Restaurants across Chennai pivot to deal with an increasing demand for nutritious meals for COVID-19 patients, serving up everything from creative millet-based pizzas to hearty milagu pongal
“I get the impression that those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and under home quarantine crave comforting meals. They come up with so many tips, suggestions, ideas and meal combinations, to make every meal tasty and interesting,” says NS Krishnamurthi, of Prems Grama Bhojanam (PGB), a restaurant in Adyar that specialises in millet-based rural food.
As COVID-19 cases rise, so does the need for nutritious meals for patients as well as people undergoing quarantine. With cooking and grocery shopping posing a challenge, restaurants, cloud kitchens and home kitchens around the country are fortunately pivoting to create menus and meal packages — with inputs from nutritionists and doctors, to provide warm, comforting meals.
For convenience, these meals are available as weekly packages, and can be tailored for individuals or the entire family. “Keeping with the COVID-19 times, we ensure we include certain ingredients believed to boost immunity in our culture such as Indian gooseberry, ginger, garlic, cumin and pepper in most of the dishes,” says Krishnamurthi, who sends out meals for lunch and dinner.
These are deliberately priced economically, compared to dine-in prices as he considers it his duty to be of service in challenging times such as this. At PGB, the COVID-19 meal package with breakfast, lunch and dinner costs ₹1,800 per person per week. Phone: 9840062772
To ensure that patients, already battling their isolation and challenging symptoms, enjoy the food, Krishnamurthi says they provide a different menu every day. “The demand is high for millet rasam rice and kaara kulambu rice as patients feel spicy food suits their taste palate.”
At the Sangeetha Veg Restaurant too, orders for Covid meal packages have been surging. Clients include people under home quarantine as well as private hospitals. K Prasanna, manager of the Velachery branch, says they send out over 200 meals a day to hospitals as well as homes in Velachery, Tambaram, T Nagar, ECR, OMR and other nearby locations.
The package, labelled ‘Fight with COVID19’, can be booked either for one week or a fortnight, and is ₹650 per day inclusive of breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner and delivery charges. Phone: 8754574305
“We provide ginger tea along with breakfast, which is usually venn pongal, idli, uthappam or idiyappam. We make sure to provide kabasura kudineer, turmeric milk and garlic milk every day. Garlic is cooked in milk and powdered panangkalkandu (palm sugar candy) is added for immunity boost,” says Prasanna.
He adds, “Any one variety of sundal or sprouted moong dal sprinkled with pepper and salt is sent for snack time along with ginger tea. Our protein ball has gone down well with the COVID-19 patients. We prepare it by grating together paneer, ginger, green chilli, garlic and add salt and pepper and shape it into the shape of a ball. In citrus fruit juice, we add Indian gooseberry and tulsi.”
- COVID19 best sellers: Mint rice, Kaarakulambu rice, rasam rice, milagu pongal, paneer balls, millet pizza, idly with ginger and turmeric, ginger tea
- Atithi Khana: 9566248148
- CURI Renal Diet Canteen: 8838093097
- Sangeetha Veg Restaurant: 8754574305
- Roo’s Food Concepts: 7299023000
- Prems Grama Bhojanam: 9840062772
Dinner includes steamed idli, idiyappam, or kal dosai, uthappam, roti. “We send turmeric milk along with dinner. Some patients request us to send them rasam rice or mint/coriander rice for dinner, and for them, we tweak the menu. But lunch is always South Indian meals,” he says.
“Around this time last year and now again there has been a huge demand for quarantine meals,” says Gayathri Nandakumar of Roo’s Food Concept, at Kilpauk. They offer Covid meals based on a subscription model, on a weekly basis. The cost, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, is ₹4,500 per week for vegetarian and ₹5,000 for non-vegetarian. Phone: 7299023000
“We focus on providing a balanced diet. There is a misconception that dairy and fruits are to be avoided by COVID-19 patients, but the body requires all kinds of nutrients and therefore we provide cut fruit and curd rice. We sprinkle chia seeds on fruits and send a sachet of dry ginger powder, which can be mixed in hot water,” she adds.
Gayathri says the demand for South Indian food has gone up, and so has the preference for millets. “We notice that many vegetarians are opting for egg as suggested by the doctors. Our subscription base is mostly the elderly, but we also have a good number of teens and young adults,” says Gayathri. At Roo’s they provide continental food, in addition to South Indian and North Indian menus. “As COVID patients seem to lose their ability to smell and taste, we make it a point to provide them different food from different cuisine for every meal.Youngsters ask us for healthy wraps or sandwiches,” she says, adding, however, that their most popular item is rasam rice, followed by their milagu samai arisi pongal and samai ginger-turmeric idli.
For old times sake
RA Puram’s Atithi Khana (Phone: 9566248148 ), primarily a delivery platform, is also now supplying 50 meals across the city for those on home quarantine. Founder Ashish Nahar says that the demand has been all time high over the past 10 days.
“We provide vegetarian South Indian and North Indian lunch and dinner, and there has been a high demand for millet-based food as the focus seems to be on eating healthy,” says Ashish, adding that they have introduced a pizza, where the base is made of ragi. At Atithi Khana, two meals per person per day works out to ₹250.
“Compare to last year, I see there is better awareness among the population and COVID-19 patients are taking care of themselves well by sourcing nutritious meals from service providers. Our strong point is that we asses the patient over the phone and understand their symptoms and other medical conditions and our dietetics team carefully creates the diet plan for them. It is not one meal for all, but personalised and balanced meal to suit individual requirements,” says Gayathri Ananthakrishnan, managing director of CURI Hospital, Old Mahabalipuram Road.
Their meal plan starts from ₹400 onwards per day. Phone: 8838093097 .