As far as Chennai’s vegetarian street food is concerned, there is no better area to visit than the streets that surround the popular Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore. The temple’s evening prasadam (or religious offerings) such as puliyodharai (tamarind rice) or curd rice are considered a delicacy and are popular among devotees. However, once you step out of the complex, there are dozens of popular stalls selling all kinds of street food ranging from the popular idli/dosa to traditional sweets and savouries. Whether you head to popular stalls such as Jannal Kadai (Window Shop) for some hot pongal or stop by the hole-in-the-wall Kalathi News Mart for some frothing rose milk, you’ll never run out of options here.
There is no culinary experience that is more symbolic of Chennai than eating a freshly fried plate of bhajjis with chutney at the Marina Beach. Bhajji are made with an assortment of vegetables such as chilli peppers, onions or potatoes that are sliced, dipped in lentil flour and fried in oil, and are a popular snack in Chennai. If you’re in the mood for some meat, try fried fish, usually made with the day’s fresh catch. While the beaches at Marina and Besant Nagar are filled with dozens of stalls selling bhajjis and fried fish, they are also popular for other street food items such as roasted corn-on-the-cob. In any case, eating bhajjis by the beach in Chennai is not a food experience, but rather a ritual that is not to be missed!
The only other place in T Nagar that draws as many customers as its popular shopping district is the street food market at Srinivasa Road. The market is usually buzzing in the evening with several shops selling various street food to shoppers and office-workers who drop by in large numbers to grab a quick bite. Specialties include popular dishes such as kingfish fry, chicken fry, kothu parotta (shredded roti) and kal (stone) dosa (crèpe-style pancakes).
Best known for its vibrant Hindi-speaking population and culture, Sowcarpet is one of Chennai’s best destinations for trying out North-Indian food specialties. Of particular note is the street food market on Mint Street which is famous for its numerous sweet and savoury stalls serving hot jalebis (sweet fried batter) and samosas (crispy meat- or vegetable-filled snack) and chaat stalls with items such as pani puri (savoury crispy snack).
The Koyembedu Bus Terminus is Chennai’s biggest transit point and draws thousands of commuters on a daily basis. So it is only natural that the area both inside and outside the terminus is dotted with numerous street food stalls that dish out a variety of fast food items ranging from South and North Indian to even Chinese. However, the most prominent specialty of this street food market is South Indian tiffin items such as idli, dosa, and vada.
When it comes to delicacies such as biryani, haleem or Mughlai varieties, there is no better street-food destination in Chennai than the thoroughfares surrounding the famous Periamet Mosque. This area particularly lights up during the lead up to Ramadan when street food vendors from as far away as Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad come to set up stalls here. Of particular note are specialty dishes such as chicken biryani, mutton haleem, gosht korma, and nombu kanji (nutritious gruel).