Eating Southern Indian Food

Eating Southern Indian FoodConsidering trying Southern Indian food? Going out to eat Southern Indian food is something I’m pretty obsessed with.  I used to love Southern Indian thalis.  But now I’ve developed a taste for what is traditionally breakfast and snack food – dosas, uttapam, idlis and madu vada. You can find these on most Southern Indian restaurant menus in the UK.  Stick around and I’m going to share with you what I ate on a recent outing and my top 5 tips for eating Southern Indian style as a vegan.

Incredibly, everything I share is made from a combination of rice and/or urad dal (an Indian black lentil variety).  And, as you’ll see, these different preparation and cooking techniques create a whole lot of magic!  This combination also makes Southern Indian a perfect choice for gluten-free vegans.


We had idlis as one of our starters.  These are literally steamed rice cakes made from urad dal and rice. Served  with sambar (lentil sauce) and coconut chutney they are delicate, pillowy and incredibly moreish.  One plate of these won’t be enough I tell you!  Check out Veg Recipes of India’s recipe for an awesome recipe!

Madu Vada

Tasting just like a savoury donut, madu vada is made from a batter of urad dal and spices, formed into donut shapes and deep fried.  Served with sambar and coconut chutney, they are crispy and chewy – definitely a must try!

Madu Vada


Again, made using a rice and urad dal combo. A batter is made and left to ferment. Once fermented, this batter is then cooked into either soft pancakes or thinned out to cook into a larger, crispier pancake (pictured).  Depending on the fermentation, they can either have a wonderful cheesy flavour or be quite mild.  Every restaurant I’ve been to has its own different flavour to their paper dosa because of the fermentation!  Very much like sourdough bread, it seems every restaurant has their own yeast strains in their dosas.

Paper Dosa


I’ve left my favourite to last.  A cross between a pizza and a pancake, Uttapam is the boss! It is often made from leftover dosa batter.  Cooked in a frying pan, covered with vegetables (typically tomato, onion, chillis) and then served with sambar and coconut chutney.  If you love stuffed pancakes this baby is for you!

Eating Uttapm

My top 5 tips for eating Southern Indian as a vegan

  1. Don’t assume it’s vegan – Southern Indian is vegetarian generally with some vegan options.  I’ve found a lot of Southern Indian restaurants in London are sensitive to vegans and often point out the options in their menus, however…
  2. Look out for dairy –  ghee and yogurt are the main additions that you need to keep an eye out for, they can turn up in sauces and dips, but can also be used for frying.
  3. Do ask – All the restaurants I’ve visited have been very accommodating to us as vegans.  I always ask which dishes are dairy and egg free as dairy can turn up in some interesting places and you definitely need to check and be specific.  For example if you see “gunpowder” as one of the ingredients of a dish, this is usually made from ghee (clarified butter) so is one to avoid.
  4. Be adventurous – Southern Indian is pretty versatile and has an incredible array of different currys and dishes. Try as many as you can – they all have something wonderful to offer!
  5. Try making some at home – I’ve tried making dosas and aloo masala at home and they came out pretty well.  There are some awesome blogs around like Veg Recipes of India and Padhus Kitchen. These will give you some great ideas for dishes from Kerala, Chennai and beyond.

Thanks for reading!  And do let me know if you’ve tried Southern Indian, or plan to try and what tips you have.  I love to share and learn new things!

Check out this video of my latest Southern Indian Restaurant visit with my good friend Day and see how I got on making Padhus Kitchen‘s aloo masala recipe oil-free:

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