10 Foods You Can't Miss in Chennai

By Muzna Noohu | 23, Feb, 2018
10 Foods You Can't Miss in Chennai

If you haven't got Chennai on your list of places to visit, and you identify as a foodie, you need to add it immediately! Being a food-lover and a Muslim does come with its complications, but that's why Chennai is one of the best places to go! Not only are there so many famous food outlets in Chennai offering cuisines from all around the world, they are all almost certain to be Halal or Muslim-friendly.

And the other great part about being on a food-lover's journey in this Southern city (and really all of India) is that the grub is incredibly affordable. And of course, Chennai is known for its famous street food, which is the cheapest of them all.


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You'll find little shops in every corner of the city selling all kinds of fried goodness and hearty food. The locals lounge around during the morning and evening, drinking tea and munching on these goodies. Another great thing about street food in Chennai is that almost all of it is vegetarian, but you should still make sure of it with every vendor. Here at Halal Trip, we have a whole list of the best vegetarian food in Chennai that you should definitely give a try!

More about food in Chennai

Find a Halal Restaurant near you in Chennai

Here are are some of the best Indian foods that you can't miss on your next visit to Chennai:

1. Pani Puri

Although Pani Puri hails from the Northern states of the country (where it has a few different names depending on who you ask), Chennai has had a longstanding love-affair with this simple, yet delicious street food.

Small crispy puffs (puri) are filled with a potato filling and served with sweet and minty watery syrups (pani). You're supposed to fill the puff with the syrups and in a very gentlemanly, or lady-like manner... shove the entire thing in your mouth. It's delicious and fun!

2. Sandwiches

Sandwiches are another street food favorite in Chennai, which shouldn't really surprise you, because who doesn't love bread?

But the sandwiches in Chennai are unique enough to earn a mention on this list. They are almost always vegetarian, but there are plenty of non-vegetarian street food outlets in Chennai selling Halal food as well. The simplest (also cheapest and most common) of them, though, is a sandwich filled with potatoes, tomatoes, and onions, smeared with a spicy chutney. Cheese is then placed outside of the bread and topped with crispy sev and tomato sauce.

3. Lassi

Picture Credit - Nivasdurai, commons.wikimedia.org

If you're looking for something to help you cool down from facing the brutal heat of Chennai's summer (or any other time, really), then this is the perfect drink for you. A lassi is a drink that is made from blending up curd, which means its also healthy!

It comes in sweet and salty, but also with variations like mango lassi, banana lassi, cardamom lassi, saffron lassi, etc. There are many famous lassi shops in Chennai where you can try this yummy concoction, including the aptly named “Lassi Shop” which has branches all around the city.

4. Gobi Manchurian

Picture Credit - Harsha K, commons.wikimedia.org

Any fair or carnival wouldn't be complete without these crispy, crunchy spiced cauliflower fritters. It's deceptively simple, yet so good it'll almost always have you coming back for more. You'd also come across more than a few carts selling them along the side of the roads and at all the beaches.

5. Mithai

Picture Credit - DDohler, commons.wikimedia.org

It's no secret that Indians love their dessert. Traditional Indian sweets called “Mithai” are an essential part of an Indian's life, be it a special occasion or just an ordinary day at home. There are so many types of these sweets you could try. From the piping hot jalebis straight out of the oil, to the kids' favourite, Bombay Mittai, or the cooling kufli ice cream, there's no wrong choice!

For a more extensive list of all the luxurious traditional Indian sweets you should give a try, read our article on 18 Must-try Traditional Indian Sweets, and 7 Desserts in Chennai and where to find them

6. Dosa & Idly

Got less than 100 rupees in your pocket and wondering how to find Muslim-friendly food near you in Chennai where you can have a hearty meal out of it?

Walk a few miles in any direction and we can guarantee you'll come across one of these. Dosas and idlies are Tamil Nadu's unofficial national dishes, so you can find them literally anywhere! Every corner has a street cart that sells crispy dosas and soft idlies coupled with the quintessential sambar and chutney (and maybe even a fried egg). And that 100 rupees is enough to feed you and a friend as well!

7. Bajjis

Picture Credit - Bhaskaranaidu, commons.wikimedia.org

There's no chance of you visiting any of Chennai's beaches or fairs and leaving without your tummy full with these delicious fritters. Vegetables like plantains, potatoes, and onions are dipped in a batter made of chickpea flour and served with a spicy chutney.

Another variation of the ever-popular bajji is the bread bajji. Here, an entire sandwich (made with a potato filling cut in half) is dipped in the bajji batter and fried up!

8. Biryani

Biryani has come to be known as the “Muslim dish” in Chennai, but the love for this popular rice dish is shared by all. Although you can find Biryani at some of the top restaurants in the city, you will also come across street food shops selling them. Many will tell you this is the most authentic way to experience this dish (or if you're lucky to be invited for a meal at a Muslim's home).

Even one of the most famous Biryani chain restaurants in Chennai called “Aasife Biryani” got it's start selling out of a single rundown food cart!

9. Momos

Photo credit - Kushal Goyal, en.wikipedia.org

Like a foreign exchange student that comes to your class and becomes the most popular girl in school, momos are a type of "migratory food," that has managed to capture the hearts of Indians all over. Although it's very prominent in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, Chennai's love for momos has been slowly but steadily progressing as well.

The dish is native to Nepal and Tibet, but Indians have put their own twist on it. You'll find varieties like tandoori chicken and paneer momos. And let's not forget the spicy sauce that you get with it. Yum!

10. Parathas

picture credit - vegrecipesofindia.com

You've probably heard of Indian flat breads like naan and kulcha, but if you're in Chennai, you cannot miss out on this street food favorite. Almost exclusively popular in the Southern region of the country, parathas are crispy and flaky and everything you could ever ask for.

They are served with delicious gravies of all kind, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. A variation on this dish is the “kothu paratha” or “chilli parotha” where these flaky flat breads are cut up and mixed with vegetables, egg, meat and/or seafood.


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Muzna is a writer experienced in all things travel and food, influenced by her own travels, running a food blog and YouTube channel, as well as the various publications she has contributed to.