Chennai’s kulambu kadais | Popular spots for affordable, home-style gravies

Mar14,2024


Post the pandemic, a trend seems to have emerged in the city, where every neighbourhood has a kulambu kadai, selling competitively priced homemade gravies and side dishes. They cater to young couples who work from home, bachelors, and elders who prefer to cook minimally. The customers prefer these gravies, prepared in home-style kitchens, to ordering from hotels. We try some of these push carts and stalls that make meal planning easier.

Kulambu Mama Kadai, West Mambalam

N. Kalyanasundaram, used to be known as ‘sundal mama’ at Bakthavatsalam Street, near Ayodhya Mandapam in West Mambalam. Now, he’s better known as kulambu mama, and his work begins as early as 7.30 am so that customers can pick up the food and pack it in school and office lunch boxes.

 N. Kalyanasundaram operates from 8 am to 11 am everyday

 N. Kalyanasundaram operates from 8 am to 11 am everyday
| Photo Credit:
Akhila Easwaran

Having gained experience from the catering business he ran for over two decades, he began selling kulambu (gravy), rasam, kootu (stew) and poriyal (stir fry) from a push cart. “Mess culture might be thriving but with changing lifestyles, many young couples who have toddlers and senior citizens at home, prefer to pick up gravies and side dishes so they can cook less at home,” says Kalyanasundaram.

He keeps his stainless pushcart appealingly clean, and has a kitchen nearby where food is prepared. Kalyanasundaram is popular because of the range he offers everyday; two types of sambar, one puli kulambu, two types of rasam, two types of kootu, and usually three or four vegetables (stir fry and roast).

Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to take the food

Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to take the food
| Photo Credit:
Akhila Easwaran

“My menu enables my customers to choose what they prefer to eat. During the weekends and holidays, I prepare aviyal, potato or colocasia roast, and milagu (pepper) kulambu. All gravies are priced at ₹30 for 200 ml and vegetables are priced at ₹40 for 200 grams,” he says.

“During the pandemic, most families were dependent on hotels in the neighborhood. Gradually, home kitchens became popular and this trend of gravy shops is became popular with people who want to avoid commercially prepared food” says Srinivasan. S, an SAP consultant and a bachelor, who sources gravies twice a week and stocks his fridge with rasam and puli kulambu. Like all the other clients, he pairs them with rice cooked at home.

Contact 93447 32640. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers.

Sri’s Kulambu Kadai, R.A Puram

R. Murugan arrives on his two wheeler by 10.30 am at R.A Puram second main road, and is followed by an auto carrying home-cooked food in large stainless steel containers. He quickly sets up shop at his takeaway kiosk, selling a variety of dishes made by his wife Indrani, who is assisted by two helpers. “We prepare lunch and bring it here, and by 6 pm, restock dishes for dinner. It is a tedious task but we love the joy of serving good quality food to our customers,” says Murugesan, who gained experience while working in a restaurant run by his nephew for seven years. His shop sells vegetarian gravies (Kulambu, rasam, kootu and poriyal) by weight, as well as non-vegetarian gravies.

Murugesan and his wife Indirani at their kiosk

Murugesan and his wife Indirani at their kiosk
| Photo Credit:
Akhila Easwaran

Sambar is priced at ₹50 for 500 ml, kara kulambu at ₹70, rasam at ₹40, kootu is priced at ₹70 for 200 gms and poriyal is ₹80 for 200 grams. Customers can also buy coconut rice, lemon rice and sambar rice at ₹60 for 500 grams. High on demand are chapathis (₹10), Ragi idly (₹15) and Idiyappam (₹10)

“On weekends we stock kadugu (mustard) kulmabu and karuveppilai (curry leaves) kulambu. We also sell mutton (chukka and gravy), chicken items, prawn thokku and fish kulmabu. Items such as crab roast and biryani are available on pre-order.

The kiosk is open from 11 am to 9 pm. Contact 94444084150. Small party pre-orders are taken.

The Kulambu Box, Shenoy Nagar

Manish Kumar Jain was always pampered with good food at home by his mom Meena Jain, a talented and passionate cook. “I took to cooking at the age of 10, and learnt South Indian and North Indian dishes. When my son came up with the idea of a kiosk to sell only gravies after the pandemic, I was excited,” she says. Everyday, they prepare and sell vegetarian gravies (sambar, rasam, puli kulambu, more kulambu, rasam and many Gujarati dishes) and keep adding newer dishes to the menu,” says Meena.

“During the lockdown days, we helped out many of my wife’s colleagues, mostly bachelors who were living alone, by sending them gravies. Gradually the demand grew and I finally decided to set up a kiosk in Shenoy Nagar and launched The Kulambu Box, in 2022,” says Manish.

The Kulambu Boz takes pre-orders only

The Kulambu Boz takes pre-orders only
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Customers can place their order the previous day and they can pick it up between 5 to 9 pm from the kiosk. “We customise as per requirements, and offer no onion, no garlic, less spice levels, and vegetables as requested,” says Manish, adding “We were surprised to see many customers sending out an assortment of our kulambu and thogayals as gift boxes to friends.”

Though the menu is extensive, the puli kulambu, capsicum cashew chutney, karuvellipai and kothamalli thogayals are fast selling. Meena’s authentic theecha (a Gujarati chutney), and Bhangarupet pani puri (originating from the Kolar region of Karnataka) has also won over many of their customers.

Thogayals, chutney and dips and Puli kulambu are the popular items at The Kulambu Box

Thogayals, chutney and dips and Puli kulambu are the popular items at The Kulambu Box
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The Kulambu Box, is open at Shenoy Nagar from 5 to 10 pm. Contact 9043400507.

Kittu Mama Veetu Tiffin, Mylapore

In Mylapore, Kittu Mama Veetu Tiffin, has quickly become popular for different kinds of rice, sold in buckets.

Variety rice is available only on pre-order.

Variety rice is available only on pre-order.
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Veena Krishnamurthy says their focus is affordability. “Be it office get togethers or small functions at home, we serve puliyodhare, coconut rice, lemon rice, sambar rice, brinji rice, coriander rice and curd rice in portions that are cost effective. The rice is priced at ₹350 per Kilo. We also provide gravies, kootu and poriyal,” says Veena. In the style of non vegetarian bucket biryani, you can order from this vegetarian tiffin room in portions that range from half a kilo, to 4 kilo packs.

Kittu mama veetu tiffin is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Contact 9840276377

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