Vidhyarthi Bhavan – “History” and greasy dosas.

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The old neighborhoods of Bangalore have several “historical” eating houses. You know, those heritage places that claim to have a glorious history and are still surviving because of that alleged history. The truth is, these cut-rate places became famous because in those days there were few options for eating out. Now, with the phenomenal growth of the food industry, there is no dearth of quality eating houses. But these relics continue to survive, solely because of their “history”.

Vidhyarthi Bhavan is one such. Dingy, congested, insolent, over-rated. The food is ridiculously expensive, due to “historical” reasons, while the quality of the food is equally ridiculous.

The “historical” dosa I had last evening was, without any doubt, the worst I have ever eaten. It made me sick, literally. Burnt to a crisp, dripping with grease, served with insolence and the spiciest chutney on earth.

I have only myself to blame. I was a regular at Vidhyarthi Bhavan once upon a time. I last visited the place ten years ago, and I had stopped going there, because of how bad the place had become. Guess what. It’s become worse.

Remember this tip from a food quality expert (i.e. myself) – when you enter any eating house, first look at the floor. If the floor is dirty, leave.

Second, look at the walls. Too many glowing reviews, five-star ratings, celeb photos on the walls? And a dirty floor? Leave. Don’t just leave. Run.

Yesterday, at Vidhyarthi Bhavan, I forgot these golden rules myself and paid the price. The timeline was as follows: Wait outside to be called in – “merely” 20 minutes. An average adult can barely squeeze himself behind the ancient tables. Wait for the table to cleaned of all the filthy plates – 10 minutes. Wait for waiter – 10 minutes. Wait for dosa – 18 minutes ¬†(I timed it).

I didn’t have to wait that long for the indigestion though. That was practically instantaneous.

Price of plain dosa, burnt to a crisp, dripping with grease, served with insolence and the spiciest chutney on earth: Rs. 45/-.

I blame only myself.

Who gives a shit about “history”? I want clean food, served in a clean place, in reasonable time and with some good manners. And for that, I do not mind paying a more than reasonable price.

Really. I’m a dosa connoisseur and an expert on food quality. Thirty years in quality control. I know what I’m talking about.

Across Bangalore, there are a hundred small-time dosa vendors that I’ve been to. They are cleaner and have better manners. They are small-time upstarts. They don’t have any “history” or “heritage”. They just make a bloody good dosa. And they serve it with a smile.

It’s time Vidhyarthi Bhavan becomes a vidhyarthi again and relearns the basics of good food.

I know. Die-hard customers of VB will curse and abuse me. I don’t give a shit about them either. Let them enjoy “history” – and greasy dosas.

I value my health and my palate. I’d rather patronise my non-historic road-side dosa vendor. Maybe one day he’ll put up my photo on his walls!

Stay healthy. Stay safe. As Nature intended.

A dose of Dosa.

20170714_155307It’s a multi-billion dollar industry in India, not to mention the rest of the world. It is breakfast, lunch, dinner, fast food and health food, all in one. The dosa is, well, the dosa.

The idli isn’t really Indian in origin, but the dosa is totally desi. Dosa making goes all the way back to 600 AD, somewhere in south India.

The masala dosa on the other hand, was invented in the 1960’s, at Woodlands Hotel, Udupi, by Kadandale Krishna Bhat. Potato curry was usually served separately with plain dosas. During a potato crisis in the 1960’s, Krishna Bhat served dosas with a layer of pureed potato curry applied inside the dosa, to save on potatoes. Thus was born the masala dosa.

In its classical form, the dosa is made with parboiled rice and urad dal (black gram), ground together in a ratio of 3:1, and fermented overnight. As with the idli, the process of fermentation increases the dosa’s nutritive value, making it a super-food. There are several dosa versions without rice, like the ragi dosa, adai, pessaratu (made from moong dal), wheat dosa, cabbage dosa, and what not.

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Davangere benne dosa. Fried in pure butter. Might give me a heart-attack, but who cares!

The traditional dosa is a powerhouse of nutrition. The normal dosa has about 80 calories only. It has significant amounts of vitamin B, carbohydrates, protein and almost no fat (provided it is not fried in ghee). Instant dosa mixes are simply not as good. And hotel dosas are generally bad for you. Instead, make them at home, with parboiled rice and urad dal. Add some home-made potato curry, or better yet, add a lightly spiced paneer or soya curry, and you have one terrific low-cal, high-protein meal.

There are almost as many dosa variants as there are cooks in India. Onion dosa, banana uttappa, pineapple uttappam, set dosa, benne dosa, neer dosa, and some weird ones like Amitabh dosa (six feet long. I’ve eaten one such), Punjabi dosa, and Schezuan dosa and chop suey dosa (of all the things!).

My personal favorite: Kheema dosa – traditional dosa stuffed with chicken mince. Superb stuff. (My mom would be scandalised!).

Cheers … Srini.