Murugan Idli Shop has recently opened its newest outlet on 100 feet road, Velachery and if you walk into it on a weekday, you will find it buzzing with people waiting to get their hands on the fluffy idlis and other goodies served at the restaurant.

About 45 years ago S. Manoharan (the founder of Murugan Idli Shop) ran the Murugan Coffee Nilayam in Madurai. It was a small-scale affair and the place served only coffee and snacks. And, then Manoharan’s mother started making idli and they became immensely popular among tiffin lovers. When S. Manoharan tried his hand at making idlis for the first time, little did he know that this unassuming South Indian speciality would make him famous. Now, more than 20 years later not just idlis but every other dish on his restaurant’s menu is a hot seller. No points for guessing. Yes, it’s the Murugan Idli Shop.

In 1991 he took over the business from his parents and added to the menu. “I introduced sambhar and four varieties of chutney, ghee pongal, sakkarai pongal, vada and jigarthanda,” he says. And in 2003 on the request of people in Chennai, he expanded his business, introducing the city to the taste of his fabulous idlis. “Before launching I did a survey as to what I should name the chain of restaurants. When I told my friends it will be called Murugan Idli Shop, they advised me not to use the word ‘shop’ and instead replace it with ‘restaurant’. But I went ahead. It has a touch of simplicity and uniqueness to it. And now people ask me where I got this catchy name from,” he says. The G.N. Chetty branch was the first to open, followed by the one on North Usman Road, after which a new branch has come up every six months leading to the total tally of 17 in Chennai and three in Madurai. They even have two outlets in Singapore.

If you ask the Manoharan, the secret behind his delicious and fluffy idlis, the man responds, “It is prepared in a traditional Chettinad way. We carefully select the variety of dal and rice, and have our own secret proportion. The batter is left to ferment for ten hours.”