South Indian Food: A Few Favorites

So you think Indian food is just chicken tikka masala and palak paneer?  Think again.

Recently, I’ve settled into a familiar morning routine: a masala dosa and sweet milk coffee in a simple canteen just down the street.  Attendants make their rounds with metal pails full of sambar and colorful wet chutneys, ensuring that all customers have ample supply, more than enough to eat.

Audrey Excited for Her First Masala Dosa in Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia
Audrey Enjoys a Masala Dosa in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The activity, the flow, the smell and most certainly the taste all make me feel at home.

Though I’m physically in one of Kuala Lumpur’s Indian neighborhoods as I write this, these morning moments take me back to our travels through India, and more specifically southern India.  There, as my taste buds adapted to the flavors and style of South Indian cuisine, the masala dosa emerged as our savory breakfast of champions.

South Indian cuisine? Isn’t all Indian food the same?” you might ask.  

Not at all, even by the standards of my amateur taste buds.

South Indian cuisine is distinct. If you don’t think so, just get a food passionate northerner and southerner from India together in the same room and ask, “Which is better, food from the North or the South?”  God forbid, you get someone from Mumbai to debate whether chaat (street snacks) are even better.

Here’s the deal with Indian food:  most Indian restaurants in the West serve northern Indian (or Punjabi style) food – rich, creamy curries and sauces; dishes like butter chicken, navratan korma, tandoori baked meats and naan bread.

In southern India, vegetarian meals are the norm. Instead of the cream, South India goes for seeds, popped spices, tomatoes, and various dals (lentils) used as accompaniments. Theirs is also a style of eating that incorporates light meals and snacks, known as tiffins, throughout the day.

7 Favorite Dishes from Southern India

1. Dosa

The first few times I tried masala dosai outside of India, I wasn’t impressed. Only in Fort Cochin (Kochi), India did I eventually warm to them. By the time we arrived in nearby Kollam, I was hooked. There was something so perfect in the combination of the crispness and nutty flavor of a dosa (a thin, large pancake made from a batter of ground rice and urad dal) and the mildly spiced crushed potato mixture inside (that’s the masala).

Super-Sized Dosa - Kathmandu, Nepal
A giant masala dosa. Breakfast of champions.

Add to this the pails of sauce that circulate in a typical South Indian cafeteria: sambar (a slightly sour-savory sauce made from tur dal, tamarind, and vegetables) and various wet chutneys, including ones made with popped mustard seeds and ground coconut (white), chili/mint/coriander (green), and tur dal chutney (red).

A full treatment of dosai – including Mysore, rava, onion and all permutations thereof — could well be the topic of a tasty dissertation.

A dosa – in all of its wet topping goodness – is typically eaten with the right hand. South Indian restaurants have a sink at the back to wash your hands, before and after, but don’t be afraid to ask for a fork and spoon if you feel uncomfortable digging in with your paws.

2. Banana Leaf Thali

Thalis are like many little meals in one, a little buffet on a banana leaf or metal tray. For the small plate snackers in us, a joy to eat. Simple and beautiful.

Lunch in Kerala's Backwaters - Kerala Backwaters, India
Banana Leaf Thali in Kerala

A large pile of rice forms the base and smaller piles or tin cups of curries, chutneys, pickle can be found in orbit. Topped off with a chapati bread round or papadum and you are all set. The idea: salty, sweet, sour and bitter merge in the mouth in one sitting.

On our first day in Kochi, we poked into a vegetarian restaurant for lunch and had our first real South Indian thali served on a banana leaf. Piles of red rice in the center with endless ladles of dal (lentil), sambar, and cooked vegetables to go with. Typically, it’s all you can eat, and the price runs roughly $1-$2.

3. Vada

Think of a fried, savory and dense donut and you’ve got a vada. It’s the dal, lentil, gram flour and occasional potato mash that provide the vada its heft. It can be eaten straight as a snack on the street or taken in a restaurant with the familiar sides of sambar and wet chutneys.

Vada with Sambar and Wet Chutneys - Kualal Lumpur, Malaysia
Vada with Sambar and Wet Chutneys

4. Idli

Savory, steamed saucer-like cakes made of a batter from fermented black lentils and rice. The result is soft, almost fluffy. And, you guessed it – they are served with the side pails of sambar and wet chutneys.

When faced with the choice, we’ll choose a dosa or vada to an idli, but don’t hold that against them. Idli are especially popular in the morning and appealing, particularly after they’ve been steamed fresh.

5. Kozhikode Biryani

I used to think of biryani as an inferior dish on the menu, akin to Chinese fried rice. I also used to think of it as only northern Indian. But then we tasted what we called “community biryani” in Kollam served straight from a pot meant to feed hundreds, the taste was surprisingly complex: cinnamon sticks, star anise, cumin, cardamom, even a little coconut milk.

Stirring the Biryani
Community Biryani in Kollam, Kerala

We usually found biryani in the Muslim areas of towns in southern India. They were often served with mutton, but there were vegetarian versions, too (especially when the local mosque is serving it for free). You can spot the biryani shops: men out front stirring a massive pot of colored rice, stewing and stirring it until the spices have settled in.

6. Yogurt rice (or curd rice)

We first recall hearing of this dish when we lived in Prague. A friend there had spent a couple years living in Chennai and this fast became her Indian comfort food.

Curd rice is made with lightly fried spices such as mustard seed, cumin, coriander leaves, asafoetida (stinky, but good for the tummy) and turned with plain yogurt (or curd). It serves as a cooling agent both from the spice of South Indian food and from the intense Indian heat that sometimes leaves you without an appetite. A tip for tummy-troubled travelers out there: it’s often used to nurse upset stomachs back to health.

7. Coffee Wallah Special

When the show’s over and you are filled to the gills, take a glass of Indian-style coffee or milk chai served with lots of milk and sugar (heresy to the hard-core coffee aficionados, I know). Indian coffee wallahs will toss the piping hot milk and coffee between two metal cups until it’s well-blended and at the perfect drinking temperature.

Indian Coffee with a Smile - Pondicherry, India
Coffee Wallah in Pondicherry, India

Fun to watch.

—-

So next time you are in India or on the hunt for Indian food, be on the lookout for South Indian cuisine. The dishes may not be as creamy as your favorites from the north, but no less tasty. And like us, maybe you’ll find that the more you eat it the more you’ll grow to love it.

As I strike the final key, I’m preparing to leave for the airport and planning a dinner strategy. I think it’s time to hit the cafeteria for one last dosa before boarding my flight to Amman, Jordan.

These are a few of our favorite South Indian dishes. What are yours?

Enjoy this?

Then sign up for more travel wisdom & inspiration from 7+ years of traveling the world.

Comments

  1. says

    I miss Indian food – yum. And I discovered chai for the first time on the trains there too. If I ever decide to be a vegetarian, it’ll be because I’m living in India!

  2. Agne says

    Oh, I also have my story with Indian food :) In my recent trip to Penang, I mostly ate Indian food. I had very nice Tandoori Chicken for my dinner on the second day there. It was really really delicious! On my last day in Penang, I went to other place for Indian food, and couldn’t choose what I want, so the waiter came to help me. I saw Masala Dosa on the menu, with a picture, and asked if it’s big enough. The waiter said: no, not very big. So I thought it could be my starter, and ordered some noodles with chicken and shrimp for maincourse. First, the noodles came – I thought “ok, it doesn’t matter what comes first”, but after few minutes I got my masala dosa – a huge huge portion! I asked the waiter: “Not big?” He answered: “Eat slowly slowly” :) Both dishes were delicious, but I couldn’t eat them both… Well, next time I know what a masala dosa mean :) “Big big portion!” :)

    Have great experience with food in Jordan!

  3. says

    I’m a huge fan of Indian cuisine overall, but South Indian food is something special.

    Unfortunately it’s really hard to find in the States – there are a few restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, but we haven’t seen many others since leaving that area. Then again, in many parts of the country we’ve had a hard time even finding North Indian food, so I guess I’m not surprised. :)

  4. says

    I love Southern Indian Food!
    We’re fortunate to have a really good restaurant in our area! But what I really miss is their Southern Indian Coffee! My husband brought me back from his yearly trip to So.India coffee, what I call a french press, it’s made out of stainless steel/tin. Very small possibly for one cup. Do you happen to know a recipe that I can make in this? He didn’t get instructions on how to make coffee. Looking forward to your recipes!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Enjoy! Sharon
    Stepping back in Time with my Cherished Cookbooks

    • Bharthi says

      Hello Sharon, we use the stainless steel coffee filter too. The coffee comes out really strong almost like a espresso. You could thin it out if you prefer. Now for the instructions: Bring water to boil,. Fill 3/4 of the top container with coffee powder. Do not press it down. Shake the filter lightly to allow the powder to settle down, it should Not be tightly packed. Pour the boiling water,going around in circles and fill almost to the brim. Leave it for few minutes with the lid on loosely. Your coffee should be ready in the bottom container in few minutes. You could add boiling water again to the top part of filter to get more coffee, but it will be thinner/milder the second time.
      Boil milk in the stove (should be steaming hot). Pour coffee into your cup, add sugar, and add the steaming hot milk as much as you prefer. mix it with a frother or pour from one cup to another couple of times to get the froth on top. (preferably use a cup with a brim, otherwise this could get messy)
      I am still experimenting with different brands of coffee powder in US that works best with this filter and suits my taste..
      The obvious choice would be to get a “filter coffee” powder from a local indian grocery store. But it is available only in smaller packages and it could get expensive in the long run if used alone.
      You could instead use any medium roast coffee powder of your choice and mix in an indian brand filter coffee like :”Green label” or you could simply mix dark roast and medium roast coffee powders to get that robust flavor.

      Enjoy your cofee!
      Bharthi

  5. says

    absolutely loved reading your post. India is one of my top destinations for future travel and this has given me an insight into the foods and flavours of the country. many thanks.
    regards
    Cindy
    @3days_in_london

    p.s. great photos, I got hungry looking at them :)

  6. says

    @Dave: The chai on trains is pretty darn good and addictive. I’ve always said that India is the best place in the world to be a vegetarian – the options are endless and are often more tasty than the meat dishes.

    @Agne: I’m laughing at what you described since I can imagine it completely! Yes, dosa are “big, big portion” and even if you still feel a bit hungry when you finish, you’ll usually feel full a few minutes later if you wait for your brain to catch up with your stomach. But, as there isn’t a lot of cream and butter involved I do find that I feel better after eating a large dosa than eating a lot of creamy curries. Glad you enjoyed it!

    @Ayngelina: I also have a soft spot for palak paneer :) But, the more I eat South Indian food the more I find myself craving it instead of some of my previous favorites.

    @Christy: Now that I’m more aware of South Indian food, I find myself finding little pockets of it here and there in the States – sometimes it’s on the back side of the menu. Northern Virginia has a few South Indian options. But, it’s still definitely not the norm.

    @Sharon: I’m afraid we’re not much help with a recipe to make South Indian coffee. Usually, we just watched the wallah do his thing mixing the milk together to get the froth but don’t remember seeing the process to get the actual coffee part. Sorry about that! Perhaps you can ask at the South Indian restaurant near you.

    @Cindy: India really is a great destination and the more one travels in India, the more one realizes the diversity inside in cuisine, people, languages, and more. Really a fascinating place.

  7. says

    You seem to have missed ‘puttu’ (steam cake), appam and idiyappam. All these items are hugely popular in South India, especially in Kerala. Both veg and non-veg curries are ideal side dishes.

  8. Lavanya says

    Hi Audrey!

    I’ve been following your site for a while and i have to say it warms my heart to read this post. (I’m from South India though now living in Dubai for last couple of years) and I often have seriously life threatening cravings for a nice big crisp masala dosa which doesn’t go away for hours! :)

    I’ve been planning my own RTW trip soon so it will be interesting to experiment,experience, enjoy and write about food in other countries from a South Indian’s perspective :)

    Cheers!

  9. says

    I love, love, love south Indian food and that region especially. A very laid back feel (at least by Indian standards) with a wonderful variety of vegetarian food. Yogurt rice is a particular favorite of mine.

  10. says

    I was invited once to a national Indian feast where we could eat all the Indian specialities. I have to confess you, I could not eat them. Even the dessert was full of hot pepper and … ;-) I will not tell you how I felt after that feast… It was my first time and I was not ready to such an experience. :0)))

  11. says

    My family’s South Indian so we eat all of these ALL the time. Idli is my absolute favorite — my mom makes them piping hot for lunch time whenever I’m home. Next time you’re in South India, try to find pani poli — it’s basically a sweet roti-type dish in a milk dessert and a very traditional South Indian sweet. It’s not as sweet as the usual Indian sweets, too.

  12. says

    I prefer South Indian food as I find North Indian food too rich for me. And South Indian cuisine offers tasty vegetarian meals too. Now that I live in Manila, I seldom visit Indian restaurants here as they serve North Indian food. I hanker for dosa, idli, vadai and thali meals which I used to order in Singapore and Malaysia.

    Oh god, now I’m soo hungry again!

  13. says

    @Niji: Thanks for adding a few more typical South Indian dishes. Yes, I know we didn’t have a chance to try everything during our time in Kerala and Tamil Nadu…so we’ll just have to go back!

    @Connie: I’m usually not one for big, savory breakfasts like this, but I soon became addicted to dosa in the morning. Once we got to the north we would seek out the South Indian places for breakfast.

    @Liudmila: Sorry to hear about your first experience with Indian food. Yes, it can be quite spicy and hot. We are fortunate that we both like spices. But, usually the coconut wet chutney and the sambar are not too spicy. Hopefully your next experience will be better!

    @Akila: It’s funny how we never got into idli – we’ll have to give it another try next time we return. And, thanks for the tip about pani poli. Sounds delicious.

    @Tisha: I imagine that cooking these dishes does take practice, but once you learn the basics you’ll do great. Good luck!

    @Prime: It’s funny because I used to always crave the creamy dishes from the north. But, the few times we ordered those in Kuala Lumpur last week we found ourselves feeling too full and heavy afterwards and missed the South Indian dishes. Funny how you just get used to something and it’s hard to go back.

  14. says

    I once tried Indian food and I was mesmerized. But that was a long time ago. I mean, I don’t even remember what I had. All I know is that it was delicious. I will try the southern Indian cuisine as soon as I’ll have the opportunity. Great dishes by the way. Yummy looking and definitely tasty.

  15. says

    The Dosa looks very tempting, Audrey! I truly enjoyed reading this. I didn’t know that there were distinctions between northern and southern Indian food. So you prefer southern over northern Indian food then?

  16. says

    Love eating Indian food but did not know ‘Southern Indian food’ offered as many choices as you describe so well in your post. Dosa is a great dish. Great pictures.

  17. says

    I visited Kerala last December and the best thing about the entire trip was the FOOD. Loved the different breads, fresh seafood and all the different chutneys. A real foodies heaven :) If I ever turned vegetarian I’d definitely move there.

  18. says

    @PB: You should definitely try and find a way to taste Indian food again – it really is quite delicious, both the South and North dishes.

    @Wandering Trader: One of the joys of traveling through India was discovering the diversity of foods and regional specialties. In Europe and the States, almost every restaurant serves North Indian cuisine so it’s not unusual that many people don’t know there are such differences. For every day eating, I prefer South Indian cuisine as it’s not as heavy and creamy and is full of great flavors. But, for a big dinner it’s still nice to have a rich chicken tikka masala or palak paneer. So, I guess it depends on my mood :)

    @GCG: South Indian food actually offers even more options than this, but I just kept it to the basics and our favorites.

    @Steve: Glad you enjoyed the photos and yes, many Indians are quite photogenic.

    @Amy: We learned to make pakoras and masala chai during our cooking class in Udaipur years ago, but have to admit I haven’t tried making them myself since. Might just have to try that next time we have a kitchen…

    @Moniqca: Kerala has some delicious regional pieces and lots of seafood, which is rather unique in most parts of India. And I agree, India really is the heaven for vegetarians!

  19. Sutapa Chattopadhyay says

    This is an old post, but I’d do almost anything for a dosa, especially a mysore masala dosa! Even in NYC, or New Jersey, there are few places serving up a great dosa and I haven’t been to India in 4 years now!!

    Somehow, the dosa itself comes out right in these restaurants but it is the accompanying chutneys that are lacking! I think what happens is that the popped mustard seed and coconut chutney is not made with fresh coconuts here in the US. A fresh coconut tastes a whole lot better than one that was cut up and refrigerated over months. Also, I think the dosa is fried in real ghee rather than canola oil.

    In any case, it isn’t the same here. :(

  20. says

    @Sutapa: Mysore masala dosa is my favorite!! First discovered them in Mumbai and then became a huge fan.

    There is a South Indian place near my mother’s house in Vienna, Virginia. While the dosa was good, the sambals and chutneys were just not the same. Perhaps it does have to do with not using fresh coconut or not having the same access to spices and ingredients. I agree, it’s just not the same.

    Interesting you mention ghee vs. canola oil – we’ve befriended a guy from South India in Berlin and he was talking about this in connection to cooking other South Indian dishes. Didn’t realize there was such a difference in taste.

  21. says

    Ola! Uncorneredmarket,
    Thanks for the info Most people think that you can’t possibly eat Indian food, if you’re on a slimming diet. That’s a fair statement if you always eat Indian food in restaurants, because many traditional Indian recipes involve either deep frying or the use of ghee (clarified butter). However, if you cook Indian food at home, it can easily form part of a weight loss regime, just the same as any other food. You just need to follow a few simple general rules.
    Regards

  22. says

    @Rocco: Good point. I suspect South Indian food is especially good for one’s diet. It’s heavily vegetarian and lacks all the butter and cream you find in the north. Another vote from the health-conscious for South Indian cuisine.

  23. Jonny says

    For travellers to India

    If you really want to skip the oily food , there are lots of dishes that are Steam baked . to namke a few : Idli, iddiapam , puttu .Dosa is not that bad wither on oil .

  24. says

    What a great post. I live in southern India and love the food.

    Your blog is refreshing and informative and I look forward to reading more.
    Dorinda

  25. says

    Totally enjoyed this piece. Its always interesting to read how non-Indians describe Indian dishes.
    While South Indian food is completely different than North Indian, the food varies from state to state within South India itself. In fact, they say, in India, the food and the dialect changes every few miles.
    Also what doesn’t get enough limelight is food from the west or the East like the Maharashtrian cuisine or Bengali dishes.
    And you got the part of people arguing about the best food in India spot on. In fact, its not uncommon to see a Mumbaite and a Delhiwalla arguing which city had better chaat :)

  26. says

    @Sandeepa: Glad you enjoyed reading this and hearing our perspective from spending time in the south. I completely agree that food varies all over India, from north to south to east to west. We enjoyed learning how to make Rajasthani food when in Udaipur and also really loved the food in West Bengal (Kolkata) and the different flavor combinations. Now I’m hungry for chaat!!

  27. says

    You have to believe that south Indian dish really amazing for its spiceness. If you eat it once you will definitely come again to India to taste such a dish.

  28. says

    @Vijay: We love spicy food, and really did fall in love with South Indian cuisine. It’s just a shame that it’s so difficult to find outside of India and Malaysia/Singapore!

  29. In says

    The first picture of you reminds me so much of myself and home. It cheered up my day a whole lot. Shall get some dosa for tonight. :)

  30. says

    @Sasa: As do we!

    @In: When I think of a freshly made dosa it makes me happy as well! Unfortunately, we haven’t found a good dosa place in Berlin yet so we just have to wait until we return to India…or Malaysia/Singapore :)

  31. says

    Audrey,
    I stumbled upon your site from the TEDx talk…. and I must say that this has to be by far the most authentic blog by a westerner on Indian Food. By Authentic I mean, that you have really understood the palate of us Indians and what makes us tick. What makes us tick is not the masalas and the rich ingredients or savouries………… but actually the stories of HOW, WHAT and WHERE!

    Kudos to you for getting the banana leaf thali right, but hey you missed out on mentioning the AWESOME, AVIYAL and Nirdosa! Check that out when next you are in Kerala……….. its absolutely yumm! And if you are kicked about travelling the south of India, the best way to go there is through Paradise – take a bus from Goa and head down south parellel to the railway track of the Konkan Railway – you are sure to encounter it, once you have the Sharavati river on your side. IF you’re lucky, and you are travelling in the monsoon’s you may see ridley’s turtles nesting at the pristine trasi beach just short of murudeshwar! All on your way to God’s own country – Kerala.

    But perhaps you may have already done this. :) Thank you for this trip down the lane of Bisi bele bhaath and set dosa’s with rasam and dahi! yummm… :)

  32. says

    @Asavari: Your comment made our day. Thank you!!! Although we do love food (& eating), it’s the stories behind the food and its people that really excite us. We are actually on our way to India right now, but we won’t be in Kerala so we’ll have to keep trying Aviyal and Nirdosa for another trip.

    We’re flying to Mumbai today for a few days. Any recommendation for chaat places or other Mumbai specialties?

  33. says

    Awwww!!! did I miss your mumbai journey completely?? :((

    Hope you are still there! If you are stationed in Colaba or Marine Drive, which is South Mumbai… then the place you must visit for Street Chaat that’s absolute heaven and also comparitively hygeinic is “Khau Galli” (literally meaning ‘Eating Lane’). You ask any Mumbaikar (folks living in Mumbai) they will tell you how to go there. This is a stand eat place!

    You should get pav-bhaji, street made dosas (try the mysore sada here) pani puri, bhel puri, ragda pattice, dahi batata puri, sev puri, sukha bhel, and an assortment of drinks mainly sugarcane juice too. The Ragda Pattice is to die for. Ragda Pattice – Pattice (fried potato tikkis) with a gravy of Ragda (chick peas) spiced with masalas, sweet chutney and a dash of cut coriander and onions.,,, YUMM! :-)

    If you want a more hygeinic place to eat Chaat, then try Kailash Parbat (a little high on the pocket) on Colaba Causeway. For a low pocket fare, you can try “Aga’s” on the same road, a few shops away!

    If you want to eat the best street Mysore Masala Dosa, you will have to head towards Breach Candy. There sits a guy on the road with his dosa thela somewhere beyond the Raymonds Showroom towards Mahalaxmi. He is the absolute king of Dosas in Mumbai…

    However if you have chosen a hotel next to the airport in the north mumbai suburbs… then you simply have to go to my friend’s restaurant “Just Kerala” and eat the AVIYAL there. It is the most authentic Kerala restaurant in Mumbai, and serves delicious Aviyal!!! You get a nice medium size bowl of Aviyal for Rs. 130/- and since it is cooked in coconut gravy, it’s pretty heavy so two people can easily share it. Ask any rickshaw driver to take you to Hotel Samraj on Chakala Road near Godfrey Phillips Cigarette Factory. Just Kerala’s is the coffee shop/restaurant of Hotel Samraj, situated on their second floor. The food there is divine… you perhaps can go there for dinner.

    Coming back to Chaat, Head for Juhu Chowpatty and eat all the Chaat you ever wanted, and down it with Nariyal Paani while watching the sun go down over the arabian sea.

    Westerner’s who are not used to eating street food can try the hygienic places, but if you are really ready to fight your digestive system and go all the way, I would urge you to try a paani puri from a street side bhaiyya, who stands with his lone thela. You would him anywhere and everywhere. The dirtier he is the better. ;-) And I really mean this! Its a proven fact (researched by me over the years) that the paani puri that these blokes make as opposed to the hygienic paani puri is very much superior. You end up paying through your nose for the hygienic places, but the taste is quite insipid. :-D

    The other amazing place for mouthwatering “dahi batata puri” is this snacks joint outside of Andheri Station (East) just where the first foot bridge to the station starts. This would be the first bridge if you are coming from Borivli, and the last bridge if you are coming from Churchgate.

    And last but not the least…. I hope you know that there are three types of paani puri fillings you get. If you go to a Kailash Parbat, the paani puri is exhorbitantly priced and you get boondi wala paani puri. (this one i personally hate). If you go to Khau Galli you will get the other two types – one is with filling of yellow ragda (boiled chick peas without gravy), and potato (as an additional option). This one is my second favourite. But my most favourite has to be – A filling of boiled Moong (green lentils) and potato. This is again another heaven! You can try all three though. :)

    Now only hoping that this did not catch you too late. Have a fun trip!

  34. says

    Oh!! didn’t see your comment about mumbai specialities…till now – so here’s another food gyaan session! :-)

    Well I am a vegetarian, so the reccomendations i make will be mostly vegetarian. But I do have friends who are non-vegetarian, so i know few of those places too.

    If you like seafood, then a visit to TRISHNA is a must if you are stationed in South Mumbai. This one is situated in Kala Ghoda, Fort… Its somewhere past the bylanes of the Kenneth Eliyahoo Synagogue in Kala Ghoda. People come from all over Mumbai to eat here.

    If you want seafood Goan style, then the place to visit would be Gomantak and/or Mahesh Lunch Home. If you are in South Mumbai then you can go to Mahesh Lunch Home on Cawasji Patel Street, Fort. If you are in North Mumbai (near airport) then you can go to Mahesh lunch home at Juhu Chowpatty.

    Though Gomantak is more authentic. Try Highway Gomantak (it is called seafood paradise) at Gandhi Nagar, Bandra East. The stuffed pomfret here is very famous. But if you are true goan as my mom says (I am a vegetarian by choice, born in a non-vegetarian, seafood loving family) you have not eaten anything, if you have not eaten “Solatle Bangde” – Mackarel’s made in Kokum (Mangosteen Fruit). She always salivates at the mere mention of it!

    Coming back to vegetarian food – a must for vegetarian – go eat at Chetna opp. the max mueller art gallery and next to Joss on Kala Ghoda Road. They serve the yummiest Gujurati and Rajasthani Thali. And if you go right now, they are probably serving aamras (sweetened maango pulp with milk, cardamom and sugar).

    Just down the same lane, you will see a copper chimney restaurant… you must go and try the masala papad there. 100 points it gets for presentation and taste. i am not telling you anything further, because i want you to be surprised. :-D

    Lastly it would be a shame, if you are in Mumbai and not eat Marathi food. Go looking for “Panshikar Upahaar Gruh” near the Dadar Station Flyover on the West. Lots of things to eat here – Sabudana Khichdi (khichdi made out of Sago, spiced with lots of crushed peanuts), Misal Pao (this is as hot as it can get! Authentic Misal is like a toxic spill ;-)) Farali Misal (a mild version and Satvik but absolutely yummy version of the toxic spill), Kothimbir Wadi (pakodas made from gramflour batter spiced with lots of coriander). For drinks you have to try either masala dudh (hot sweet yellow milk) and Piyush (a sort of a maharashtrian Lassi which is yellow in colour). For dessert, you MUST try “Kharwas” this is my absolute favourite, and is a maharashtrian delicacy – it is made out of chik – the first milk that a cow gives to its newborn baby calf. It is out of this world! And you will not get it anywhere else in India.

    I think these many specialities are enough for this trip, but of course there are many more. :)

  35. Khushi says

    Hi.
    I am travelling to south India (Keralato be precise)for the first time. My husband rupam and myself are BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG Foodies and i was net surfing to make “TO HOG ON LIST” in Kerala ;)

    Although we are not very fond of south indian food, and being in india get to eat it very often, still will try the authentic south Indian masala Dosai when we travel to Kerala in November:) Please post more on India…. :))

  36. says

    @Asavari: Apologies for the delayed response – our trip through India went quickly and we had limited connectivity for much of the time. But, your recommendations for Mumbai came in just as we arrived in the city so the timing was perfect! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hit all the places but we did find the shop near Dadar station and sought out some of the dishes (I fell in love with dahi batata puri!) at other places around the city. I’ve also forwarded all your recommendations to our friends who live in Mumbai. They are too good not to share!

    So, a big THANK YOU!!!

    @Khushi: We will be posting more on India in the next months as we just returned from a visit to Mumbai, Srinagar and Ladakh. So, stay tuned!!

    It is true that you can find South Indian food throughout India, but perhaps eating it at the “source” in the south might provide a different taste experience. We still think fondly of all the dosai we had in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Kerala also has many local dishes as well, so be sure to ask around to get some fresh seafood and traditional foods. Enjoy your trip!

  37. izzy says

    I gueaa the humble idli did not make it to the list. Its a great way to start your day steamed rice dumplings with sambhar and green and red coconut chutney depending on the type of idli you ordered. My fav is the kanchipuram idli . Its yellow in color and comes with red chutney.

  38. says

    Izzy, the idli did make the list above. You just need to look closer at #4 :) I do have to confess that I do prefer to start my day with a dosa rather than an idli so we don’t have many photos of them.

  39. Rajshekar says

    Hi Audrey and Dan,
    I got to know of your website through an article on BBC that featured you guys. I am fortunate to have found this wonderful site. First of all, the story of you guys amazes me and I can tell you how small I feel when compared to your experiences. Its heartwarming to see the caring human side of yours through various posts. I bet this may be a travel portal for some, but to me it is a life experience.

    It feels good to know that you guys enjoyed something for my part of the world, the South Indian food. It would be my pleasure to meet you guys if in future you get a chance to travel to India and in particular Bangalore. I would love to take you to some places which serve the most authentic Dosa and Idli. I bet you will love them.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Rajshekar

    • says

      Hi Rajshekar,
      Thanks so much for your kind comment and for stopping by after reading the BBC Travel article. We are especially thankful for your description of our blog and stories as a “life experience” rather than a travel portal. This is our goal.

      And yes, we will definitely get in touch next time we are in southern India. I have not been yet to Bangalore while Dan visited briefly in 1997. We hear it’s changed quite a lot :) Although, I imagine the dosa and idli are just as good as before.

      All the best,
      Audrey

  40. Mini says

    Hi Audrey, do you still live in Berlin? If yes, visit us in the suburb of Hamburg to get some fresh home made dosa with your sambars and chutneys!

    • says

      Mini, we are still based in Berlin and are humbled by your invitation. Not sure when we will be going to Hamburg, but we’ll be sure to let you know. Already hungry thinking about a fresh homemade dosa! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>