Chennai, like any other city, has its gems in kiosks nestled in narrow by-lanes dishing out delectable treats, not many care to explore. The stalls, vary by size, but manage to pull a sizeable amount of local crowd because of the aroma wafting through the streets.
Perambur in Chennai has one of these many stalls called Atho Shop or Atho Kadai among locals, situated on a busy street sharing space with Shopping Singapore. With a few red and blue stools for seating, the place is brimming with hungry people, both big and small.
The kiosk is manned by three people – two hardworking youth and a small stout woman directing them in Tamil, resembling the conductor of an orchestra. Ismail Meera is hard to miss – the conductor is a dark complexioned woman in her mid-40’s sporting a black skull cap keeping her hands busy swiftly making a basic but fast-selling egg preparation. The Egg Masala (Rs 10) is a simple preparation of slit boiled eggs stuffed with crisp golden-brown onion bits fried in palm oil and garnished with lime, coriander and chili flakes.
While the spiced eggs are only starters, Burmese cuisine boasts of Atho (Rs 60) – the equivalent of a salad. Served cold, the dish has boiled noodles, shredded cabbage, onions and bejo (papad-like ingredient) tossed in palm oil and vinegar to give a crisp, fresh and delicious amalgamation of various flavours. The atho is also available with egg called Fried Egg Atho (Rs 60) – noodles cooked with generous amounts of eggs are tossed in a pan with chili flakes, cabbage and onions and bejo to make an appetizing hot snack.
One of the star dishes of Burmese cuisine is definitely the humble Moinga (Rs 60) – pan-fried noodles, bejo, coriander, onions and cabbage are all cooked in a banana stem broth. The dish resembles the Tibetan Thukpah and could satiate anybody who is ravenously hungry or has a good soupy craving.
Atho Shop is run by a beaming Ismail Meera, one of the many Tamil Burmese who came to India from Burma (present day Myanmar) in 1977 to set up the Atho kadai. After setting up shop at many places, she settled on Perambur and has been running the shop for the last 18 months, quite successfully. She, visibly takes pride in serving people good food from her origins and makes sure they have the perfect experience.
Burmese cuisine has spilled into Chennai because of many refugees who settled in the city more than thirty years ago. The popular Burmese dish Atho originates from A thoke (Burmese salad). One of the main ingredients in the cuisine is bejo which is made from rice flour and features in almost every dish radiating a comfort food experience.
Chennai has many places for Burmese food including Parry’s corner and Perambur, among others that one could check out.
Landmark: Shopping Singapore
Time: 6pm – 11pm
Meal for Two: Rs 140 (no taxes)