Commercial Street is one of the busiest streets of Bangalore. And it is old, very old!! As I wandered into one of its bylanes – Veerapillai Street, it seemed as though this place is stuck in a time warp. I’m willing to bet that many of these businesses have been around for more than a century. Some of the buildings might be even older. There are numerous attractions in the vicinity including Temples, historic literary treasure troves, jewellery stores, and mills. But that wasn’t the reason for our visit.
At one of the cross roads of Veerapillai street (some 100 metres from the main Commercial Street) at 4PM every day, two street food specialists take centre stage. One is renowned for dosais, the other for idlis. As I approached the first of the two places, I heard the unmistakeable sizzle and crackle of fresh liquid batter being smeared on a hot cast iron pan. Scores of people around me were waiting patiently for their turn to be served one of these masterful yet humble creations. When my turn came, I instructed the dosai-maker, rather nonchalantly, to make me a benne (butter) dosai. I couldn’t stop salivating as I saw two dollops of white butter smother my dosai-in-progress. But then, another customer, a frequent one at that, elbows his way through the crowd and even more nonchalantly instructs the man to make his dosai. No big deal, except that he utters in Tamil ‘Double Benne podunga’ which translates into ‘please put double butter’. ‘Double butteraaa???’ I gasped in disbelief. The man gave me a wide grin while the dosai-maker let out a faint half smile before educating me (in English) that the stall was known for its butter and double butter dosais. Not one to be outdone, I instinctively revised my order to double benne dosai. Two more dollops. That meant that my dosai had a gobsmacking four blobs of butter on it!
After a seemingly endless wait of under five minutes my dosai was ready to be served. As I admired the even glaze of the butter, I pressed the top of my dosai only to see more butter ooze out. I quickly retracted my finger as my eyes popped out. The first bite made my eyes shut wide. Butter! Dosai! Butter! My second bite, this time with a scoop of the spicy coconut chutney sent me into a tizzy. Despite all that butter, the dosais were remarkably light and the actual flavour of the Dosai was not lost. I ended up eating two. A third was very easily achievable; however, I had my eyes set on the next stall.
Just a few feet perpendicular to the Dosai Stall, was Srinivas’s Idli stall. As we approached the place we could hardly see any idlis. Srinivas’s brother was busy making several parcels, each containing four idles. A large order it would appear from the number of packets that were already prepared. Here again, people were waiting patiently for the next lot of idlis. Within minutes, trays of freshly steamed, milk white, fluffy idlis were removed from the cooker. They were quickly transferred into a large round aluminium plate for further allocation. Four per plate. The idlis were accompanied by two chutneys – a red spicy & sour tomato chutney and a green, milder coconut chutney. Then came the best part – One big spoonful of butter slam-dunked on top of the idlis!!! For the second time that evening, the eyes wide shut feeling returned. The idlis were amongst the softest I’ve ever had and believe me, I’ve had some fantastically soft idlis across South India. These were comparable to the very best in the business. The chutneys, too, were flavoured well so that they complemented rather than overshadowed each other. The Tomato chutney had the right amount of spice and sourness while the coconut chutney had the obvious hint of coriander shining through. My final count was 8 idlis.
What you should know about these two places is that they are open only during the evening hours specifically from 4PM to 8PM. Despite the overwhelming favourites such as V V Puram and Chickpet/Nagrathpet, little gems like these hold their own thereby accentuating the food experience in Bangalore significantly.