Item Purchased: Appetizer Combo from Udupi Palace
Location Purchased: Udupi Palace / 2543 W. Devon Ave. / Chicago, IL
Price: $4.50 + tax
Purchased on: 10/06/07
Review: As a tried and true lover of Indian cuisine, I am ashamed that I have never before knowingly tried Southern Indian food. It’s so easy, as a Midwestern American, to think of any sort of ethnic food as belonging to the entire country rather than a specific region. When you stop to think about it, a hot dog or a pizza differs from Chicago to New York. Grits are not found everywhere (or if they are, they are prepared differently depending on which part of the states you happen to be in). This lunch raised my culinary consciousness. It was the first time I knowingly tasted Udupi cuisine. Hailing from the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Udupi is primarily vegetarian and heavy on rice, lentils and other grains. This is the cuisine that Udupi Palace both promises and delivers.
UP’s appetizer combo is an offering of two idli and one vada from the menu. My girlfriend and I chose to try two Kancheepuram Idli and one Medhu Vada.
Idli are small rice and lentil cakes steamed with various spices and other accouterments. Kancheepuram Idli are cooked with cashew nuts, chili peppers and garnished with carrot shavings. The intense flavor of both the burnt chilies and coriander pleasantly surprised me. An idly’s texture can best be described as what you would get if you compacted a bunch of couscous into a tight ball. Slightly moist, yet full of grainy texture and loads of deliciousness. My girlfriend wasn’t impressed, but I thought these little molded rice cakes were incredible with or without the green coconut chutney they come served with.
Vadai are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any cuisine. Donuts made out of potatoes or lentils! The best of both deep fried food genres! It tasted slightly sweet and slightly spicy, with a strong ginger taste. Dipped in UP’s coconut chutney is the recommended way to go about enjoying these little rings of goodness. I am told that vadai are a popular street food in parts of India. I wonder if police officers roam the streets of Udupi, dipping vadai into styrofoam cups of chutney?
Served alongside everything I’ve already described, you also receive a small bowl of sambar, which, I discovered, is sometimes used for dipping. My girlfriend and I used our spoons and slurped it down quickly like the delicious soup it is. Mmm mm good.
Rating: 4.25 / 5