Until yesterday I had always assumed “Indian Food” is similar no matter where you dine. It makes sense that a country as large as India has different types of cuisine in different areas of the country. Without going into too much detail, let’s split India into a Northern and Southern region. This “Northern” food is what I have always experienced when eating Indian cuisine in the United States; think Naan, Chicken Tikka Masala, and meat cooked in a Tandoor.
A coworker of mine is in NYC for a trade show and asked if we would be interested in eating at this place called Saravana Bhavan. I never turn down a chance to try new food, and three of us headed that way immediately. On our cab ride down there (Murray Hill neighborhood, lovingly called “Curry Hill”), my friend mentioned that this restaurant exists in his home town of Chennai, India (with locations around the globe) and has missed it terribly. He also warned that it is completely different from the northern cuisine typically available.
We tried Dosas (a thin crêpe) filled with onion and spiced potatoes that is served with three different chutneys; coconut, mint, and tomato. There was also the amazing bowl of Idly smothered in Sambar (probably my favorite dish I tried) that had a lovely spice that creeps up on you. At this point I was rather full, but my friend insisted we try the desserts and have a coffee. The coffee was fantastic and the cardamom and saffron spiced dessert, called Rava Kesari, was out of this world.
Everything I tried was delicious and I am thrilled that I have experienced the magic that is southern Indian food.
I may have to go back tomorrow…