AND SO I HAVE FOUND MY FAVOURITE UDIPI!

In search of Devanagere benne dosa…. to be found only at Annapurna Pure Veg Family Restaurant or Udipi eatery in Panaji and Taleigao! This L-shaped aam aadmi eatery is popular and home to many Udipi food addicts, fascinating menu lists many item numbers to live for including the Devanagere bene dosa (a speciality from Devanagere in central Karnataka) which is superlatively good here. Check it out!

BY TARA NARAYAN

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

MY 30 years in Bombay that is Mumbai now I’ve always felt most at home in Udipi eateries with their menu of honest idli, dosa, puri-bhaji, lemon and tomato and curd rice…much more, not to forget set dosa and range of uttappam pancakes. Dosa and uttappam are south Indian styled savoury pancakes — the first of the savoury thin and crisp or soft kind and the latter of the savoury thick soft kind. I find the traditional foodie world of idli and dosa intriguing, fascinating, perennial food for life as far as I am concerned.
Give me rice any day to all our GMO wheat and corn! A lot of south Indian food is rice-based and I don’t know if rice is also genetically modified or not, must find out. In any case, although I’m a North Indian as in Gujarati, I can tell you wheat roti no longer tastes as it did during my grandmother’s time, when wheat had a natural, sweet character and when we had the Guju bhakri (thickish roti cast iron or terracotta tava-cooked) for dinner it tasted great all on its own with a wee lacing of home-made ghee. Can’t find this kind of bhakri for love or for money nowadays.
But during my 30 years in Mumbai I was forever in love and grateful for the Udipi eateries of Karnataka. I grew up with them in Mumbai. The best and most famous lot of Udipi eateries were located in Matunga (East), but some of the Flora Fountain Udipi eateries were my mainstay for breakfast, lunch, or tea time doubling as dinner before going back to working women’s hostel room and later to home in Juhu.
I owe a lot to Udipi eateries and the people of Karnataka who migrated to the big city in search of greener pastures. In the feeding-the-people scenario, the Udipi eateries were the best — clean, with photographs of Hindu gods and goddesses up on a wall in tribute, thanksgiving of a blessed living… Many a morning before ending up in office I’d be seeking a plate of idli-chutney and sambar and filter coffee at Vaibhav’s or Satkar’s or Hanuman’s or Vihar’s or somewhere else and these were my quiet moments to think and relish and moon moon with colleagues!
WHEREVER I’ve gone I’ve looked for an Udipi eatery and so I did when I first came to Panaji to live. There was the superior Kamat’s where for a long time I went in search of near-perfect medhuvada — can’t find perfect medhuvada for love or for money (most pack too much sodium bicarbonate in them). I stopped looking for the Udipi after my own heart and then last week I found it right here in the heart of Panaji town. The older Udipi Annapoorna is here, the newer one at Taleigao. The Panaji Udipi is better than a hole-in-the-wall affair, but modest, and offers this view of a heritage home opposite the road — that’s why I’ve taken to calling here often whenever I want to savour a freshly made near perfect Devanagere benne dosa with potato palya on the side, also coconut chutney and sambar.
Funny, I love the Goan eateries with their bhaji-pao and refined maida puri fame, stuffed big chili fritters; but give me a choice and I’d go take a break at an Udipi and I’ve found my favourite Udipi after living for something like 20 years in Panaji! Of course I’m rejoicing and reluctant to reveal the name of the Udipi here though I’m sure you’ll get to it by and by! Anyway these two Udipi or pure vegetarian eateries are the only ones to have Devanagere benne dosa on their menu, only the presentation is somewhat difference. I was so thrilled to see it on the menu and asked the waiter if it was available and he said it would take time, but I was willing to wait and truly rewarded when my benne dosa arrived, first a single one, then I ordered another (40 for single,60 for double).
So there I was turning up day after day after day to rejoice in my find and refusing to check out anything else on the menu even if it looked good with others sitting nearby or at the same table. The waiters got amused when I made enquiries. This crazy woman (madam!) wants to eat Devanagere dosa only every time she comes …the morning chef who makes it is probably different from the evening chef for sometimes the morning palya would be a little different from the evening one. This is basically a potato-and-onion mixture, mildly spiced to complement the benne dosa which is just a butter or loni dosa, that is it’s laced with fresh desi white butter (sometimes cheating with Amul I guess). I’m hooked on my loni-laced Devanagere dosa and whenever I feel hunger pangs I trot off to Panaji town and wonder how long this new affair in my life with a Devanagere benne dosa will last.
What tickled my fancy is there is an Annapoorna Gayatri Mantra on the menu, a prayer or invocation to the foodie goddess of Hinduism, it goes “Om Bhagavathyai Cha Vidhmahe/Maheshwaryai Cha Dheemahe/Thanno Annapoorna Prachodayath.” It’s the Kannadigga Annapoorna Gayatri. One may interpret it as may the Goddess Annapoorna always be the queen of your kitchen and watch over your stomach…fill it with freshly cooked, nutritious food, and so on. Rather charming, nah? It’s the only menu in town offering tribute to the Hindu goddess of the kitchen and food!
It’s a comprehensive menu but I haven’t checked out other things and will take my time doing it, but check out their tempting assortment of dosa including the Mysore masala dosa which comes spread with green chutney; don’t confuse it with the masala dosa which is spread with red chutney which too is popular; they’ve got good curd and I see lots of seniors coming in for the thali combo meals. Water is served in clean stainless steel glasses (hallmark of all self-respecting Udipi eateries); and the filter coffee is best in town (after the one at Café Mira at Tonca which is usually far too expensive for my budget).
Well, one of these days go say hello to a Devanageri benne dosa at either of the Udipi eateries in Panaji or Taleigao! (Sigh) Right, they’re called Annapoorna.
THE other thing on my mind is how all my rich friends have discovered hemp seeds! Until now I heard of the oil seeds of sesame, poppy and flax seeds being on the list of super food seeds, but these days I keep hearing about hemp seeds. It’s like those who can afford it have started drinking hemp seed oil and tossing hemp heart kernels in their salads…I wished I’d gone to that House of Akshar press conference which happened a couple of months back. Reportedly, it was all about how hemp fibre is the new wonder fibre going into fashion attire, as also into other things we can all do with if we live in eco-friendly homes.
Hemp is the super seed all round to patronize. Super food-wise learn it’s a most wholesome seed containing perfectly balanced source of essential fatty acids, both omega-3 and omega-6 in ideal ratio. The fats convert into hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins, which govern growth, vitality, mental wellbeing…all that. Hemp seeds are gamma-linolenic acid or GLA rich and if you’re prone to eczema or other skin conditions you might want get yourself some hemp oil or kernel hearts to eat …eat hemp seeds in any of their avatar be it oil, kernal or flour and likely your skin conditions will ease away.
Also, the report is that hemp seeds have complete protein, comparable to that found in meat, fish, eggs. So eat up my friends if you’re vegetarian or vegan, I dare say vegetarian and vegan make for the fastest growing eco-conscious communities in the world.
Here’s a Hemp Sprinkle recipe I found:
TAKE 3 tbs pumpkin seeds, 3 tbs sunflower seeds, 2 sun-drind tomatoes, half tsp crushed dry chilli, 5 tbs shelled hemp seeds or hearts, 1 tbs sesame seeds, sea salt or rock salt to taste is optional. NOW grind the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes and chili. Put all in a bowl with hemp seed hearts and sesame seeds and mix well. Add little salt to taste and sprinkle the mixture atop salads, soups, relishes, whatever you wish. Enjoy.

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