Such is the popularity of street food of Madurai that it draws foodies from all over the world to this temple town in Tamil Nadu to relish on its culinary delights. What makes the cuisine of Madurai so special is that it has evolved over many centuries and still retains its earthy charm and humble presence. Influenced by so many cultures like Chettinad, Sri Lankan, Mughlai and others, many interesting dishes have found a permanent place in the culinary culture of Madurai. Its cuisine includes rice and meat dishes, along with an astonishing variety of dosas and idlis, spicy curries, parottas, sweets, sweet drinks and other foods. If you are in Madurai, be sure to drop in at any of these road-side food stalls and taste the flavorful street food in Madurai.
18 Incredible Street Foods in Madurai
1. Fluffy Soft Idlis
An essential comfort food for every South Indian, the idli is a steamed rice cake that can be eaten alone, with sambar, rasam or with an assortment of different chutneys. It is extremely nutritious food that can be had at breakfast, lunch or dinner. This simple dish has so many variants like dahi idli, Kanchipuram idli, fried idli, etc., but the steamed idli still remains the unanimous choice for millions in India.
- Where to eat: Madurai Idli Shop, Meena’s Idli Stall, Murugan Idli Shop, Konar Mess, Amma Mess, roadside idli shops
2. Crispy Golden Dosas
In Madurai, the humble dosas are prepared with such stunning variety that they have become a meal in itself. This South Indian dish has even earned its place as the ‘top foods to try in your lifetime’ list. Biting into this thin and crispy golden dosas, served piping hot, at the innumerable road-side stalls in Madurai is a heavenly feeling. Ayyappan Tiffin Home even boasts of an incredible 40 types of dosas.
- Where to eat: Ayyappan Tiffin Home, Amma Mess, Konar Mess, Murugan Idli Shop, Madurai Gopu Iyengars, Uzhavan Unavagum, roadside dosa shops
This South Indian dish, where rice flour is made into noodles, and then steamed, is a typical breakfast food. It is generally served with coconut chutney, korma, or curries. The delicate dish has definitely earned its place as a must-try food dish when you are visiting Madurai.
- Where to eat: Burma Idiyappam Kadai, Konar Mess
4. Kari Dosai
This three-layered dosa is quite popular in Madurai. It consists of the base layer of plain dosa, the middle layer of an egg omelet, and the top layer of minced meat. It is a typical dish of the cow herder community, also known as Konars. It has to be eaten with sambar and chutneys.
- Where to eat: Konar Mess
5. Elumbu Roast
This spicy dish of Madurai is a non-veg treat to meat lovers. Boiled goat bones, along with the mutton are cooked and fried with mashed onions, garlic, and ginger. Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, pepper, and vegetables are also added to them and served with a garnishing of curry leaves, and served piping hot.
- Where to eat: Kumar Mess, Konar Mess, Arumugam Evening Mutton Stall
6. Kola Urundai
This wonderful meat dish is a culinary highlight of Madurai. Minced mutton balls are prepared by mixing them with various spices, and deep frying them in oil. This makes them crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
They are then tied with banana fiber strings and served with chutneys or sauces. Eat them dry or dip them in Kuzhambu (curry). Whatever way you have them, they burst into your mouth with strong flavors and spicy tastes that will linger on, long after you’ve eaten them.
- Where to eat: Chandran Mess, Kumar Mess, Konar Mess, Amma Mess
7. Kalkandu Sadam
This sweet rice dish has its origins in Gujarat. When Gujarati traders moved to Madurai in ancient times, they brought with them many types of mixed rice dishes. This dish has rice and moong dal as the main ingredients.
Their paste is cooked with milk and fried in ghee, after adding several dry fruits, saffron, and rock sugar candy, or kalkandu. The sweetened rice dish has the sweetness of sugar, the intense flavors of saffron, and the nutty taste of dry fruits.
- Where to eat: Sri Nagalakshmi Annexe
8. Meen Kuzhambu
This spicy fish curry is a delicious dish of Madurai. Fish is cooked with a variety of spices and tomato gravy. It is served with rice. The tangy tomato gravy and rich spices lend a spicy taste to this dish. A number of restaurants and messes in Madurai offers this dish.
- Where to eat: Amma Mess, Kumar Mess, Konar Mess, Chetty Nadu Mess, Anjappar Restaurant, Arumugam Mess
9. Parotta and Mutton Curry
The unleavened flaky Parotta (flatbread) is an essential Madurai staple food. It can be had with so many veg and non-veg Kuzhambu (curries).
It is a treat to watch the Parotta makers flip the rolled dough into the air, slap it on the hot tabletop, grease it with butter or ghee, and serving them with your choice of curries. There are so many varieties of Parottas like Malabar Parotta, Egg Parotta, Kothu Parotta, Chilly Parotta etc.
- Where to eat: Sulthan Restaurant, Baskar Parotta Shop, Saravana Parotta Stall, Kannan Parotta Stall, Parotta Court, Hotel Ameer Mahal, Murugan Idli Shop, Kumar Mess
10. Paruthi Paal
This sweet drink is famous in Madurai. It is essentially an extract of cotton seeds, which is sweetened with jaggery or sugar, mixed with coconut milk, cardamom, ginger and served hot. It is a cool drink to have in summer in Madurai, as it cools the body, and has other benefits. In Madurai, you can see street-side vendors selling this drink in their push-carts in the evening.
- Where to eat: road-side vendors
Jigarthanda is Madurai’s answer to the Lassi or Falooda. It is an extremely delicious ice-cream, which is hand-churned, and prepared with condensed milk, fruit syrups, almond jelly, and tree gum. It is a dessert that is unique to Madurai and is believed to have been brought by the Nawabs of Arcot with them.
- Where to eat: Famous Jigarthanda Shop, Murugan Idli Shop
12. Sooji Appams
They are a favorite road-side snack in Madurai. The main ingredient is maida, which is made into dough and stuffed with sweet porridge, made of semolina, coconut, rava or sooji. It is then deep fried until golden and puffed up. It is really a sweet puri filled with the sweetness of jaggery and coconut. It is generally served during festivals as offering to the goddess.
- Where to eat: Pushcarts in Teppakulam
13. Bun Parotta
It’s a fluffier version of the Parotta, and another famous street snack of Madurai. Eggs, milk, butter, sugar, and bananas add bulk to this Parotta, which is continuously kneaded for two hours. The dough is then rolled into thin membranes and sheets, just like a typical Parotta. They are made smaller than the common Parotta, to make them appear like buns.
- Where to eat: Aavin Junction
14. Keerai Vada
This tea time snack is typical of South India. It is generally found in road-side tea stalls in Madurai. It is made from crushed urad dal, which is mixed with water, dried and powdered Mulmurungai leaves, and mixed with cumin and pepper powder.
The urad dal batter is made into round doughnut-shaped balls and deep fried and served along with tea, coconut chutney or coffee. The greens used in this recipe are beneficial for children as it keeps a cough and colds at bay.
- Where to eat: Kararajar Salai
This egg dish is another famous culinary delight of Madurai. It is made of a batter of beaten eggs, onions, salt, pepper, and then mixed with three types of mutton gravies. The addition of gravies gives a gooey consistency to the preparation. The strong spices, along with the overall taste of eggs, make the dish a delectable food.
- Where to eat: Tallakulam
16. Butter Bun
Though simple, the Butter Bun is a delicious buttery snack for the people of Madurai. Buns are fried on hot sizzling tawa, and layered with butter and sugar, to make them sweet and buttery in taste.
- Where to eat: Simmakkal
17. Full Meals
To have a full South Indian meal, served on a banana leaf, is another food you can have in Madurai. Sriram Mess serves the perfect vegetarian thalis, or full course meals, which have a whole assortment of various curries, sambar, rasam, curds, and rice.
The food is served unlimited and is extremely tasty and nourishing. With the food, there are papads, pickles, masala vadais, marinated chilies, and other light snacks.
- Where to eat: Sriram Mess
This incredibly tasty sweet is another of Madurai’s essential foods to eat. Made in ghee, this is a made of rava or sooji, that is mixed with jaggery, and cooked to bring it to a uniform consistency. It is then served with a sprinkling of dry fruits. You cannot miss the aromatic smell of this sweet while visiting Madurai.
- Where to eat: Prema Vilas Halwa Shop, New Nagalakshmi Bhawan Halwa Shop, Nagapatnam Halwa Shop, Madurai Gopu Iyengar’s Fast Food Café, Murugan Idli Shop, Temple City Restaurant
It’s partly due to this enormous popularity of street foods of Madurai, that it has earned the title of ‘Thoonga Nagaram’, the city that never sleeps. And this title is apt, considering the rich trade network that connected Madurai with other places in India and the world. It also opened Madurai to different cultures and cuisines. Its markets had to be open at all times, and with the markets, is the need for food for the traders and the common man. These street food stalls cater to that growing demand for food at all times of day and night.
If you also have enjoyed the street foods of Madurai, or even know of some that deserve a special mention in this list, do drop your comments in the box below. It will certainly be a great help for other visitors to Madurai in finding the right source of food and refreshments.