Seema lives the life many of us aspire to - travelling to places, tasting the best of cuisines and letting the world know about our tryst with food. While the foodie in us may whole-heartedly relish anything that tempts our taste-buds and we may travel several kilometres just to savour some crispy cheese samosas, it’s no child’s play to describe the melted cheese wrapped inside the fried batter, and persuade hundreds around you to go to the same place and try those very same dish.
And this is exactly what Seema Gurnani, who runs the food and travel blog ‘Panda Reviewz’ has been successfully doing for the past three years!
A food and travel enthusiast, Seema started her food blog called Panda Reviewz in 2016. A native of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, Seema began reviewing food from around the city at a time when Swiggy and Zomato had still not set their eyes on Vijayawada’s culinary map. Now 24, Seema has just returned from Malaysia after attending a travel programme organised by the Malaysian tourism department. All thanks to Panda Reviewz which has turned the young woman into an international food blogger.
“My mother was a cooking teacher. She used to conduct cooking lessons for people at home and help organise culinary events. And needless to say, we were her subjects for food experiments before every event! Though I never aspired to be a food blogger, travelling to different places and trying new cuisines just became a part of my lifestyle,” Seema tells TNM.
Seema, an avid traveller, soon realised that following her passion was more important than being stuck in a job in Hyderabad that didn’t give her enough holidays to travel around.
“I was also tired each time recommending new places to my friends over the phone, suggesting that they try the idli over punugulu every time someone made a trip to Vijayawada. That’s when I decided to quit my job and became a full-time blogger. My first blog was on the chicken biryani at Pista House restaurant in Vijayawada,” Seema recounts. But this was one of few times that Seema wrote about non-vegetarian food.
“I turned into a vegetarian soon after I started my blog. And this came with its own ups and downs. More than half the population in Vijayawada loves non-vegetarian food and every time I visited a restaurant, they'd insist that I try their mutton biryani or the chicken kebabs. But very soon, my blog became an alternative to the many vegetarians who visited the city and were keen to find out what culinary alternatives were available other than just paneer,” Seema laughs.
If one is to ask Seema to list some of the lip-smacking vegetarian delicacies in Vijayawada, she can tell you countless places that give you the best idlis, punugulus and Andhra snacks in the city.
“Contrary to perceptions, vegetarian food isn’t boring and paneer is not the only alternative to chicken. From yummy dishes made of soya to mirchi bajjis and slurpy summer drinks, Andhra cuisine has a lot of varieties when it comes to vegetarian food,” Seema adds.
Though Seema is a vegetarian now, Panda Reviewz dedicates space to non-veg delicacies from contributing writers, who, according to Seema, know their local cuisine. And today, Seema’s blog isn’t restricted to Vijayawada, it brings you the best places to hang out and dine at, from Delhi to Pondicherry with Malaysia being the latest entrant. And do not forget, it also has some of the must-try 50 drinks and food items all the way from Texas!
Running a blog is a different ball-game altogether, says the food blogger. After Seema started Panda Reviewz, she did a course in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which helped her bring more traffic to the website. Today, the blog helps people pick some of the best places to travel around in the country and also try the delicacies at these destinations.
“My personal favourite is street food," Seema says, adding, "Vijayawada is the best place to have idlis and dosas and all those snacks that Andhra Pradesh is famous for. Restaurants have multiple ways to market. But there are these authentic street food outlets that serve some really delicious veg and non-veg options. I try writing more about them so that people get to taste some real incredible Andhra food."
We asked Seema some of her favourite hang-outs in Vijayawada and these are her four quick recommendations:
1. Anji’s tiffin centre: For delicious idlis loaded with ghee and karampudi. The place is also famous for its ice-cream dosas. If you insist on having less ghee poured over your idlis, this is sure to upset the owner.
2. Verandah coffee and roasters café: For the best coffee in the city and good pastas.
3. For authentic Andhra meals, head to Sarovar Mess in Gandhinagar and Hotel Jaya Durga at Governor Peta.
4. Punugulu and mirchi bajji in Mohgal Raj Puram and at Ravi pungulu center are a must-try.