Last month, on the occasion of a colleague’s farewell, discussion veered towards food. When the topic of Idlis came up, a colleague- a boisterous, healthy food-eating and international cuisine relisher (nothing wrong in that though), said ‘How differently can Idli be prepared? They are the same everywhere’. Though I couldn’t say it on his face, but they can be different.
A couple of days later, I found myself making a trip to Vijayawada. Now this is a place that I hold dear to heart only because my parents and friends stay there. There might be many reasons to not like Vijayawada- oppressive weather being the primary reason. If one has to love Vijayawada, it has to be for food. According to me, from the places that I have been to, Vijayawada has to be the ‘Street food capital of India’. You can find a lot of dishes, from idli to dosa, omelette to egg dosa in the morning and pani-puri to deep fried savouries in the evening. I know, health freaks can find it a bit tough to digest. Anyways without digressing, let me just jump in.
No trip of mine seems complete without a trip to Babai Hotel. So, today in the morning, blessed with beautiful weather, I found myself making the trip to aforementioned place. After a lot of haggling with the auto driver, we managed to agree on a price. On the way, he asked innocently as to why we were making the trip to Babai hotel when SSS Idli point was just next lane for us. He said the idli costs the same there too and tastes better. Little did he know that I am adamant when it comes to my choices.
When I entered the place, I found a few changes. Where there were only two tables, there are four now. Straightaway, I ordered for two plates of idly- one for me and one for my father. Well, the process of how it is served on the plate deserves paeans altogether. The coconut chutney goes in first, then the karappu podi (Gun powder, however idiotic a name that is, for the unknowing) and then the ginger chutney. Next come a couple of idlis onto the plate. My mother always compares the smoothness of idlis to cotton. I visualised the same when the idlis were on the plate. Next comes the best- a generous serving of ghee on the items already present on the plate. After all this, a dollop of butter is served on the idlis and you carry it to your table. At that very moment, I found myself laughing at the colleague and the auto-driver.
The claim to fame of this place is that the legendary NTR used to relish their idlis a lot. Also, a movie was made with the same name – Brahmanandam was the hero in the movie. People who place ambience over taste will never like the food here. The place serves only a few dishes- Idly, Dosa, Masala Dosa, Pesarattu, Upma, Pesarattu Upma, Upma Dosa, Godhumma ravva Upma, Podi Dosa, Pongal, coffee and milk. You can give the Pongal a miss and savour other dishes. The costliest item on the menu- Masala Dosa- costs 30/-. On your way back, if you can raise your sight by a bit, you can see the appreciatory articles neatly set against a green background. Among them, you also find an appreciatory letter from the office of the president, no less.
The discerning amongst you might point out that there is no Sambar, I say there is no need for it. If you want to taste it when you find yourself in Vijayawada the next time, just say the name, ‘Babai hotel’. The people will ask you if you want to go to Gandhinagar. Just nod your head and you will find yourself there in fifteen minutes, regardless of where you are