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What?s with the dosa fixation?

South Indian food is a hit among our American friends, who call our dosa the quintessential Indian pancake or crepe.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 12:17 IST

We call it dosa or dosai or even thosai. To our American friends it is the quintessential Indian pancake or crepe. Call it what they will, the growing interest in south Indian cuisine specifically in the metro area, that abounds in restaurants and caterers of this cuisine is compelling.

Only this week, a leading local newspaper's food critic waxed eloquent about this Indian specialty. With that, the already booming interest in Indian food saw a marked upward spiral. Although even just a cursory glance would reveal that this side of the Diaspora montage has more Gujaratis than any other Indian community; the popularity and consequently availability of south Indian food is ubiquitous for reasons as numerous as they are various.

Hurried publicity would have one believe that a couple of landmark restaurants that have been under the media spanner such as Decatur's Madras Saravana Bhavan on Lawrenceville Highway are the favored prototypes for dosa and other delicacies.

Prevalent public opinion though, skews towards many other not so shrilly orchestrated or publicised retreats serving equally good if not better food. Udipi Café in the same neighborhood as the former or Minerva Indian restaurant at Alpharetta are for instance, extremely popular among patrons, not all of whom are of Indian origin. Poona, Shri Krishna Vilas, Chatpatti, Planet Bombay, Mirch Masala and Bombay Grill remain other favourites offering delish dosas and other grub.

Which is why even amid the overall well-faring and well-received Indian cuisine, it is south Indian food that has caught the avid foodie's attention over time. For one, unlike the misnomer that most north Indian food is insanely spicy and hot, popular south Indian recipes such as sadha dosa, idli, upma etc are easily palatable to the blandest of taste buds.

It is a popular belief that for the uninitiated and keen; the option to get into Indian food is the south Indian way as it does not require elaborate gastronomical preparation! It is really quite another story that one needs only to try the other dishes to dish out the spice, as it were, on the real taste of a particular recipe. More importantly, being the Indian alternative to the ever popular fast-food meal for people on the go, this particular menu is both easy on the tummy and on the pocket.

Most favourably comparable among Indian victuals to the hackneyed Chinese quick-meal-formula that has the entire continent raving, the dosa-idli cult is slowly being marketed as a delightful, holistic vegan option to other greasy diets. Unlike many other Indian gourmet dishes, south Indian fare offers quick, light and universally edible options to take-away junkies. This cuisine serves as a less ornate yet wholly satisfactory option to corporate lunch-goers flitting through rushed office breaks.

So much so, that even grocers and general merchants of Asian origin have increased storage of south Indian food packets on sale along with ever popular rotis and nans. It is quite common therefore to see small idli and vada packets on sale at an alarmingly nominal costs at DVD shops among other places.

These are most often placed in separate stalls within a store and marked brightly for all and sundry to see and buy. A popular alternative for those who prefer to cook at home is the ready to mix-and-make batter formula, freely available at any Indian shop and International Food Mart. Even popular marketers of frozen foods have started to introduce pre-cooked meals, microwavable and ready-to-eat preparations that need no special cooking expertise at all.

Although not meteoric in proportion, the recent sporadic uprising in Atlanta among other cities over rising prices of dals or pulses also inadvertently led to people choosing the overtly viable option of picking up fast food such as this rather than stocking up what was, exorbitantly priced ration. While this is unlikely to tip the scale in favour of south Indian or any other type of cuisine for long, for a while, it did add momentum to the burgeoning appetite, really for Indian restaurant food here.

As for people of other nationalities, like popular, piquant pan-Indian delicacies as the curry, the gravy and tandoori victuals; dosa, the Indian pancake, is prominently holding its own as the rightful aperitif alternative supplementing deliciously, the zesty Indian food platter.

First Published: Sep 19, 2006 10:10 IST