Dosa Corner

Rating:

With all due respect to Khmer food, Phnom Penh seemed like a great place to sample some international fare. We passed by Dosa Corner, in BKK1, during our walk down to Tuol Sleng, and decided that we would return later for dinner to satisfy our growing cravings for South Indian food.

The menu features a huge array of options, including many varieties of dosa that I had never encountered before. Ironically enough, we ordered 3 dishes, and none of them were dosas. Kenny was just dying for an idly, the waiter strongly recommended the kottu parota (a Tamil Nadu specialty), and we decided to round out the meal with a channa masala for some protein (even though we know this is more northern fare).

The kottu parota was good but certainly odd – it tasted like Indian pad see ew! We’re certainly spoiled for idlies after spending 6 weeks living across the street from Veena, but we enjoyed the PP rendition, especially the accompanying chutneys and sambar. The channa masala reminded me of the first channa masala I made when we were in Bangalore – which is not to say that it was bad, but it was very tomato-ey.

Overall, it was not an amazing dinner, but it helped indulge our South Indian nostalgia. It’s worth checking out if you’re in BKK1 and craving a dosa.

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Idlies

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Kottu parota – minced parota with egg, onion, and spices

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Dosa Corner
N. 5E, Pasteur (Street 51)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 12302
+855 (0)12 673 276

India Shopping Spree

Inspired by most of our Indian friends who make visits to the motherland, we spent much of the past week stocking up on all kinds of goodies to take home with us. It started in Bangalore, where we acquired:

  • 2 tiffin boxes
  • An appam pan
  • 1/2 kg appam flour
  • 1 kg ragi flour
  • 1/2 kg ragi
  • 1/2 kg rava
  • Garam masala
  • MTR sambar mix
  • 1 Indian shirt for Kenny and 2 for me plus a pair of earrings at Anokhi
  • Various arts and crafts gifts from Archana’s mother’s crafts collective, including 4 purses for sisters and friends, 4 necklace/earring sets for mothers and sisters, and an elephant figurine for Gio

Then the madness continued here in Delhi, where we have added:

  • A pressure cooker
  • An idly stand
  • Chicken tikka masala seasoning and roasted chana at Roopak in Karol Bagh
  • A long kurti set for Kenny, several tops for me, and a shirt for Shawn from Westside
  • A shirt for Kenny from Fabindia
  • Another couple of shirts for me from various other shops in Karol Bagh
  • Two shirts for Kenny at the State Emporiums
  • A scarf for Jessica and an elephant-mobile for Jadon near Janpath

Good thing we bought that pressure cooker, ’cause we’ll need the box to carry all of this extra stuff home. We also bought a roll of packing tape to seal the box as checked baggage. Next time I come to India, I’m bringing an empty suitcase.

Veena Stores

Rating:

A block from Sean and Archana’s place is a little South Indian food stall, Veena Idly.  Sean took us there on our first morning in Bangalore. I remember enjoying it, but my memories of that breakfast were quite hazy due to our exhausting travel day.

For some reason, we didn’t make it back to Veena until yesterday. I’m not sure why, as we talked about going a bunch. Maybe it’s the same reason that Floridians never use the pool in their backyard. One day while driving to work, we even ad-libbed a jingle for Veena. I think it went something like this (it changed a bit every time):

Veena Idly, for all your idly needs
Veena Idly, hooray for you and me
Veena Idly, for all your idly needs
I want some Veena Idly! (and vada too!)

However, we did have our final two Bangalore breakfasts at Veena, and they were fantastic. The menu is similar to many other south Indian breakfast stalls, but the execution was far above the competition. Someone said they have a special high-end idly steamer. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that I love it.

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Idly/vada, the classic south Indian breakfast served with amazing coconut chutney

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Chow chow bath. There are two sections, sweet and a savory. You are supposed to get a little of each part in each bite.

Veena Idly Archana and her idly vada

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Veena Idly
No. 183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road
Malleshwaram, Bangalore, India 560 055
+91 23344838

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch

Mahabalipuram

Yesterday we left Pondicherry on a bus to Mahabalipuram, the ancient port city of the Pallavas located halfway between Pondi and Chennai on the coast of Tamil Nadu. We took a ride on the local bus, which cost almost nothing, left right on time, and was even pretty roomy… for about 10 minutes. As the bus drove through the outskirts of Pondicherry, we progressively picked up more people until they were packed into every crevice. While it was scorching hot outside, the window breeze helped some, and it was still much more comfortable than a Guatemalan chicken bus. As a bonus, since we are foreigners they only squeezed one more person onto our two person bench.

The bus dropped us off about a kilometer outside of town (turns out that “Mahabalipuram” as a destination on this bus meant “the part of the highway near Mahabalipuram,” not “the bus station in the middle of town and two blocks from our hotel”). Fortunately we were armed with our trusty compass, and we made our way eastward a few blocks along dirt paths to the ocean. From there it was a pleasant walk along the beach into the center of town. It was a nice stretch of beach, and we got a great view of the Shore Temple as we arrived. After gorging on awesome thalis next to the bus station (curry with chapattis hot off the pan for 25 Rs/person), we spent a lazy afternoon at our hotel’s pool and then had a great south Indian meal at their restaurant, the Golden Palate.

Mahabalipuram beach
Walking along the Bay of Bengal from the bus drop-off into town

Shore temple from the beach
Our first view of the Shore Temple, during our walk into town. The surrounding rock wall was built after the temple miraculously survived the 2004 tsunami.

This morning we awoke before dawn to check out sunrise over the Shore Temple, the top attraction of Mahabalipuram. We had the place completely to ourselves for about a half-hour, checking out the multitude of carvings and sculptures that are impressive in spite of the years of erosion. After a break for our morning idlies, we headed to the Five Rathas, a set of temples that are each carved from a single piece of rock. Just like at the Shore Temple, the level of preservation and the attention to detail is stunning. What’s even more amazing is that the temple arrangement is simply a result of where the outcroppings of pink granite were located at the time of sculpting. The temples were carved from the top down, so while they all have a lot of details on their rooftops, some of the rathas were never completed and have a mere outline of structure carved at their bases.

It was a great morning of culture and history, and after hiking back to town via Mahabalipuram’s main hill we enjoyed another delicious thali and an afternoon by the pool (after seeing the skull and crossbones signs on the beach tallying the rip-tide-related deaths, we decided not to include swimming in our beach itinerary).

Shore temple at sunrise
Shore temple at sunrise

Five rathas
Lauren and the Five Rathas

More five rathasEnjoying a coconut
After a final view of “the most perfectly sculpted elephant in India,” I enjoyed a fresh coconut in the shade

View from the hill
Viewing the mandapams atop Mahabalipuram’s main hill

Thali at Mamalla Bhavan
Lauren’s unlimited veg thali at Mamalla Bhavan hit the spot after our morning hikes

Surguru

Rating:

On our last afternoon in Pondy, we took the local Heritage Walk tour. During the walk around the French quarter, we started discussing food and drink with the tour guide. He told us that Pondicherry was not very good at classic French food (in line with our observations), but had good continental food and amazing South Indian food. We asked what his favorite South Indian restaurant was, and he unhesitatingly recommended Surguru. He takes his family there when they want to go out for South Indian food. So how could we resist? Off we went for our final dinner in Pondy.

Surguru is set back from the busy Mission Street, in a converted Health Department office. The building reminded me a little of a bingo hall or a community center, with a bunch of larger tables, a cashier behind small bars, and a recessed upstairs loft.

Unfortunately our camera was stolen with the pictures from this meal still on the SD card. So text will have to suffice for this one (if anyone makes it here, send me pictures of the Tandoori Idly).

The menu at Surguru is enormous, with South Indian, North Indian, and South/North fusion dishes. We had a feast so that we could try even a small fraction of what looked intriguing:

  • Tandoori Idly – None of the Indians I’ve talked to have heard of this, but it was delicious. 3 Idlies cooked in the Tandoor with a tandoori masala sauce. The idlies were still nice and soft on the inside, with the addition of a unique smokiness and heft to the outside. I’m very sad to have lost my pictures of this special treat.
  • Channa Batura – We didn’t know what this was, but we like channa (chickpeas) and gave it a try. Turns out that a batura is a large, puffy fry bread (think poori but larger and with a thicker skin). Baturas are a bit too greasy for my taste, but it made for an impressive picture (oops), and the channa preparation was great. Spicy, complex, and perfectly cooked channa.
  • Mangalore Set Dosa with Vada Curry – Surguru has an entire section of their menu dedicated to dosai, and we asked the waiter for his recommendation. A Mangalore dosa is solely made of rice, which makes it lighter and lacier than your standard dosa. The “set” part of the dosa meant that it was cooked on one side and served in a set of two. It came out more like a medium-sized pancake than the paper-thin dosai I’ve had in the past. As advertised it was served with a vada curry, which was thick, brown, spicy and went well with the dosa.
  • 3 Taste Uttapam – I’d seen uttapam on a bunch of menus and didn’t know what they were. The “3 Taste Uttapam” seemed like a good way to try them out. The uttapam was pancake-ish (like the set dosa but cooked on both sides) with vegetables mixed in. The 3 tastes were onion, tomato, and parsley. The parsley was my favorite, the herbs mixed into the uttapam went very well with the assortment of chutneys. The onion and tomato were fine, but less exciting.

Overall, the food was fantastic and very cheap. Staff were friendly, and the ambience was entertaining. It was fun watching the food stream out of the kitchen. We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in the area, and I highly recommend checking out Surguru if you’re in Pondicherry.

Surguru
99 Mission Street (+ 2 other locations)
Pondicherry, India
+91 4308082

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner