GEORGE TOWN, April 12 — The paper thin delicate thosai, soft fluffy idli and pillowy vadai are snacks that are quite common in Indian food stalls, particularly in Little India.
Usually eaten as breakfast or for tea, these three items which originated from South India are either eaten separately or if one is not enough, why not indulge in all three?
The delicate thosai is made of rice and urad dhal (black lentils) batter that has been left to ferment overnight so even though it is high in carbohydrates, it is also rich in protein and healthy enzymes that aid digestion.
The batter is then spread on a hot flat pan greased with oil and cooked till crispy before it is removed and served either folded over or rolled up.
It is because of the fermentation that the thosai, that is paper thin except for its thick soft centre, has a slight sour taste to it.
Often, the paper thin thosai is served plain along with sambhar — a type of vegetarian curry — and coconut chutney as dipping sauces.
For those craving for a heavier meal, they can request for the masala thosai which contains a filling of rich, savoury spicy potato curry.
If that is not enough, there are always the fluffy white idli and crispy vadai.
Idli, which is a soft round savoury cake is made from the same ingredients as the thosai except that instead of being poured onto a hot flat pan, it was poured into idli moulds and steamed.
The idli is light and fluffy but rather plain to the taste so it is also best eaten with the accompanying sambhar and chutney.
The other South Indian popular breakfast food and snack — vadai — is for those who love some bite and spice to their meal.
It is deep fried so it has a golden crispy skin but biting into the soft, pillowy centre, you get a burst of spices and herbs.
Due to its strong flavours and aroma, it can be eaten on its own as a snack, or even together with the thosai and idli, dipped in curry or sambhar.
The vadai is made from a batter of black lentils, yellow lentils and herbs and spices such as cumin, onion, curry leaves, chillies and black pepper.
Similar to the idli and thosai, the batter is also fermented first before it is shaped — almost like a mini doughnut –— and deep fried.
The popular snacks are usually available either in the mornings or afternoons at most Indian restaurants and stalls.
Here are four places to try out thosai, idli and vadai for breakfast in Penang:
Veloo Villas, Penang Street
Krsna Restaurant, Market Street
Time: 7am – noon
Arati Villas, Tanjung Bungah Park
Time: 7am –11am
Roadside stall, junction of Jones Road and Kelawei Road
Time: 7am –11am