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Nighttime mobile eateries mix the exotic with the traditional in Tiruchi

With food-delivery apps eating into the restaurant business, the pleasure of dining out has almost vanished in Tiruchi. Not many people can justify braving crazy nighttime traffic or long queues at popular eateries just to have dinner anymore.

While hawker stalls and roadside outlets selling items like parotta, dosa and noodles continue to do well, they aren’t known as the best places to find nutritious food prepared in hygienic conditions.

Enter the mobile restaurant … eateries that function out of customised vehicles that are simply driven away after the day’s business is done.

We sample the wares of two recent entrants in this niche of the city’s food scene.

S Vinoth (right) with a colleague preparing dosas at his mobile eatery Hot Dosa in Tiruchi. Photo: M. Moorthy/THE HINDU

S Vinoth (right) with a colleague preparing dosas at his mobile eatery Hot Dosa in Tiruchi. Photo: M. Moorthy/THE HINDU
 

Experiments with the dosa

Hot Dosa is a mobile restaurant that, as its name suggests, has an indelible link with batter. Functioning out of a jazzed up Suzuki SuperCarry mini-truck on Karur Bypass Road for the past 3 months, the eatery opens its doors at 6pm and closes at 11.30pm.

Its menu has 99 varieties of dosas, made not only with the traditional rice and lentils mix, but also with millet and ethnic grain flours. “We have been supplying dosa and idli maavu (batter) commercially through our company Annapoorna Foods for many years now. Hot Dosa is our attempt to reach out directly to customers in Tiruchi,” says proprietor and head chef S Vinoth.

The Hot Dosa vehicle rolls up to its designated spot (near Kalaignar Arivalayam) every evening, and specialises in zero-garbage service. Steel plates are covered with pre-cut plantain leaves for on-the-spot dining and water tanks have been fitted along with a small sink to wash hands. “We manage all the waste disposal ourselves, and leave the place clean at the end of the day,” says Vinoth. “Hygiene is very important for our business to succeed.”

As the orders flow fast and thick on a recent evening, the chefs get busy firing up the heavy iron griddles.

Among the stuffed types, Pizza Dosa and Paneer Butter Masala Dosa are the most popular items on the menu, says Vinoth, though the regular potato Masala Dosa has its own fans.

“We get a lot of people who are returning home from work or from the temple services in Srirangam. Many of our customers are those who spend long hours on the road, like call taxi drivers. We try and serve food that is both filling and has a homely taste,” says Vinoth.

Hot Dosa chefs tend to evenly spread out the filling on the entire pancake before rolling it up, making it easy to eat on the go. Only cold-pressed groundnut oil is used to crisp up the dosa on the griddle.

The sambar and two chutneys are gratis. And if it has become a bit too hot for you, there’s even a ‘dessert’ on offer — dosa stuffed with coconut and jaggery.

Prices range from ₹30 to ₹70.

Hop on for a grilling ride

BBQ Ride offers grilled food from a cooking station set up in a Royal Enfield motorbike. Photo: M. Srinath/THE HINDU

BBQ Ride offers grilled food from a cooking station set up in a Royal Enfield motorbike. Photo: M. Srinath/THE HINDU
 

Motorbikes carrying a hundred odd things are a common sight in our city. But did you know they could carry a barbecue grill and enough food to feed a small army?

Since June 2018, barbecue lovers in Tiruchi have been flocking to BBQ Ride, the local franchise of the Bengaluru-based chain of roadside eateries that serves grilled food and sandwiches… from Royal Enfield motorbikes.

A cooking station set up on a modified sidecar of the bike sports a charcoal grill, and, in Tiruchi, a shawarma stand.

Staff of the restaurant literally ride the eatery up to its three locations at Karur Bypass Road, Cantonment and KK Nagar, and open for business from 6pm.

And it’s not just for non-vegetarians. “We have a core menu of around 10 items that we tweak according to the demand in each city, and vegetarian options like grilled paneer, pineapple, potatoes and mushrooms are pretty popular,” says Arun Varma, co-founder and CEO, BBQ Ride, in a telephone interview.

On a recent evening, the Cantonment BBQ Ride had got a hot grill ready with a variety of goodies. The Chicken Combo is tender and juicy, and at ₹160 per serving, is good value for money. Seafood lovers can also expect to dig into barbecued fish and prawns.

The spices used in the marinade are from a BBQ Ride resource centre in Bengaluru. Slow-cooked Drumstick, Smoky Chicken Strips, and Kadhai Barbecue are some other chicken-based options.

“We offer a taste of American and European barbecue, which is milder than the Middle Eastern flavours that Tiruchi customers are used to,” says Balaji, the local franchisee.

“As long as you provide tasty and good quality food, the market will always be there,” says Varma.


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