Slideshow: Snapshots from India: Vegetarian Eats in Bangalore

Masala Dosa from Mavalli Tiffin Rooms
Masala Dosa from Mavalli Tiffin Rooms

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms (MTR) is an institution in Bangalore, family-run and serving up Udipi-style cuisine of the South Indian state of Karnataka since 1924. This is a place my family has frequented for generations. The restaurant has a different menu depending on time of day.

One of the most well-known Udipi foods is masala dosa, a savory crepe made from fermented rice and lentil batter that's cooked on a skillet and stuffed with a buttery potato curry. It's a staple dish in South India, but every restaurant has their signature way of making it. The masala dosa at MTR is shaped in a triangle and served with mint chutney and ghee, clarified butter.

14, Lalbagh Road, Mavalli, Near Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 22230471

Rava Dosa at Mavalli Tiffin Rooms
Rava Dosa at Mavalli Tiffin Rooms

Rava Dosa is a lesser known, but equally delicious dosa made from semolina flour. At MTR it's served with coconut chutney, ghee, and saagu, a coconut vegetable curry. Saagu in South Indian restaurants is commonly paired with puri, a North Indian fried bread, kind of like a fusion dish.

14, Lalbagh Road, Mavalli, Near Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 22230471

Filter Coffee at Mavalli Tiffin Rooms
Filter Coffee at Mavalli Tiffin Rooms

South India is know for its filter coffee, which is made with chicory, a nice spot of creamy milk, and sugar. It's usually served in metal cups along with an extra cup used by customers for pouring the coffee back and forth, a process that helps mix the ingredients fully and cool the coffee down.

At MTR, the coffee is served in silver cups. I like to pour my own coffee, but it's nice that at MTR you can have your waiter do it. Waiters at MTR wear a traditional Indian dhoti (cloth skirt) and are barefoot.

14, Lalbagh Road, Mavalli, Near Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 22230471

MTR Shop
MTR Shop

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms has a popular line of packaged goods under the MTR brand name that's sold next door to the restaurant. Some of these goods are sold in the US as well. MTR launched this line in 1975 when their business was in financial trouble. At the time, the Indian government required them to lower their prices to such a level that they couldn't afford it with quality ingredients, so they launched the line to make up the difference.

14, Lalbagh Road, Mavalli, Near Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 22230471

Vidyarthi Bhavan
Vidyarthi Bhavan

Vidyarthi Bhavan is another Bangalore landmark, in this case known for its benne (butter) masala dosas. It's situated in one of Bangalore's oldest neighborhoods, Basavanagudi, right near a large marketplace called Gandi Bazaar. Founded in 1943, it originally served as a mess hall for local students and bachelors.

The key is to get there 15 minutes before they open because there's a stampede to get in and the place fills up right away. Similar to MTR, their waiters also wear traditional garb of dhoti and are barefoot. Since there's no written menu, you're served basically what the waiters say is available, which is always good.

32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677588

Medhu Vada at Vidyarthi Bhavan
Medhu Vada at Vidyarthi Bhavan

Depending on the time of day, the menu items vary. On this day for lunch, our meal started with medhu vada, a savory fried doughnut made from a batter of fermented lentils and served in sambar, spicy lentil soup.

32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677588

Benne (Butter) Dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan
Benne (Butter) Dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan

The butter dosa is the most popular item at the restaurant, and deservedly so. It's super buttery and thicker than those found in most other restaurants.

32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677588

Dosa Filling at Vidyarthi Bhavan
Dosa Filling at Vidyarthi Bhavan

The butter dosa is fittingly filled with a buttery potato curry that melts in your mouth and served with a spicy coconut chutney that the waiter usually pours on top from a jug.

To avoid a soggy dosa, my family asks for the chutney on the side in a katori, a small bowl.

32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677588

Filter Coffee at Vidyarthi Bhavan
Filter Coffee at Vidyarthi Bhavan

Vidyarthi Bhavan's famous filter coffee is served in a cup with a tumbler to mix the ingredients and cool it down for drinking. You'll need some caffeine to overcome your food coma, but this is not a place to leisurely sip. Drink up fast as the waiters are impatient to seat the next drove of patrons.

32, Gandhi Bazaar, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677588

Sandige
Sandige

Sandige is a deep fried snack usually made from rice that has been dried in the sun. Srinivasa's has a great variety of sandige that you can fry at home in vegetable oil.

Usually my family eats sandige on special occasions along with our meal.

92, H B Samaja Road, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677493

Roasted Lentils and Spicy Fried Peanut Snacks
Roasted Lentils and Spicy Fried Peanut Snacks

Srinivasa's is famous for their snack items, in particular their hurigalu, which are roasted beans or lentils, and fried kadlekai, which are peanuts. On the left is a hurigalu made from avarekai, a special bean native to Karnataka. Their masala fried peanuts are a top seller and come in varieties called Congress and Communist Kadlekai.

92, H B Samaja Road, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677493

Chakli
Chakli

Chakli is a flavorful, buttery snack typically made in homes in Karnataka and found at Srinivas Condiment Stores. It's made from rice and urad flour and fried in oil or ghee.

92, H B Samaja Road, Near Gandhi Bazaar Circle, Basavanagudi, Bangalore; 080 26677493

Coconut Water
Coconut Water

Throughout the city, you'll find vendors selling tender coconut water, definitely better than that stuff you get in a package. This vendor cut open the coconut with her machete and handed it over as if it was nothing at all.

Chip Shop in Sanjay Nagar
Chip Shop in Sanjay Nagar

Throughout the city there are shops selling a wide variety of chips. Usually at night, you can get fresh chips fried right on the spot in a large wok.

Chips range in variety from the regular potato to onion, dal, or—my favorite—bitter gourd.

Idli/Vada Takeout from Adiga's
Idli/Vada Takeout from Adiga's

Adiga's is a popular darshini, or vegetarian fast food shop, that opened in 1994 with several locations around Bangalore and aggressive plans to expand further. This restaurant has its roots in Brahmin's Coffee Bar, a Bangalore staple since 1965 run by the owner's parents.

Adiga's menu offers a wide assortment, but it excels at South Indian fare, like idlis and vadas. Idlis are steamed cakes made from a fermented rice and dal batter. Adiga's takeout comes wrapped in banana leaves, a quintessential South Indian touch.

Several locations, 4th Block, 11th Main, 27th Cross Rd, Jayanagar, Bangalore; 080 41210068

Veena Stores
Veena Stores

Veena Stores started out as a condiment shop in 1977 but slowly transitioned into a popular darshini, or fast food storefront. The cooks come in a few hours before the shop opens and make all of the dishes fresh to serve. At meal time, the place is crowded with patrons eating right on the street.

Most everything here is delectable, like their idlis and vadas with chutney that gets doled out of a big pot from a man sitting on a stool. They also offer some unique specialities of Udupi cuisine that are really well done.

183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleshwaram, Bangalore; 080 23344838

Shavige Bath at Veena Stores
Shavige Bath at Veena Stores

Shavige bath, a specialty of Veena Stores, is made from rice vermicelli cooked with turmeric and flavored with mustard seeds, roasted dals, chilis, curry leaves, lemon, and coconut. This dish is eaten at home for breakfast, but it also makes for a good snack.

183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleshwaram, Bangalore; 080 23344838

Bisi Bele Bath at Veena Stores
Bisi Bele Bath at Veena Stores

Bisi bele bath in the local Bangalore language of Kannada translates to "hot lentil rice." The flavor is complex: spicy from chili, sour from tamarind, sweet from coconut, and earthy from nutmeg, cinnamon, and a host of other spices. It's served with khara boondi, spicy fried balls of chickpea flour batter. It's also sometimes topped with potato chips, which was a popular combo at my house growing up.

183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road, Malleshwaram, Bangalore; 080 23344838

Koshy's
Koshy's

Koshy's is a Bangalore landmark that opened in 1940. The decor is modest with relics of old times, like the impressive large stone pillars. Over the years, it's built up a reputation as being a Bohemian hangout frequented by artists, intellectuals, writers, and now techies in the city.

Koshy's has two parts: Parade Cafe, which is casual and most often crowded with patrons having coffee or a beer, and the Jewel Box, which is a newer, formal restaurant and often uncrowded.

39, St. Marks Road, MG Road Area, Bangalore; 080 22915840