I realize I’m putting my South Asian food credibility on the line by saying this, but I’d never eaten a dosa until this year. In fact, despite my love of Indian cuisine, I remained mostly clueless about South Indian cooking, and frequenting restaurants that specialized in North Indian food instead.
Enter Udupi Palace. Long touted as one of the Bay Area’s best casual South Asian eats, I checked out Berkeley’s Udupi Palace for dinner one evening with my sister. Walking in, we were immediately hit with the aroma of chilis, coconut, and tamarind. In other words, all of my favorite things.
We started with a sambar vada, or savory fried lentil donuts immersed in a bowl of sambar, and a spice mixture that was flecked with cumin, corriander, garlic, and pepper. The fried vada soaked up the savory sauce without losing its shape or texture. Delicious.
My sister ordered the spinach masala dosa and I had the masala dosa, and we shared. Both were filled with spicy potatoes and onions, and the thin, papery crepe was a perfect vehicle. Each of our servings came with more sambar, a mild coconut chutney, and a spicy red chili chutney.
The portions at Udupi Palace are big, and many of the dishes aren’t exactly light, so go when you’re extra hungry. There was so much on the menu that I wanted to try, and I can’t wait back for more. Next time, I’ll try the uthappam (similar to dosa, but thicker), and a yogurt lassi — or yogurt soda, of course.
Mariam Hosseini is a Bay Area native who has been writing about food and travel since 2003. She blogs regularly at yogurtsoda.com.