In their terrific book, The Udupi Kitchen, mother-daughter duo Malathi Srinivasan and Geetha Rao, say that the masala dosa was invented by the devout Madhvas of Udupi to hide forbidden onions into the folds of the dosa.
Bangalore loves its idli-dosa-vada-coffee breakfast for sure, but in this city, the masala dosa is not the default choice. This is why we stand in line outside Veena Stores in Malleshwaram for its spongy idlis. We drive across town to Brahmin’s Coffee Bar for its vada and khara-bhaath. Neither of these places are known for their dosas.
That said, if you had to choose the best masala dosa in town, depending on location, a few names come to mind. Here then is an incomplete guide to the foods of Bangalore, anchored by the masala dosa. A plate should cost around Rs.40. If it is double that, consider yourself getting fleeced.
- CTR– Shree Sagar in Malleshwaram. This distinctive restaurant at the corner of a not-so-bustling street– at least for Malleshwaram– routinely tops the list of the best masala dosa in town. You come here for one thing: the butter dosa or benne masala dosa. Crisp on the outside, and soft inside, with just the right amount of masala, it wins on every count.
- While at CTR, walk a few yards down to Kolla Foods where goodies from all over the country are stocked. I go there to buy veppalai katti (citron leaf powder) from Palakkad, Grand Sweets munchies from Chennai and some Andhra pickles. They also pack and ship these foods to homesick relatives abroad.
- In my opinion, the legend of Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar is bigger than the actual products. Everyone wants to go here except those that already have. This is masala dosa as theatre. Waiters carry several plates in a line in their hands. Therein lies the problem. If your kitchen is cooking several dosas in a tava, as most of them do, you need to figure out how to remove them before they turn brown or black. The dosa is nice enough but not as tasty as CTR. The chutney is poured with a liberal hand, almost as if it is a sambar. There is no sambar.
- Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room, Basavanagudi: The bird-watchers who throng Lalbagh eschew crowded Vidyarthi Bhavan for this MTR. Most often, they have the set dosa, which is a favourite of Bangaloreans. What is a set dosa? It is a plate of three thick round dosas, placed one on top of the other, served with sagu, a kurma-like confection. Try it. The signage here is in Kannada, which signifies its authenticity.
- Mavalli Tiffin Room: Don’t eat the masala dosa here, I beg you. Instead, try the dish they invented: the rava idli, which is fantastic.
- Vasudev Adiga’s Paakashala in Ulsoor: You can get your preferred dosa here but I go for the excellent vadas and their tasty chutney.
- Om Sai Skanda Dosa Camp, Cambridge Layout: Type in the word dosa camp and you get literally hundreds of dosa outlets all over Bangalore. Depending on location, you can choose one close to you and it is likely that you will get a good breakfast– hard to mess up a recipe that has been empirically perfected by South Indians. I discovered this one because of the Sai Mandir down the road. You stand outside– no seating– and eat your dosa along with school kids and worshippers.
- Sri Krishna Kafe, Koramangala: Koramangala is bustling with food outlets which kind of sucks if you don’t live near Koramangala. This one is great for dosas.
- SN Refreshments, J.P. Nagar: If you go to Bannerghatta National Park, and you should, it is worth stopping at this place en route for its excellent breakfasts. Soft idlis that Veena Stores would get a complex about, and folded over masala dosas.
- Maiya’s, Jayanagar: I like Maiya’s because unlike many breakfast outlets, they serve rava dosa, favoured by Tamilians. I end up buying some of their readymade foods as well.
- Umesh Refreshments: Manas Krishnamoorthy, the general manager of ITC Gardenia told me about this place. In leafy Kumara Park, you stand outside and eat your triangular masala dosa in silence.
Beyond the masala dosa: Like I said, the masala dosa is not the be-all and end-all for us Bangaloreans. To get an idea about the choices available here, visit the Facebook page of the Bangalore Coffee Thindi and Oota Club. It is here I learned about the ghee sabakkai (dill) dosa served at Cottonpet Tiffin Rooms in Basavanagudi– where I plan to go next.
I haven’t even got to the dosa outlets on Thindi Bheedi or Food Street in V.V. Puram which deserve their own column. What’s your favourite dosa place in Bangalore? Surprise me.