Jul 082000
 

I have very few principles. One of them is "never eat at a place that spells dosa as dhosa, or sambar as sambhar". After I visited NYC for the first time, I added the "palok ponneer" to the list. There are thirty two restaurants in NYC, 6th street, alone that masquerade as Indian restaurants, with such egregious errors.

Speaking of restaurants, there are two dishes that are always the proof of a South Indian restaurant. One is coconut chutney. Anything less than fresh coconut reveals the lack of dedication of a chef to his/her clientele. Desiccated coconut is for the birds. If you are so hard pressed for fresh coconut, you could always use fried Sanaga pappu. Or, even use ginger pickle imaginatively (example: add sugar and water to make it a quick chutney).

The best coconut chutney? Fortunately, it is easy to get it right. The magic is in the freshness of the coconut. If the coconut is aged, it can give of that oil smell (which is just right for avial, another measure of a Kerala restaurant, but I digress). Fresh green chilies can add the required punch. After all this effort if you goof up on "tiragamOta", you lost your flavor.

Of course, the second measure is "rava dOsa". Over the years, I have eaten rava dosa from the ends of earth. I have eaten in London, NYC, SFO, Houston, Detroit, Madras, Bombay, Hyderabad, Nagpur. I have even tried ordering it in a restaurant in the arctic circle ("Sorry, we have reindeer meat if you would like to try").

For me the perfect rava dosa is a platonic concept. We, mere mortals,are eternally doomed to try to perfect it. I do have good memories of rava dosa though. My sister-in-law can turn out a great rava dosa on a good day. I recall Bharat Cafe on Etukuru road used to serve a good rava dosa. Unfortunately, neither my mother nor I can make good rava dosas.

What makes a rava dosa good? In one word, taste. Add too much oil and you cannot eat more than one. Add too little oil, you cannot even eat one. Add the potato curry, you lost the purity of dosa. Keep the mixture too long, you lost the crispiness. Make dosa too early, you lost the glutinous cohesion. What can I say? I am too picky with my dosas.

Couple of years back, I was in Guntur. For some reason anybody who invited us tries to make these extravagant dishes — all I want is a few more contributions to my compendium of rava dosa experiences. I could take it no longer; one early morning even before the household realized it, M, K, and I went to Ravi Sankar (a pale imitation to the Sankar Vilas of yester years). As usual, I ordered rava dosa. "We don’t have it now" was the answer. I could order "poori koora", I was told. I could even get regular dosa, which by the way, is as much Java resembles javascript (nerd allusion alert!).

Not perfecting rava dosa was a major disappointment to me. I could make paani poori from scratch. Why, I am known to make gumbo, chili, and even that divine dish panasa poTTu koora. I could, on occasion, command even yeast to produce bread. But, when it comes to rava dosa, I am a klutz.

Fortunately, recently, M. has decided that she needs to address this problem. Thanks to that, I report, I am having rava dosa for breakfast, lunch. and dinner. Is there such a thing as too much rava dosa?

Ramarao Kanneganti
July 8, 2000.
PS: I could see in future what is going to happen to my dinner invitations. Do any of you know the story of Sybil, the Greek woman who was cursed with her fulfillment of her wish?

[Originally published at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/racchabanda/message/766].

 Posted by at 8:03 am

  2 Responses to “Measure of a man or "vayam dEvaSya bhOjanam"”

  1. Hi Ram,

    Tumbled upon this post of yours just by mere chance,yet nonetheless, really enjoyed reading. Being a food connoisseur myself and being particular about my staunch south indian tastebuds, I could relate well to your commentary. 🙂 I have also at times wondered about the spelling of sambar – have found the use of ‘sambhar’ more prevalent to the north of India 😀

    I personally have had the privilege (well not really a privilege yet..) of trying dosas and other south indian delicacies in all south indian states, Orissa, Delhi, UP and even some northeastern states of India. I have also tried some places in New Jersey and New York. I should say they have a nice south indian canteen in the NY Ganesha temple at Flushing, where authentic south indian dishes/dosa/idli are available at a relatively lower price (notable as price being another villain in all Indian restaurants abroad). I have also tried Saravana Bhavan in New York, but had a south thali from there – not the dosas 🙂

    Do you recommend any good place in New York for south indian food – any place that I could try during my tenure here? Also I’d be in Alaska later this year – so maybe I can also try out those restaurants in the arctic circle for rava dosas 😀

    Regards
    Arun
    P.S : Replying to an article on food posted almost 15 years back – feels great!!! hope you still read the replies in the blog 😀

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