Hey, Bengaluru! Suvaii’s here to give you those authentic Madurai Pandyan dishes

Suvaii- A Pandyan legacy in Bengaluru aims to revive generational recipes passed down over centuries in the kitchens of the Pandayan empire.

ByFathima Ashraf

Published Feb 19, 2024 | 2:00 PMUpdatedFeb 19, 2024 | 2:00 PM

Suvaii aims to take patrons back in time to the rich culinary heritage of the Pandyan dynasty. (Supplied)

One might know Madurai — the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu — for its famous temples, historical monuments and its traditional architecture. With a culinary tradition that goes back to the 12th century, the ancient city is also a heaven for foodies. From Madurai idlis, mutton chukka, to kari dosa and bun parottas — the cuisine here, many believe, rivals any other in South India. 

Chennai-based trio Siddharth Renganathan, Suman Naidu and Satish Madhavan strongly believe that Madurai’s  distinctive culinary practices and dishes made of unadulterated ingredients have the power to make anyone’s taste buds dance. So when the childhood friends decided to step into the F&B space, the path was clear for them. And that’s how Suvaii– A Pandyan Legacy, a restaurant that serves authentic Madurai flavours in Bengaluru was born.

“We are childhood friends who share a collective passion for food. When we wanted to get into business together, our only aim was to do something different. There is no point in bringing something that’s already here,” says Satish Madhavan, who has previously worked at restaurants around Madurai.

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Generational dishes

Suvaii means taste. As the word goes, the restaurant located in Indiranagar aims to take patrons back in time to the rich culinary heritage of the Pandyan dynasty. Carefully curated by the founding members, the flavours here are the ones that have been passed down through generations. From the fiery spices to the delightful richness of coconut, each dish is a tribute to the legacy of the Pandyans.

Suvaii opened in Bengaluru its first outlet in Bengaluru last year. (Supplied)

Suvaii opened in Bengaluru its first outlet in Bengaluru last year. (Supplied)

With seats reminiscent of the traditional thinnais, ceramic floor tiles to the clay pots and portraits of temples adorning the walls, the 8,000 sq ft space is replete with decor and knick-knacks to transport you to Madurai. The staff members navigate from table to table chatting up people, mostly in Tamil and explaining the dishes to them.

“They are trained to engage with the customers,” Madhavan says, offering me a glass of Jigarthanda, a classic Madurai milk dessert. “Most of our staff is also from Madurai. We wanted to have people who know the food. They should know the language and also be able to explain the dishes to the customers.”

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Staying true to Pandyan flavours

One of the most prominent ancient Tamil dynasties, the Pandyans ruled parts of South India. They were known for their rich cultural heritage, which included their culinary traditions. Pandyan-style food is characterised by its use of locally available ingredients including lentils, coconut, tamarind, spices and meat. The team at Suvaii aims to reintroduce the cuisine to the new generation of food enthusiasts.

Non-veg meals at Suvaii are a must-try. (Supplied)

Non-veg meals at Suvaii are a must-try. (Supplied)

“In a day and age of fast foods, we wanted to go back to what is fresh, traditional and healthy– food that reminds people of their home,” co-founder Siddharth Renganathan joins us.

One must try non-vegetarian meals at Suvaii, I’m told.

The meals here come with a variety of poultry, meat and fish gravies besides the veg options. There’s poriyal, kootu, keerai parauppu, meen kulambu, mutton kulambu, chicken kulambu, rasam, buttermilk, pickles and a sweet of the day.

“There are brands around here that claim to offer Chettinad food but are actually offering a fusion. They don’t use the right ingredients or follow the original practices,” Renganathan points out.

He adds, “What we have here is not just Chettinad food. Chettinad is just a region. Besides Madurai, the Pandyan dynasty also ruled Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, among others. While mostly similar, the food in the regions come with slight variations. We wanted to offer them all which is why we are calling our cuisine Pandyan food and not just Chettinad food.” 

To achieve that, months of homework and research was done.

Renganathan tells South First, “The original versions of these dishes can be found in small homes in Madurai. They sell food but aren’t very big or commercial. We have travelled across the regions, met the masters, learned about the dishes for months before curating the menu here. We didn’t want to do something we don’t know.”

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Authentic or nothing

The dishes at Suvaii are made using wood-pressed oils, in-house ground spices, pounded masalas, fresh meat & seafood that are procured daily from Madurai.

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“If we are bringing Madurai dishes to Bengaluru but making them with the ingredients available here or elsewhere, that would be wrong,” says Madhavan. He adds that there are no artificial colours, added flavors or taste enhancers used here.

“Right from the oil and full-boiled ghee, to the meat used, everything comes from Madurai,” he adds. Out of the 80-member team, there are people who work out of there for sourcing and procuring.

“Apart from the homework and research, we have also worked on our understanding of technology,” Renganathan chimes in. “The ingredients are transported every fortnight. To ensure we don’t compromise the quality, they are blast chilled at a certain temperature. So in a way, we are serving the food fresh.”

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Time-honoured techniques

Among the repertoire of dishes available here is the famous kari dosa and ayirai meen curry.

“There are places here that give you dosa and put some gravy over it and call it kari dosa. But that’s not remotely close to the real dish,” Madhavan quips.

Unique to Madurai, the original kari dosa is made of three layers – plain dosa at the bottom, pepper-crusted omelette in the middle, and spicy kheema in the top layer.

There’s a technique to be followed. He explains, ”First the dosa batter is put on the stone, a special vengaya curry is put on top, and then comes the egg which creates another layer. The spicy mutton/chicken gravy is poured on top and then cooked for about ten minutes. So the top layer is crispy, the middle part is soft and the bottom layer is just like dosa. One has to put spicy gravy on top, mix all the three layers and then eat it. People in Madurai know how it’s done. There are people who have been making for 40-50 years. People unfamiliar might say the middle part is soft and uncooked but that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Thanks to word of mouth, patrons now visit Suvaii looking for the kari dosa.


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Know your fish & meat

Similarly, Madurai is famous for their mutton dishes. People there know what to cook with what part of the goat, Madhavan explains.

“For instance, there are two types of chukkas– the mutton chukka and mutton oil chukka. While the latter is cooked with meat from the goat’s front legs, the former is made of its hind legs– making the two dishes taste different. The meat on the front leg is more tender whereas the one at the back is harder so it is cooked longer making the flavours different,” he elaborates. 


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Another specialty here is the ayirai meen kozhambu, which is hard to find elsewhere.

Ayirai meen is a type of fish indigenous to Madurai and found in the marshy beds of dams, lakes and rivers. “Procuring the fish is one thing. But before cooking it, there is an elaborate cleaning process. Firstly, milk is used and then with water. After that, it’s cooked in a spicy gravy made of hand-ground masala. This is common knowledge for the people of Madurai but not elsewhere,” he informs.

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Technology and training

In the last 7 months that they have remained open, leveraging technology, strong logistics, supply chain and SOP have helped Suvaii retain consistency in quality. However, the challenge lies in dealing with manpower.

Renganathan clarifies, “By manpower, I don’t mean getting people to work for us but training them. We want to train them well enough so that they know everything about the hundreds of dishes that we offer. They should care about it and also be able to explain what we offer with the same passion that we have. And that takes time.”

The team plans to open three more outlets in Bengaluru before going multi-city. 

“We have plans to explore other cities and even explore the north like Delhi. That would be something. The plan is also to explore multiple formats of dining,” he adds.

One outlet at a time, Suvaii aims to reintroduce the Pandyan cuisine to the new generation of foodies and carve an individual identity for it amongst the milieu of cuisines from South India all the while paying homage to the legacy of the Pandyans.

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