A new takeaway chain in India, Amma canteens, is serving cheap meals to hundreds of thousands of people daily for just 10 cents. The canteens have become immensely popular with the poor and the middle classes.
Most diners are poor daily wage labourers, housemaids, college students, and middle-class office workers.
The portions are big and most describe the food as “delicious”.
Lakshmi, who works in the neighbourhood as a housemaid, is a regular at the canteen.
“Earlier, my employers would give me leftovers, but now I come here for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. For less than 20 rupees (40 cents), I can eat three meals here,” she says.
“This food is really good. I like all the dishes. My stomach’s full and I’m happy.”
What’s on the menu?
Breakfast (served from 7am to 10am) – idli (steamed rice cakes) for one rupee (2cents) or pongal rice (rice cooked with lentils and peppercorn) for five rupees (10cents)
Lunch (served from 12 noon to 3pm) – sambhar rice (rice cooked with lentils and spices) or lemon rice or curry leaf rice for five rupees (10cents) each and curd rice (rice cooked in yogurt with curry leaves) for three rupees (6cents)
Dinner (served from 5pm to 7:30pm) – two rotis with daal (handmade bread with lentil soup) for three rupees (6cents)
Many people who eat here earn less than 400 rupees per day, which equivalent to about $8NZD. The average cost of food used to be 150 rupees per day, around $3NZD. Now people can eat three good meals for only 20 rupees or 40cents per day.
The canteens were first started in 2013 in Chennai by Ms Jayalalithaa, with the aim to provide subsidised meals to the public.
Today, there are more than 300 such eateries in the state – at least half of them in Chennai alone. The food is prepared hygienically. They have also generated employment for thousands of women.