Savoring Spices in South India

I would like to apologize to my 7 or so avid readers for my hiatus, in addition to traveling home to Colorado to visit family before the holidays, I’ve been trekking around India and now I get to share some of my eating adventures with you.

I am going to attempt to give you all the important foodie excerpts of India in a 600 word blog post, so bear with me if I miss some crucial details. That being said, we are talking about India so really this is just a tease. When choosing a vacation, my love for Indian food definitely swayed my decision. North Indian food is what is commonly found in the US, but I ended up spending the majority of my time in South India.

The difference: South Indian food is sometimes described as punchier; having more spices, if that’s possible. A few spices you will find frequently find include: chilies, curry leaf, Fenugreek, mustard seed, cumin, cardamom, tamarind, turmeric, ginger and anise. Every cuisine has its calling card. Italian food has a few simple high quality ingredients. French thrive on flawless execution, lots of butter and amazing cheese. Everything in India is about the spices. Lamb, chicken, potatoes – it didn’t matter it was just a vehicle. While the spices were fragrant and ever-present they weren’t over powering, there was no disgusting taste from clomping on a coriander seed or taking in too much marjoram – everything was blended together, wonderfully.

A part from the spices, a popular South Indian dish you might not have tried before, but should scout out is Dosa, and hey it’s gluten free. Dosa is a rice-lentil crepe that can be as large as a pizza. The batter is supposed to ferment a bit before cooking so the finished crepe tastes a tad sharp, like sourdough bread. As with lots of Indian food it is best eaten with your fingers, tearing off strips and using it to pick up any filling inside. The crepe is pliable but stiffer than an Indian bread like naan; and can be stuffed with just about anything… vegetarian that is.

And that is probably the most prevalent thing about South Indian cuisine, the plethora of vegetarian restaurants. I only had meet twice while there, though don’t let that fool you I love a good piece of medium rare grass-fed beef. Nonetheless, I loved the spices and veggies and so did my digestive system J. I ordered foods as simple as Aloo Gobi, which literally translates to potatoes and cauliflower and it was fabulous and full of flavor – probably due to the afore mentioned spices. In Kerala there was no looking up the latest restaurants reviews, new openings or celebrity chefs, every restaurant was a treat. Every restaurant minus the one I made my Indian friend call from New York for reservations on Christmas that is. The restaurant in question, located at the esteemed Taj Palace was serving a Christmas buffet, which I have now learned means don’t try to order from the menu. Literally – they were out of the first five things we ordered and our shrimp cocktail was baby shrimp with a ketchup and mayo mixture, talk about disappointing. I learned my lesson and will save you from other disasters from the evening.

I did however; have the pleasure of meandering up to Mumbai for a co-worker’s wedding and visiting one of my favorite friend’s friends and her family where I savored such dishes as Bombay duck, which is really fish as well as lentil donuts with coconut curry.

Ending one a foodie restaurant note, I stumbled upon a restaurant by the name of Sundance Cafe, a super foodie restaurant in Mumbai. I say super foodie as the majority of places I saw on my trip were mainly South Indian, Indian Chinese (a spicier version on American Chinese) and Nepalese family style, no frills, just food. Sundance however had items such as steak, watermelon and goat cheese salad, pork belly sliders, spicy German sausage pizza and Shitake mushroom puffs. Though some ingredients weren’t true to their name (Chorizo that was really Spicy German sausage) the food and atmosphere were lovely and I could have been in near Curry Hill in Manhattan (prices included) for all I knew.

If you’re interested in trying South Indian in Chicago there are several place on Devon, my favorite, is Woodlands, thanks to many deliciously shared meals with my friend Pooja.


2 thoughts on “Savoring Spices in South India

  1. Kelsey your post made me super hungry at 4 am! If you ever get a chance to try chicken curry on dosa, don’t miss it. It’s a lovely change to the usual vegetarian stuffing in dosas. I really wish I was back home in Kerala eating some dosas! 🙂 I enjoyed reading your lovely post !

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