Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Bangalore breakfast

"Idli Vada, Khara bhat, Chow chow bhath, Dose, Rava Dose" he rattled off at the speed and noise of a bull being chased from the inner confines of a China shop. But that is music to the ears of a breakfast connoisseur in Bangalore. What better thing than a holiday to write about it?

For those of you who know (or dont know) Bangalore, breakfast is the second best thing that this city can offer. Many of the people who live here never have breakfast - the lovely weather - the best thing about this city - prevents them from waking up at that time. But presuming that they overcome the challenge of waking up in particularly pleasant weather, a wondrous treat awaits them.

For the regular gourmet like you and me - not the Pav Bhaji in a 5 star or an airconditioned dhaba recreated in a 7 star enviromnent - it is a treat. I presume that the "others" are not readers of this blog.

So, what can you expect in Bangalore? Idlis (or should it be Idlies or Idlys?) - soft and fluffy as they can be made with a textured finish. They are never ground completely like toothpaste, they have a grainy texture about them. They always taste fresh and simply melt in your mouth. Health freaks stop here.

Vadas - the biggest vadas in the country are in Bangalore. Round, generously big - a perfect Vada is brown and crisp on the outside - just right and obviously, very fleshy inside with a few bites of coconuts and chilli. No, they dont adulterate it with cabbage and onion, not yet, not here. Dont let cholesterol bother you, for now.

The dosa and the sambar - we can debate about it endlessly. Dosas are highly adaptive beings. In Bombay they are whitish, in Delhi, they are nearly spotless white. They are a golden brown in Chennai and a reddish brown in Bangalore. They are anorexically crisp in many places and plump in many other places (some coincidence that).

When it comes to Dosa my preference is for Chennai over Bangalore, though Bangalore is a second by just about a quarter of a Bombay dosa thickness. But the sambar is best served in Bangalore - with that undercurrent of jaggery. The discussion on Chennai and Bangalore Sambar can be a never ending one in certain circles. (Dont even bring the sugary sambar you get in Bombay into the discussion. That is not sambar, that is pani puri chutney.)

But coming back to Bangalore, there are dosas and there are dosas. The regular dosa is the "sada" dosa, the one filled with "masal" is the masala dosa and the one with onions spread on top is the onion dosa. The onion dosa is loosely similar to an onion uttappam, but there are places where you can see that the onion dosa is a lot of onions, coconut and small cut green chillies in a dosa whereas the uttapam has onions nicely mixed with the batter plus extra beings like tomatoes.

The other variants here are the "Set" Dosa, a set of three rather plump and succulent dosas. I hate the sagu and prefer the sambar anyday, but the sagu has a fan following itself. "Neer Dosa" is a slightly rarer variety, that can be found at ease in Udupi, but it is not easy to find in Bangalore. White to the point of being considered for a Rin ad, it has coconut water - hence neer and is usually served with a coconut jaggery combo. The Rava dosa is not really a dosa, so it gets left out of this discussion. It has its followers too, so do not underestimate it...

The Khara Bhath is the Bangalore version of the upma. The Khara Bhath is a grainy textured, spicy rava preparation and is never gooey like the upma. Served with sambar and Chutney, it is the lightest breakfast, this side of the idli. The Kesari Bhath is the richer cousin of the Sheera. The Khara bhath is always, served upturned - the measure is a small bowl and you get one bowl served upturned- sort of like a hot grainy igloo with coriander leaves and chilli on a green leaf base plate. And in Bangalore, you can get chow chow bhath - which is one bowl Khara Bhath and one bowl Kesari Bhath served upturned on the same plate. If it makes you cringe, do not - it is a delicacy on any hungry morning.

Aha, how could I miss the coffee. With a deft half twist off the monster sized "coffee filter", a huge drop of decoction with the left hand and a nearly overflowing (small) cup of sweetened milk sloshed onto it - the coffee here is the south indians dream come true. Starbucks, dont even try. Those espresso machines are, well, ersatz. This is real coffee, preferably served upturned with a tumbler on a "davara".

None of the hotels in Bangalore ever miss a step on any of these. The Vada is not a scoring subject since the varying oil content can make any calorie counter die of a mental heart attack. But the others are. Try out Bangalore for breakfast and you will know what you are missing.

And on that foodie note, wish you a happy Ganesh Chathurthi...


niti bhan said...

bisibele baath and one by two coffee at the satellite canteen, forget the initials of the place, SLR? on bull temple road across from bmsce. 6.45am before workshop.. aaah, bliss

srikanth said...

it will be slv - the often found name: sri lakshmi venkateshwara :)

I never realised the importance of all these things while I was in Bangalore!! :(

I so wish I was there right now having all these at the same time :)

manubhardwaj said...

Nice article there. I'll remember to refer people to it whenever possible!

Btw: unlike the masala dosa, the onion dosa has onions in the batter and not in the filling.

Neelakantan said...

Corrected, Manu and thanks to your impetus, fixed a few more glitches :)

nayni said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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