chole Samosa but made with dried peas curry and samsa (as we like to call it). With crunchy corn flakes on top, this is the best protein meal you can have under Rs.30 in the city. Add some Keera Vada and you got the crunchiest vegetarian protein on the go!

Roadside cart – Patani Sundal with corn flakes

Idli – The best for the last! It has been around all the time and hard to imagine a day without this simple steamed rice based dish – our very own Idli. They are delicious, light on the stomach, healthy and versatile – they go with sambhar, chutney and podi. From every street’s thattu-kada seller to restaurants ensure they stock up on it because we never get enough of Idlis in Chennai!

Idli vada
Idli Vada

You can also find other popular street foods such as Paniyarams, Kulfis, Polis, Kalan, Vada, Dosa and even Soup stalls everywhere. Oh how can we forget rose milk! Almost available in every South Indian restaurant from HSB to Sangeetha but the best place to try it (hard core foodies in communities online swear by it!) is the Kalathi Kadai in Mylapore! A visit to Chennai is incomplete without visiting any of the places mentioned. With all the scrumptiousness, without a doubt, Chennai is one of the most interesting cities to explore for street foods of India!

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