There is simply no better way to start your day in the South of India than feasting on one of the regions fresh, mouth-watering breakfasts. Roadside, beachside, village, town or city, tiny cafes, restaurants and street stalls churn out simple breakfast staples to a steady flow of hungry morning diners. Varying from a simple shack with a single steaming pan of Idli to a shiny modern canteen with a Dosa list as long as the monster pancakes themselves, breakfast is a meal not to be missed when in the southern states.
Dosas are thin pancakes made from fermented rice flour batter, they can be crispy and plain (Saada Dosa), stuffed with spicy potato curry (Masala Dosa), made with semolina flour (Rava Dosa), a pile of thick and fluffy dosas with lentils (Set Dosa) or white and watery (Neer Dosa). Flat, round, rolled-up, triangular or conical, the Dosa shape is often as diverse as its filling. The same rice flour batter is also used to make Uttapam, a thicker crepe that often has onion or tomato mixed in with the batter.
Ubiquitously served with fresh coconut chutney and Sambar, the chutney is often so fresh we once waited for the guy to climb a nearby palm tree to cut down the coconut to make it. Sambar is a watery, spicy lentil-based vegetable stew which is synonymous with south Indian dishes, dunking your Dosa or Idli into a small metal bowl of piping hot spicy liquid is a standard part of the breakfast routine.
Idli are soft, white, steamed lentil rice cakes, like round fluffy pillows of deliciousness waiting to be dipped into fiery Samba and velvety coconut chutney. Vada are doughnut shaped fritters made from lentil or chickpea Dahl, deep fried so they are fluffy and light on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside. Sometimes served alongside Idli, they are also dipped in the universal Chutney and Sambar.
With plates of Idli or Vada costing as little as the equivalent of 30p and a Dosa around 50p, breakfasts in the south were fast, fresh, inexpensive and utterly delicious, we miss them already!