V is for Vada Chennai #BlogchatterA2Z

Vada – North.

Vada Chennai is the North of Chennai.

North Chennai originated with the founding of an East India Company factory in the village of Madraspatnam, on 22nd August 1639, and Madras City came into being.  This is why 22nd August is also celebrated as Madras Day.

All areas situated  North of the Coovum River come under the umbrella of the Northern Area of Chennai.  

Vada Chennai cannot be encompassed in a single post, it is that vast, both geographically and otherwise. Fort St George and Georgetown, from which the city originated, are the known parts of Vada Chennai, as is Parry’s.

Though Vada Chennai has found recent popularity because of a film by the same name, it is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city.

I discovered Sowcarpet, in North Chennai, and to put it mildly, I went ballistic. Sowcarpet, the name is known to have originated from ‘Sahukar’ the money lenders  this area is known for.  Set up by migrants from Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, this area is a maze of narrow streets, heritage buildings and a treasure trove when it comes to shopping and food. I call Sowcarpet Ali Baba’s Cave, as once you go in you don’t know the way out! And I am more than happy to be lost here!

The bylanes

Some of the lanes are so narrow that no vehicles can pass through, while other lanes will have you dodging overhead wires, cars, two wheelers, cycle rickshaws AND resident buffaloes!

The vibrance and the energy of this place is so positive!

A store selling Gift Paper. We were spoilt for choice!

You have an entire street dedicated to a single product. So, there is a street for Steel and everything to do with it. Another for Electronics. One street just for clothes and yet another for jewellery. I can’t even imagine the amount of business this wholesale market must be doing in a single day!

A special mention to every shop owner and keeper I encountered, who were exceptionally polite and helpful, despite the crazy crowds and the crazy demands of people thronging their premises.

Now to my most favourite street in all of Sowcarpet , Mint Street or what I call Shop-and-Eat Street.

The famous Pav Bhaji at Novelty

If you enjoy food, a visit to this street is a must. From known foods and beverages, like Pav Bhaji, Kesar-Badam Milk, Kulfi and Chaats, to innovations like Puff Pizza and ‘Jantar Mantar’ this street has it all. Fresh Sugarcane Juice is available every few meters. Raj Snacks is THE place to go to, for the most unusual and super delicious snacks. Novelty Tea House for the Pav Bhaji and Kesar Badam Milk.

Puff Pizza at Raj Snacks

Work off all the calories you consume as you walk the length and breadth of this street, shopping (don’t forget to bargain) up a storm.

Cycle Rickshaws usually come with Grumpy Drivers:)

If you’re too tired to walk, hire a cycle rickshaw to take you around.

Written for the theme

My A to Z of Chennai: The City Viewed Through An Outsiders Eye


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  1. It has been quite some time since I have visited Sowcarpet. I used to live quite near Fort St Geroge in Radhakrishnan Salai and the beach was just 5 minutes walk away from our house. Your descriptions of the places are brilliant and this time when I visit Chennai I am going to do a round-up of all the places, re-visit them and observe the minute changes that have crept in over the years. Wonderful post Mayuri.

  2. This post brings out a new part of Chennai. I honestly thought you were referring to the dish vada before reading the full post. This goes on my next places to visit in Chennai wishlist.

  3. Wow… After saree shopping specifically to the the ritual you mentioned in one of the blogs I am heading towards Novelty, i guess. Pav bhaaji is my love.
    We have similar market in delhi which is sadar bazaar and adjacent chandani chowk.

  4. Mint street to Thambucetty street was our fav those days… from Basanti to rasagolo to what not!!! There was a gujju meal center below MCC bank building, not sure if its still there… for less than 40rs u get fantastic thali!!!!!

  5. If you ever plan a visit to Lucknow, visit Aminabad market as this place sounds very much like that. Crowded, wholesale market where you get everything under the sun. I liked the name you have given to these markets. And what to say about the drool-worthy food pics. That cheesy pizza!!!!

  6. Never heard of this area…thanks for sharing Mayuri. Looks like the old city.

  7. Honestly, Tamil illiterate as I am, when I read the title I thought it was vada sambar wala vada. 😛
    This sounds like the Kalbadevi market of Chennai! I would love to get lost in those streets too. Puff pizza is veg puff with melted cheese over the top? Looks absolutely yum!

  8. Mayuri Nidigallu Noor Anand Chawla

    Sounds a lot like Delhi’s Chandni Chowk- with all it’s colours, interesting people, and delectable food!

  9. That is one place I visit only when I have unlimited energy as I feel like exploring most of the shops

  10. This post reminds me of by lanes and local markets of Agra. Never thought could see anything like this in Chennai. See, as in yes I am traveling with your posts 🙂

  11. I was so much in the post but after seeing the pics of those snacks I forgot what I had to write, now I wanna eat them too.

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