Breakfast in India
Here’s how the world’s biggest democracy likes to start its day
When think about going out for Indian food, we tend to mean in the evening, for spicy restaurant meal. Yet we shouldn’t limit Indian cuisine to the PM meals, according to Breakfast: The Cookbook.
In her guest essay the British-born Indian cookbook writer Meera Sodha, has a great tip for that classic Indian breakfast dish, the dosa, or fermented rice pancake. “The best I have ever found is from Mylari Dosa, a hole-in-the-wall shop in the city of Mysore,” she writes. “Here there is only masala dosa on the menu, served on a perfunctory steel tray. The place is run by an old woman, her sari patterned and pressed, her skill specific and legendary. Over a lifetime, she has perfected the elements that make up this meal: a fermented and lace-edged rice pancake curled around soft mustard-seed and curry-leaf potatoes, the only accompaniment a pool of otherworldly coconut chutney. Now an octogenarian, she presides, owl-like, over two boys working in the narrow kitchen to fulfill the orders.”
You don’t need cutlery to eat there, just as don’t really need them in many other authenticaly Indian spots. “Most of us start the day by eating with our hands,” she explains. “More than with any other meal, we feel compelled to touch our food in the morning. In India, this is of course the rule rather than the exception, especially when you eat dosa for breakfast. You have no choice but to break, tear, dip, and dunk one of the world’s finest breakfast foods from plate to mouth.”
And the selection of what you can break, tear, dip and dunk isn’t restricted to dosas; our new book also includes recipes for sambar (a loose lentil stew); and a vada pav, or fried potato sandwich, which is popular on the streets of Mumbai.
Some of these dishes, such as the spiced lentil fritter, take a few hours to prepare, and so probably aren’t the kind of thing you can work into a mid-week breakfast. However, other inclusions, like Chai Karak or cardamom-infused milky tea - also popular in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – is easy to make.
In a small saucepan, combine a tablespoon of tea, 10 crushed cardamom pods, and 1½ cups (355 ml/12 fl oz) water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep for five minutes. Then add ½ cup (120 ml/4 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk, and a little sugar, if you like. Pour the milk tea through a fine-mesh sieve into a teapot and serve hot. That’s a taste of the Indian subcontinent no matter where you wake up in the morning.
For more AM dishes from India and elsewhere in the world, order a copy of Breakfast: The Cookbook here.