Desi Dosa Madras – Surrey-Delta, BC
Desi Dosa House
8859 120th Street
I have recently committed to exploring Surrey to mine it of all its gastronomic goodness. To me, this is frontier territory. The distance from my home and my reluctance to drive on the highway have always been blockers to my exploration of this sprawling city. Surrey, of course, is the center of the Indian community here in the Metro Vancouver area. And like Richmond is to Chinese food, Surrey is dotted with true Indian gems. One such place is Desi Dosa Madras on the same strip mall as the more well known (and decidedly mediocre Desi Junction).
I have been exploring South Indian cuisines as of late. Much of my exploration has been culinary in nature since good restaurant dishes are so hard to find. I often cook various South Indian dishes and I have been taking private lessons from an Indian chef. I mentioned in a previous post that I had the opportunity to travel through that part of the world a number of years ago. That trip was my introduction to the specialties of that region as the Indian food I had eaten prior to that trip has been primarily from the North.
Desi Dosa Madras serves South Indian specialties and we had heard that the cooks were Tamil. Like at most Indian restaurants here in Canada, however, their menu is peppered with specialties from other Indian regional cuisines. We were fortunate to be dining with someone who has a great palate for Indian food. Her much deeper knowledge in the cuisine afforded me validation and calibration of my own palate and preferences.
We stuck to an all-vegetarian order. (And please – avoid ordering meat filled dosai. It is as wrong as pineapple or chicken on a pizza. Consider me a purist.) There were three dishes that truly impressed our table. The first was their Pondicherry rava dosa. This is perhaps the best rava dosa I have had here. It is a better (and different) rendition compared to my now former favourite at Madras Dosa House. This dosa is stylistically different from the dosai at Madras Dosa House. For example, it did not have the translucent starch “windows” that formed in the holes in the batter. The beautiful laciness is coupled with the crunchy-chewiness of a well made dosa. The well fermented rava (semolina) and lentil batter lent a tang and savouriness to the crepe. Usually, dosai are minimally seasoned, but here, the batter itself is well spiced – we detected black pepper and clove.
The Pondicherry style filling is topped with a spicy podi (powder) made primarily of roasted urad lentils. This topping added a roasted nuttiness to the creamy potato masala filling. This podi inspired me to make my own at home.
Another dish that impressed was their medu vada (plain vada). Those familiar with this savoury donut will know how dense and chewy it can be. Here, the donut is as light as the cinnamon mini-donut (guilty pleasures) from the PNE.
You will find a similar lightness in their idli (steamed rice and lentil cakes). All over town, you will find idli that are very often dense and tinged with gray (chemical leaveners are the probable cause). Here, the idli naturally fermented and are thus puffy and pure-white. Perfect with the the traditional sambar accompaniment.