I love dosas. There’s something about how South Indians ladle out fermented rice and lentil batter and grill it up till brown and crispy that totally rocks my world. I love dosas in all their inifinite forms. The gigantic two feet rolls of paper dosas, the stuffed potato dosas with spicy mysore masala rubbed on the inside, the webbed and chewy rava dosa, and even the funky cheese dosa. They’re like fun works of Origami art. Only yummier.
Chutneys in Hyderabad is the place to have dosas. I make multiple trips to the Jubilee Hills location everytime I’m down in the city. They’re so good that they usually have a 10-15 minute wait on regular days, with a much longer wait on weekends.
What I ordered on my visit yesterday was exactly the same as what I’ve ordered every other time I’ve been there – steamed dosa. It’s like a calling – I walk in, hope that I’ll be strong-willed enough to flip through the menu and pick something else, and then, as the waiter walks up, as though it were fate, all my rational, usually variety-seeking senses go into sleep mode, and helplessly mutter: one steamed dosa please.
My dosa-of-fate is flat and circular, with the soft porous consistency of a pancake that’s only halfway done on the grill. I haven’t seen steamed dosas (as opposed to the typical grilled ones) on menus elsewhere, so Chutneys may well have broken new ground with this steamed invention. Traditionally, dosas are dipped into stainless steel bowls of sambar, a spicy lentil-based soup, and coconut chutney, something that I’ve seen folks do with either their hands (my preferred style) or more daintily with a spoon as their aide. Most dosas are pretty great dipping tools, but the steamed dosa is on a whole other level because the soft white craters on its spongey surface totally soak up the sambar or chutney, lock in the liquids until the dosa bite has safely reached your mouth, and only then release the spicy, garlicky, coconutty, and other juices without any wasteful spillage on the journey between the stainless steel bowl and your tongue.
The result? A dosa experience where every bite is that much more juicier , more flavorful , more downright awesome.
Yin, my college bud who’s on a sabbatical from her high-flying consulting job in Beijing, and with whom I’m gallavanting around Hyderabad with, ordered the MLA Pesarattu dosa. I’ve always wanted to try this one because it’s stuffed with upma instead of the traditional spiced potato filling. My first bite of this dosa screamed only one thing: GHEE. They’d generously dolloped a spoonful of ghee, or clarified butter, on the warm dosa, and pretty soon, it had soaked right through the crispy outer layer into the moist inner upma stuffing. Pretty decadent dosa experience – in fact the most decadent I’ve tried, though I prefer my no-frills steamed dosa since it gives me the perfect palette on which to try the sambar and various chutneys without any flavor overdose.
Which brings me to the famous chutneys after which the restaurant gets its name, and which I sincerely wish they’d start bottling up and selling at their locations throughout Hyderabad so I could take a few home with me to Dubai. There are six of these delicious concoctions in total, three of which are coconut-based, and the other three which are more of garlic and ginger combinations. My favorite is a sweet white coconut chutney, with the fresh bite of grated coconut steeped in a sweet, potentially jaggery-based, liquid. And a close runner up is a mild roasted garlic chutney, with the initial taste of sweet roasted garlic followed by a slightly hot and spicy kick in the background. Each chutney has a different color, a different texture, a different level of nuttiness, different flavor tones, different degrees of heat – all of which usually keeps me thorougly engrossed in discovery and rediscovery each time I visit and try to dissect what’s gone into each chutney on the table.
After all the heat and garlic action from the dosas, Chutney’s usually brings out a plate of sugar coated fennel seeds or saunf – super refreshing, minty and soothing, and a pretty effective digestive device if you’re hoping to hunt out a dessert spot once you’ve left the restaurant. Yin and I had pretty much reached the point of total contentment and sleepy warmth where any further consumption had to be preceded by a lazy afternoon nap.
Awesome dosas and lazy cat naps. If only I could hit a ‘continuous replay’ button on afternoons like that…
(PS. Finding a good dosa was practically impossible while I was living in the U.S. The restaurants there are mainly North Indian, and have trained the American taste bud to ask for nothing other than saag paneer, chicken tikka, garlic naan, and mango lassi. I can count the memorable dosa places I managed to find on one hand: Tiffinwala in New York, Amma’s Vegetarian Kitchen in Washington DC, and Madras Pavilion in Houston TX.)
Road No 36, Above More Supermarket, Jubilee Hills – 040 66628484
Shilpa Arcade, Road No. 3, Banjara Hills – 040 23350569
1st Floor, Far East Plaza, Opposite Tata Motors Showroom, Himayat Nagar – 040 30488484