Serious Eats' Culinary Ambassadors check in from time to time with reports on food fare in their homeland or countries of residence. Here's the latest! (Find out more about CA or join here!) —The Mgmt.


Idli. [Photograph: Roland on Flicke]

India is a very diverse country, with more than 20 official languages and cuisines that vary greatly from one region to another. I'll focus on the breakfast foods of South India for this post.

Most breakfast foods in South India are eaten hot and are pretty filling — to get your day off to a good start. They're high in carbohydrates, like most breakfast foods in the world, but are usually savory rather than sweet. They're all delicious, and many of them are pretty healthy, too. Here are some of the most common:

Idli (above) is a type of fluffy cake, made from a batter that uses rice and a lentil known as urad dal. It's steamed in special molds that give it a distinctive flying saucer–like shape.


Dosai with three different curries. [Photograph: rubberduckee on Flickr]

Dosai is a crepelike pancake made from the same rice and lentil batter as idli, sometimes stuffed with a spiced potato mixture known as masala. Both of these are usually served with a selection of chutneys and a spicy lentil stew known as sambar.


Upma. [Photograph: mojosaurus on Flickr]

Upma is a polenta-like dish made with coarse semolina, vegetables and spices, usually served with coconut chutney.


Puttu, kadala curry, and steamed banana. [Photograph: deepakkt on Flickr]

Puttu is another type of cake made with rice and coconut and steamed in a special cylindrical mold. It is usually served with a spicy chick pea curry.

Idiappam, or string hoppers, are thin rice noodles typically eaten with coconut milk.


Appam. [Photograph: Jayashree Govindarajan on Flickr]

Appam is a lacy crepe made of rice and coconut. It is cooked in a special woklike pan to give it a signature bowl-like shape with crisp edges and a soft spongy middle. It is also eaten with coconut milk or a vegetable stew.

Here in the U.S., where I now live, I make these foods mostly for weekend brunches rather than weekday breakfasts. Back in India, since most middle class households have some form of daily household help, it's easier to rustle up more elaborate breakfasts, even on a weekday.

—Maya Srinivasan of Maya's Kitchen

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