Roadside eateries can surprise you with some really tasty, like crisp and golden samosas, writes SHANTHINI RAJKUMAR
How many of us can resist biting into a hot flaky samosa? Especially one that was bought by a thoughtful brother! Certainly, not me. This treat doesn’t really need an occasion. Our biking buddy Deepak Samuel was the one who first stumbled upon the samosa. Very rarely can yummy food be kept a secret and this one was no exception. A few tasting sessions later my brother thought it fit to be sampled by the family. It was delivered to my doorstep wrapped in newspaper and still piping hot. There was no evidence of an oil residue on the paper, the samosa was dry to the touch yet puffed and crumbly which suggested a very lightly worked pastry and the filling was generous and again, non-greasy. Who made these delicious stuff and where was it available. My brother reluctantly disclosed the whereabouts of his ‘secret samosa seller’.
It turned out to be a small street food establishment in our neighbourhood, one of Coimbatore’s little roadside shops serving up hot food. I must have passed it a countless times during the course of a day but never noticed it until now. The tiny eatery is owned and run by Mr. Arunagiri and his wife Bagyalakshmi. The deep red board bears the name Balamurali Snacks . It is on Avanashi road, next to Eden Bakes, opposite the Airtel Office. Arunagiri keeps a clean cooking space. His hot oil-filled wok is protected by a raised counter that prevents the dust from blowing into his food. He churns out hot savouries from 7.30 a.m until sundown. When I visited, he was in the midst of executing a huge cutlet order for a party. He is never open on Sundays unless he is executing a bulk order. I watched in admiration as he fried his snacks with speed and dexterity. The cutlets to be fried were lined up in a huge steel platter. He gently slipped them into the hot oil. Barely 30 seconds later, he lifted them out only to dunk them in again fleetingly before placing them on sheets of brown paper. This method ensures a crisp outer coating but keeps the insides fluffy and oil free. The cutlets also had an appetising golden coat. This is exactly the method top chefs use to make the perfect French fry. Arunagiri uses a thin net-like cloth tied to a small wooden stick. He swirls it around to skim the oil and it comes away with bits of the batter and other surface impurities. He also turns off the heat before doing the next batch. His wife and he insist that they never reuse the oil and I believe them simply because there are no rancid odours emanating from the cooking vessel. The colour of the oil was also light and clear.
He packed me a few cutlets in a brown paper bag and I couldn’t wait to get home and serve them up. I broke one apart and discovered a soft potato interior flecked with bits of carrot and greens. The aroma was just as fresh. It tasted as good as it looked. The crunchy crumbed exterior melted into a slightly sweet but spicy flavourful stuffing. It was an effort to stay away from the second one.
The Arunagiris make only vegetarian snacks, no egg either. They buy their produce from the local vegetable market. They use the same brand of sunflower oil and prefer to stick to quality standards. They have two more staff hired for cleaning and delivery. Baghyalakshmi ensures that the floor is swabbed several times a day to keep the fly menace to a minimum. The hot snacks are either devoured immediately by waiting customers or bundled up into paper potlams to be enjoyed in the comfort of home. College students also make a bee line for the snacks served here. Hot, fresh and affordable they are perfect snacks for the students on a budget. The students also order from Arunagiri in bulk for their various college functions . At such times Arunagiri and his wife also provide them with tea or coffee. In addition to the mixed vegetable samosa and cutlet, they also make paruppu vadai, ulundhu vadai with sambhar, vegetable roll and corn cutlets. The vegetable roll is coated with vermicelli and fried. This adds considerable texture to the crunch and is a much sought after delight. His samosas and cutlets are priced at Rs.8 and Rs. 7 respectively. In the small space he so proudly owns Arunagiri churns out food that is as healthy and hygienic as he can keep it. He says the praises heaped on him are his reward at the end of a long hot day and means more to him than his monetary success.
If we want to indulge in the occasional fried food, it makes more sense to me to eat it this way ,hot and fresh, rather than eating a packaged snack full of preservatives and additives. When we plated the cutlets and samosas on a pretty serving plate at home, it looked just as enticing as a home made snack. I would happily ask this couple to cater a starter or two in the event of a party at home. Balamurali Snacks can be reached at 9965216969 and 9788603688.
Read more about food on Shanthini’s website www.pinklemontree