City Food – Masala Dosa, RK Puram
Authentic and inexpensive.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
With so much good food in his own yard, a Delhiwalla doesn’t take other Indian cuisines very seriously. If he does, he likes them tempered with the city’s over-spiced aesthetics. Since 1996, the best place for authentic and inexpensive masala dosa and other south Indian staples has been Mathew’s Café in RK Puram, a south Delhi neighbourhood of Tamilians.
The owner Isaac Mathew is no Tamilian, though. A native of Kerala, Tamil Nadu’s neighboring state, he arrived in Delhi after finishing his school and set up this roadside shack just outside Delhi Tamil Sangam, a community center.
A crepe of fermented split-pea and rice batter, masala dosa (Rs 40) is wrapped around mashed potatoes and served with sambhar stew and coconut chutney. Anyone used to the ‘real thing’ in Chennai will find no nasty surprises here. Mathew’s dosa is crisp and thick; the potato is lightly spiced. His split-pea sambhar is a simmered symphony of okra, eggplant, bottle gourd, tomato and tamarind. The milky coconut chutney is dense with freshly grated coconuts (you can see the cook processing them on a machine just beside the cash counter).
Try the superb porotta (Rs 20), a flaky and multi-layered shallow-fried bread, served with korma, a coconut-flavoured curry of cauliflower, potato, bean, pea and carrot. Idli, vada, upma and uttapam are best as breakfast. ‘Veg’ pulao (Rs 30) is also on the menu. Ask for set dosa (Rs 30), a spongier smaller version of dosa served in a set of four, minus the potatoes. Filter coffee is dark and stirring.
The café’s employees sit under a peepal tree chopping sackfuls of onions and other vegetables. Service is fast. There are tables but no chairs. Stand and eat like the South Indians – with fingers. There’s no dress code but if you are a man, consider wearing a colourful lungi. If you are a woman, have your hair woven with flowers. Open daily from 7 am to 9.30 pm.
Where Mathew’s Café, Outside Tamil Sangam, Tamil Sangam Marg, RK Puram Time 7 am – 9.30 pm
Eating out at Mathew’s
Bless the upma
Vada, straight off the karahi
Vada in sambhar
Vada is served
Porotta with korma and coconut chutney
Porotta with papa