Chennai Tiffins (San Diego, CA)

I always thought North Indian food was my jam, but I’ve quickly fallen head over idli for South Indian cuisine! Chennai Tiffins is now my favorite Indian restaurant in San Diego. The food is simple, made with mild hands but with a soft complexity that comes through if allowed. Plus they are always super accommodating when I ask for my food to be prepared without ghee.

I love to start with an order of Idlis (steamed lentil and rice cakes) with sambar (unlimited and free!) and an array of chutneys. I’d come here for the chutneys alone! Rich bowls of tomato, peanut, mint, coconut, and ginger that span the range from sweet and mild (coconut) to punchy and hot (ginger)… although none are over the top spicy.The tomato is my favorite, but there is something here to please all palates.  

The Spring Dosa—a fermented lentil and rice crepe stuffed with tomatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, cilantro and chilies—is my top pick. The light balance of the crisp veggies against the soft tang of the crepe suites me greatly. If you order this be sure to emphasize no ghee…this wasn’t one of the dosa the waitress originally offered me as vegan-friendly but I pressed her on it because it’s my favorite combination. When she brought it to the table she proudly proclaimed “With no ghee!” and gave me a reassuring smile.

The Poori with Bajji, one of the vegan as-is dishes floats to the table on air-filled pillows of deep fried bread with a cup of potato curry. It’s great option for those who think Indian food is too spicy.

Anahre Kara Dosa is a simple lentil and rice flour crepe slathered with red chili paste. The slow burn of the chili lets the fermentation of the dosa shine.

When I’m extra hungry I also order a plate of Samosas. The two peaks arrives sprinkled with cilantro, chopped red onion, and kala namak (black salt) and are finished off with a squeeze of lime. I never thought to add lime to a samosa, but the fresh acidity deeps the earthy spices within.

Special Rava Dosa with potato masala is also favorite of mine. 

Or there is the simple the Onion Rava. This crispy sheet of editable lace made of rice flour and cream of wheat, flecked with sharp and sweet red onion, is addicting. 

Chennai Tiffins
9474 Black Mountain Rd.
San Diego, CA 92126

chennaitiffins.com

NY Dosas (New York, NY)

The man, hard at work making YOUR dosa!

On a sunny spring/summer/fall day in Manhattan, there are few pleasures that can match the joyous decompression of a picnic in the park… especially when that picnic is catered by a madly delicious vegan dosa food cart. Hidden in plain sight among the pretzel and hot dog venders of Washington Square Park, 2007 Vendy Award winning Thiru Kumar’s made-to-order dosas, idly, and uthappam are a spicy treat!

Pancakes! Not just breakfast and breakfast-for-dinner anymore!

My first time here I was clearly a newbie, but being an educated newbie, I ordered the Jaffna Lunch — 4 small pancakes made with “natural herbs” topped with spicy dried chutney and served with a Samosa ($6). Why not the Pondicherry Dosa? Well, despite the excessive online praise for this dosa, when I saw the guy in front of me receive his, all I could think was that it looked like a salad in a crepe… and that wasn’t going to cut it , because I was HUNGRY!

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