Published: 29th May 2021
Ek Tha Blogger: Why you'll want to raid these vegetarian food joints after checking Ekta's IG reviews
We speak to Ekta Kothari, the force and soul behind the popular food blog, foodtalk_chennai, about why she decided to track the city's vegetarian cuisine
Always a foodie, Ekta Kothari began documenting food on her own social media channel while she went out on fieldwork during her college days. This was in 2016, when Ekta was studying Journalism at MOP Vaishnav College for Women in Chennai. "I would have to eat outside a lot and that is when my love for street food really developed. Chennai has so much to offer in terms of vegetarian street food but people elsewhere only refer to it as the land of idli and dosa," says Ekta. A staunch vegetarian, Ekta knew she had to put the city's wide array of vegetarian options on the country's culinary map.
It was shortly after this that a friend of hers helped her launch her Instagram page @foodtalk_chennai, separate from her personal Instagram account. "She took photos from my page and just began posting," recalls Ekta. In a matter of a few days, Ekta had over 100 followers who wanted her to recommend places they could eat in the city. "That's when I took it seriously. Over the years, I have visited several restaurants, eating joints and roadside stalls, and I kept reviewing their food. People actually listened to me and valued my opinion on vegetarian food," says Ekta.
Besides being a vegetarian, Ekta had another intention to explore Chennai's vegetarian food. "So many of my vegetarian friends and relatives have struggled to find places to eat when they visit South India. They don't know the rich food culture that the city boasts of," says Ekta, adding, "So many dishes that people have been trying during the lockdown, this year and last year, have been in existence on the streets of Chennai for years now. It has just not been tapped into," quips Ekta. And it's not just vegetarian food in Chennai that Ekta wants to be limited by. "I want to explore vegetarian food across the country and document it for travellers especially, who can find great places to eat when they visit," tells Ekta about her future plans. "I want to travel more and check out the vegetarian fare every city has to offer," reveals Ekta.
Ekta has some great recommendations when it comes to vegetarian street food in Chennai. Here they are:
Murukku sandwich: When Chennai met Mumbai
Bunza: The burger without the patty!
Lays sandwich: Bread and chips, anyone?
Khakhra sandwich: When Gujarat came to Tamil Nadu
Currently, with the restaurants shut and most eateries also non-operational, Ekta has been busy posting several recipes from her mother's and grandmother's kitchens. "While I'm a Marwari, I have been born and brought up in Chennai. Through the recipes, I try to fuse styles and show both sides of my culture," she says. Ekta has also done a series on lazy cooking for people who are living alone during the lockdown and don't want to cook elaborate meals. "These are easy and simple-to-make recipes that anyone can try out," states Ekta.
A few weeks ago, Ekta also volunteered to cook food for COVID-positive patients as part of the Cook For COVID initiative being run by home cooks. "There are about eight volunteers who cook food for the patients and then deliver it to their houses through Dunzo. Each of us takes responsibility for two to three meals and we serve the food for free. The cost of delivery is also borne by us," says Ekta about how the initiative works.