CHENNAI: A whiteboard reading green gram dosa, black-eyed bean sundal, white corn adai and palm jaggery paniyaram made us stop by Kagini, a new eatery at Kora Food Street in Anna Nagar. We are welcomed by a line of vessels made of brass, copper and bronze inside the shop. Lamps suspended from the ceiling highlight the intricate designs of Athangudi tiles that adorn the floor. A bench or two with 10 chairs is placed at the entrance and behind the shop for customers.
Back to the roots
Piping-hot idlis are left to steam inside idli cookers, spicy adais are being prepared on a tawa and crispy vadas are being fried in oil. The six-month-old restaurant is run by husband-wife duo Subbu Alagappan and Rajalakshmi. They moved from Karaikudi to Chennai 15 years ago. What started out as a kiosk at Virugambakkam three years back, expanded into a slightly bigger one at Valasaravakkam. The latest one is at Anna Nagar. While the first two branches serve snacks, the new one serves dinner.
“Organic food has always been in demand. We serve my mother-in-law’s Chettinad recipes and what our ancestors consumed back then. Initially, people were hesitant to try out the items. There are several misconceptions about organic ingredients such as ragi induces heat in the body, kollu helps reduce weight and more. Partially it’s true, but we need to look beyond those that are commonly available in the market in the name of millets,” says Rajalakshmi.
Taste of Chettinad
The raw materials for that day’s preparation like batter and spices are made at home. Cold-pressed oil, palm sugar, and palm jaggery are commonly used. Milk is freshly extracted from home-bred cows every morning, and ghee and curd are prepared from it. They source herbs and greens from markets and serve the food in bamboo leaves. “We’ve been having a decent footfall since the launch. The vessels are 100 years old. Our idli cooker has only one plate and 13 idlis can be prepared in one batch. The modern-day households have three layers and it reduces the quality and taste when the water drips from one layer to another,”says Rajalakshmi.
We are first served drumstick leaves soup. The juice extracted from boiled leaves is peppered with salt and spices to balance the bitterness. One of their specialties is coconut milk garlic porridge, which is said to cool down the body heat. Meanwhile, foxtail kozhukattai, green gram idli, jaggery suyyam, and millet vada find a spot in our plate in ample portions. As dessert, we savour on samai payasam. We wrap with water that has a mix of vettiver — this root is used to cool the body — and thetran kottai, a seed that is said to increase the potassium content in water by increasing its PH.
“We use nathai soori (a medicinal seed) and naval pazham (jamun fruit) seeds to prepare coffee. Avarampoo (Tanner’s cassia) and karupatti tea are also famous. We have a new menu every day. We also serve ragi balls or kali, kamban choru, porridges, and 50-60 varieties of payasam. We haven’t gone commercial yet. We want to spread the concept unave marunthu — food is medicine,” she adds.
Details: Kagini restaurant is at Kora Food Street, Anna Nagar. Open from 4 pm to 12 pm. Priced from `50.