Welcome to Meatless Monday, where I share some of my favorite flesh-free finds. Some weeks I’ll focus on veggies, while other weeks, I’ll share odes to animal protein in Meaty Monday posts.
This week, I tried takeout from Udupi Bhavan in Sterling. Not everything at Udupi Bhavan is Udupi cuisine, named for a city in the Tulunadu region, but most of it is from South India. And for those looking to avoid anything meaty on the menu, it is wholly vegetarian. Dosas are thought to originally come from Udupi, so the bill of fare is chock full of the papery pancakes, filled with everything from cheese to deep-fried cauliflower, but not on my table—I didn’t think their delicate crispness would survive a car ride.
Instead, I tried something new to me and something I’d been missing. Two years ago in Singapore, I sampled yogurt rice for the first time in the country’s Little India and fell in love. Depending on whether it’s served hot or cold (my first taste was hot), it can take on the characteristics of an Indian version of risotto or a savory rice pudding. At Udupi Bhavan, it’s served chilled, and made with lightly tangy homemade yogurt and dotted with cumin and mustard seeds.
I would have been perfectly happy to make a dinner of that alone, but it lent a delightful lift of cool to the new-to-me entree, gutthi vankaya. The menu identifies the dish as Hyderabadi, not Udupi, but I couldn’t resist the description of tender deep-fried eggplants in gravy, especially when that sauce includes peanuts and sesame seeds. The nightshade was a little more al dente than I expected, but still soft enough to cut with a fork.
The petite, whole eggplants are cut into quarters that remain attached to the stem, allowing them to soak up the nutty sauce that’s filled with chiles, but not dauntingly spicy. It’s a sauce that’s hard to stop eating, evidenced by how much chewy naan I used to scoop up the last bits of it that stuck to the bowl.
As a lover of alliums, I ordered a dish that didn’t exclude them. But for those who are allergic or follow a Sattvic diet, it’s worth noting that there is a whole section of the menu that has no garlic or onions. Next time, I might just have to try the paneer bhurji and see if I miss the garlic.
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