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New Kanagam Fast Food and the wonderful world of sambar-vada-dosa

Mohitblc | Dec 9, 201103:08 AM

New Kanagam Fast Food is one of the most nondescript food joints that I've discovered.

Its a small little kiosk in Saket; in the "Fruit Market", close to the J Block market serving straight forward South Indian vegetarian Idli-Dosa.

There's actually nothing new about it.The kiosk has been in the same spot for the last 30 years.

Man! 30 years is a very long period of time in the food industry. It takes a lot, to be around for 30 years - good food, consistent taste and pricing, hygiene, focus on freshness, efficiency, and of course, a deep understanding of what the customer wants.

New Kanagam Fast Food is a fantastic little place doing exactly this.

The flavour of the food is distinctly Tamilian, the owner being from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The dosa and uttapam were good, the sambar exceptional and the chutney spicy, but a bit too much dal and less coconut, but ठीक है, it tasted nice.

Of course, New Kanagam Fast Food is a great value for money place. A masala dosa costs Rs.40. In the South or in smaller cities, this might not sound cheap, but in Delhi and for the taste. Wow!

This is an extremely popular place. That's a bit of a paradox actually. Very few people outside Saket and Pushp Vihar know about this place, at the same time, its extremely popular with the local populace. You have to wait in line to get your dosa to either eat it there or takeaway.

In the restaurant industry, the popularity of a place is directly proportional to the mise-en-place (my hotel school batch mates will smile while reading this word, but for the everyone else, its a French word that means to "put in place" and is extensively used in the restaurant trade. In simpler terms it means, the sauces, the spices, the batters and everything else required to make the dishes on the menu are pre prepared and are in place before the actual dishing out). Now counting the mise-en-place at Kanagam Fast Food, I could count 4 huge steel drums of sambar, 2 drums of chuntey and lots of rice batter stashed away. And this was on a Tuesday evening, not a weekend, when its a lot busier.

This is one extremely busy place.

The largest stock, of all items on the menu was the sambar and judging by the innumerable repeat helpings of the sambar demanded by customers, I guess this was the most popular item on the menu. Though not directly on the menu and its just an accompaniment. Just standing there, it looked to me as if people were having dosa and uttapam only so that they could have the sambar. Funny, eh!

The Tamil version of the sambar is of course wonderful. Its very flavourful and well balanced. Sambar as a topic is quite vast and is a study by itself. The Tamil Sambar has itself many variants - The purist Iyengar sambar without onion or garlic, the heavenly pepper-jaggery drumstick laced Chettinad Kara Kozambu, amongst the notable. I guess like the dialect is supposed to change every 10 kilometers in this country, the sambar too changes flavour every few kilometres.

Well, to generalize, there's the Tamil sambar, the Andhra sambar, the Kerala sambar and the Kannada sambar with its most famous and omnipresent variant - the Udippi sambar from the coastal region of Karnataka (Mangalore). Each sambar version has its own distinct flavour profile and each state fiercely proud of their version of their sambar.

And to confuse further, there's also the Srilankan sambar and the Konkani sambar which goes by the pseudonym "Kolmbo". And I'm quite certain that Lakshwadeep has its own version too, but I've never been there, so can't say for sure. But I'm sure we'll see some postings or fun comments on the Lakshwadeep sambar in the comments column and some spectacular recipes too (I'm hoping). Keep watching this space!

Coming back to New Kanagam Fast Food, when I asked for the owner as I was quite curious to meet the person behind the place, I was directed to a gentleman standing on the side of the stall. On enquiring his name, he told me "Pandey". On seeing the puzzled look on my face, he repeated "Chellapandi" I thought अब ठीक है. a proper South Indian looking person with a heavy Tamil accent can't go by the name "Pandey". Chellapandi made more sense.

Chellapandi behind the counter at NKFF

New Kangam Fast Food is run very efficiently by this sweet warm person who named the kiosk after his mother and in spite of having four employees, still stands and cuts the onion and other mise-en-place when the place gets busy. I salute him and his team and wish him all the luck for the future.

To discover New Kanagam Fast Food, you'll have to go to the "Fruit Market" in Saket. Its very close to the red light on the right hand side of the road when you go from Saket J block towards the Sheraton Hotel.

The place is open only in the evenings from 430 pm to 930 pm and on all days.

Going by car, the location on Google Maps is

If going by Metro, get down at the Malviya Nagar Metro Station on the yellow line towards Huda City Center and take an autorickshaw to the "Fruit Market" near J Block Saket. You can also tell the autorickshaw driver to take you to "Khokha Market" in case he doesn't know "Fruit market". The Kokha Market is just next to the "Fruit Market".

A last piece of advice - Give the idlis at NKFF a miss. Prepared in advance, they become a bit hard, but the other stuff is brilliant.

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