You can never be a foodie if your heart hasn’t won over the brain. That holds true for most of the foods and beverages. Parotta is one of them; A flatbread made from maida flour. Originally from Sri Lanka, it is believed to be introduced in Tamil Nadu by the immigrants. Tuticorin, a port city in Tamil Nadu and Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka are well connected by sea. From Tuticorin, the parotta has made way to most parts of South India and is a very common street food now. Virudhunagar is a small town situated 100 kilometers north of Tuticorin. The town served as a trading hub and a lot of processed agricultural products were exported from Virudhunagar via the port of Tuticorin.
Virudhunagar had direct connections with Ceylon(Sri Lanka) as well. My grandfather used to import betel nuts from Colombo to Virudhunagar. There is an insignificant community of Virudhunagarians in the city of Colombo and a Sri Lankan refugee settlement near the Kullursandai Reservoir off Virudhunagar. The residents of Virudhunagar known for their exquisite palate might have brought home the parottas themselves from Ceylon or just borrowed them from Tuticorin.
The town is also known for its edible oil manufacturers. One example would be the Idhayam Group which was established in 1986 and now a well-known name in Tamil households across the world. A lot of oil mills and firms established in the town carry their legacy since the British era extracting various edible oils. So you don’t just get the ingredients for frying parottas but you get the best lot here and that makes the parottas very special.
I once remember being in a parotta festival with over a 100 types of parottas. A minimalist would keep it simple with parottas and saalna(சால்னா: A spicy curry). Vegans have parottas with kuruma(குருமா)/sambar(சாம்பார்)/vada curry(வடகறி). Some prefer having coconut chutney or sliced onions alongside. There are different types of parottas like coin, veechu(வீச்சு), poricha(பொரிச்ச), Ceylon, Kerala, etc. Virudhunagar parotta is poricha(பொரிச்ச)/ennai(எண்ணெய்)/oil parotta which is usually shallow fried in restaurants, deep fried in home kitchens and are very crispy. Parottas are also stuffed/minced with vegetables, egg, chicken, mutton, etc. Several mutton dishes like lamb trotters(பாயா), bone marrow broth(நல்லி), lamb leg stew(ஆட்டுக்கால்), intestine curry(குடல் குழம்பு), brain fry (மூளை), head meat stew(தலைக்கறி), liver and onions(ஈரல்), spleen fry(மண்ணீரல்), fried lungs(நுரைஈரல்), mutton kheema(கொத்துக்கறி), blood fries(இரத்தப் பொரியல்), etc. are also served along with parottas. I love to have parottas with kudal kulambu. Even the notorious Hannibal Lecter relishes kudal(Lamb Intestine) in Hannibal(TV Series) Season 1-Episode 11-Rôti.
Murtabak, a famous dish in the Middle-East and South-East Asian countries is very similar to stuffed parottas. As a kid, I even remember having minced plain parottas soaked in milk and honey. As with any other food, you can be creative and derive your very own parottas. Traditionally parottas were made in maida and wheat parottas are also getting common these days. Virudhunagarians are living as expatriates in several countries. Hence you can find a lot of restaurants across the world serving Virudhunagar parottas.
If you are ever on a road trip and pass by Virudhunagar, try some parottas in the famous Burma Kadai. It is right on the NH 44, the longest national highway in the country which starts from Srinagar and terminates in Kanyakumari.
Sri Mahalinga Vilas in Chennai is a great hole in the wall offering Virudhunagar parottas. The hoteliers are third generation folks from Virudhunagar.
Some people live and some just exist. I never ever believed in food taboos. We are sitting on top of the food chain not to keep our mouths shut. There might be some of your family and friends who are genuinely interested in your well being and explain the health hazards of eating parottas. Unless there is a medical condition that prevents you from having parottas, there is nothing wrong in spoiling yourself once in a while.
Food is something that divides people. People abstain from consuming various foods and beverages in conformity with various religious, cultural, legal or other societal prohibitions. Not here, parottas are something that unites people in Virudhunagar. There are people from different walks of life running and eating at restaurants across town. You can find roadside eateries and hotels with excellent ambiance too. I have tried almost every place that serves parottas in this town and I can tell you one thing. I have seen billionaires and the homeless dining right next to each other. For that, I love those Virudhunagar Parottas too!
PS. Here is a short story in Tamil inspired by Virudhunagar town and it’s famous parotta: எண்ணை பரோட்டா