Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rock and Roll: Dosa Buffet at Woodlands Indian Cuisine

If they ever found a way to make bacon out of tofu, I would so convert to vegetarianism. Until recently in Western cuisine, meat-free has tended to be flavor-free. Not so in Indian cooking, where vegetarians enjoy an exotic cuisine that fits within their dietary boundaries, one so full of enticing aromas and textures that you don't really miss the meat.

But to me, one of the benchmarks of great Indian cuisine is the bread.

The colors: Wednesday night veggie buffet at Woodlands
Growing up in what was then the culinary wasteland of Redondo Beach, The Clay Pit provided a passage to India at the South Bay Galleria. My most vivid memory was of the fresh baked naan, which my sisters and I thought was special because it was fresh bread, baked right in the food court. Samosa House is my go-to spot on the Westside, a Culver City institution that serves small plates of crispy and colorful chaat, fragrant mango lassi, and the namesake potato pockets. There I indulge in my favorite combo plate with wheat chapati, which I use to scoop up bites of spinach saag and stewed jackfruit. But at Woodlands in Chatsworth, the idea of fresh baked is taken to a new level with the Wednesday night all-you-can-eat dosa buffet.

The adventure starts at the buffet table, where you can fill your metal tray with a bit of everything. Woodlands, which describes the spread as "Indo- Chinese," includes a Manchurian dumpling in a savory red sauce called idly. The name also refers to small rounds of a white and spongy bread with a texture reminiscent of Ethiopian injera or Filipino puto. A fiery soy sauce-based vegetable stir-fry adds color to the tray, as does a salty lemon chutney and fresh mint sauce to drizzle onto crispy pappadums. 

Dosa-do: My tastebuds do an allemande left with the fiery mysore masala dosa.

But it is the fresh dosa, each made freshly to order, that is the star of the buffet firmament. Harvey and I started with masala dosa, a large crispy lentil and rice-based crepe filled with saffron-hued mashed potatoes, and a version of the same thing with sauteed onions. The second round included the whimsically-named paper masala dosa, which was a masala dosa made with rice flour only and the mysore masala dosa, which promptly set my mouth on fire and heightened my anticipation of dessert.

And what a dessert it was. Payasam is a gentle concoction of vermicelli noodles cooked in milk and enhanced by cardamom. I brought up two half- filled stainless steel cups of the pudding-like dish to the table, just in case we ended up not liking it. We loved it, but were too full of dosas to want more. 

Sweet relief: Payasam or kheer helped put out the smolder of the mysore masala dosa.

No comments:

Post a Comment