We’ve all heard of takeaways, drive thrus, even doggy bags from a restaurant. In India we rarely say “Can i get this to go” or even “Take away” if we are not at a fast food place. In most restaurants we say, “parcel, karo” (literal translation: do this as parcel) or “pack kijeya” (pack this up please). But only in Vizag have I come across the Indian restaurant solely dedicated to parceling food, they even call them “parcel restaurant”. Most places will have some tables you can eat at but not these.
Vizag is littered with “parcel” joints. Our favourite (and I use the term favourite loosely) is Rajadhani at Diamond Park, Dwarka Nagar, the “Multicuisine” restaurant. Note the word restaurant is used again, very loosely here. Multicuisine is a feature of every hole in the wall eating joint around this country, a word I think we coined, which includes the cuisines of the Chinese, Tandoori, “Indian” and Panjabi etc. I’m not sure what “Indian” translates to – do they mean Tamilian food, Andhra food, Kanada food, coastal food? Travellers don’t be misled in to thinking that these cuisines are in any way authentic. Rather they are a unique Indianised version of affairs.
The Rajadhani, with trough after trough of terrifyingly electric spicy meat dishes will light up the roof of your mouth like a Christmas tree. A common descriptor for food like this is “gunpowder” for its explosive spiciness. The people of Andhra are chilli junkies (you may have heard of the famous Guntur Red Chilli) and the Rajadhani is their temple. Often the food here has been so spicy we’ve had to wash the masala off and douze it with curds to make it palatable. Spicy as it might be, it’s got this thick oily gravy made with hundreds of onions allowed to sweeten and caramalise along with whole branches of curry leaves. I can’t get enough of fried curry leaves. A smogarsboard of meats (restricted by our Indian sentiments of course) – fish, prawns, crabs, mutton, chicken, gizzard, liver, quail and god knows what else is either roasted, fried or curried and line the length of this narrow shop. The meats and gravies in each trough look only slightly dissimilar in their degrees of black, brown or shades of red.
It reminds me of the small shacks in Malaysia, especially along the highway in Langkawi where you’d serve yourself from a variety of buffet troughs and sit down on rickety white and red plastic chairs, with an ice tea or Milo ice with the ubiquitous cat or kuching trawling for scraps, making its presence known by shimming against your ankles. Tables and cats conspicuously absent at the Rajadhani.
The chicken “join(t)” sometimes found in “join(t) biryani” is the chicken leg and thigh together, another Andhra specialty, not a term I’ve heard used anywhere else. If you’re ordering the “join(t)” you have to employ the flavour of the local language which means that it’s not pronounced join with a JOY sound, rather with a “JAAEEYn” sound. Those of you from Vellore will remember the JOY ice cream palour opposite CMC hospital pronounced JAAEEY.
You order by the plateful. A plate is a kidney shaped saucer and is roughly 200 to 250 gms worth of dry food (without gravy) and about 350gms with gravy. It’s weighed microwaved and placed in a sealed foil bag.
If you come just before the lunch hour rush, you’ll see neatly pre-packaged plastic parcels of lemon rice, tamarind rice, coconut rice, plain rice, sambar and rasam. There is something comforting and visually appealing I find in this symmetrical display.
There’s also a tray of “podis” or “powders” that we mix with a bit of groundnut oil and dab our idlis, dosais or even rice with. I’ve never seen so many varieties of flavours as in Andhra – mango, sweet mango, mango thokku, lemon, lemon chilly, ctirus, ginger, amla, tomato etc.
Perhaps the American version of the Rajadhani is called a ‘Deli’, although the Rajadhani is spicy, oily, quite lacking in hygiene but definitely full of life, colour and character. This is what I love about small town India and what I didn’t realise I missed all those years I lived in London. I don’t want to admit that we are regulars at the Rajadhani because we only buy the gizzard fry as an emergency to keep in the freezer. Emergencies such as when I might travel on work etc. But it takes a lot of will power to resist buying the mutton and crab roasts every time we’re in there.
Here’s directions just in case I’ve piqued your taste buds (it’s even on Google Maps!). Just before the diamond park circle, before Sai Ram Palour and after the book shops, Nikon and DELL stores