This small food cart in West Mambalam sells a unique snack called sundal vadai

Kalyanasundaram has been serving people of all ages with homemade snacks since 1980

It’s early evening in West Mambalam, where the sounds of Carnatic music resonating from the nearby Ayodhya Mandapam is hard to miss. Amidst all this, a motley group gathers around a small food cart. A cursory look at the shop and you can smell the perfectly spiced masala vadai and hear the crunch of biting into a molaga bajji. “Bonda, molaga bajji, onion bajji, potato bajji to vegetable sundal, we sell everything,” lists Kalyanasundaram, who runs this cart which turned 40 recently. What’s unique about Kalyanasundaram’s nameless shop is sundal vadai, where the quintessential crispy masala vadai meets the mushy sundal, in a glorious chaat preparation. If you’re visiting Kalyanasundaram’s shop, we suggest you try some.

When asked about his pièce de résistance, he shrugs, saying, “Since most of my customers are regulars and have been buying my food for at least 10 years now, they all have their own preferences.” With a greying moustache and kumkum carefully smeared on his forehead, Kalyanasundaram has been serving people of all ages with homemade snacks since 1980. Interestingly, he started out as a door-to-door delivery service. “My wife is my business partner,” smiles Kalyanasundaram, as golden brown samosas sizzle in the background, and his wife brings yet another plate of bajji maav (batter) from home. “You see, we make all our items from scratch. Taste has always been secondary to health and hygiene for us,” he says.

This is perhaps the reason why his customers continue to throng his food cart, which is crowded until 9 pm on any given day. “I have known him [Kalyanasundaram] for 35 years. I visit his shop twice every week. Falling sick is not a concern as everything here is freshly prepared. People from all walks of life come here,” says V Murali, one of his regular customers, as he waits to grab the plate of hot bajjis. “My customers and I are like family since I know all of them personally. The intention is not to mint money, for I wholeheartedly enjoy serving people,” adds Kalyanasundaram, who has stuck to this profession owing to the number of people he gets to meet everyday.

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