DITCH THE DOSAI
WORDS SHRADDHA UCHIL
PHOTOGRAPHS T KRISHNA PRABAKAR
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Chennai
GREAT FOR A culinary adventure
It’s only a few minutes past 10am, but you’re starting to get impatient, as is the crowd waiting with you. “When will the stuff come in?” someone asks the attendant. “Any minute now,” comes the reply. Almost immediately, the trays appear. Loaded with pizza slices, sandwiches, muffins and cinnamon rolls, one by one, they make their way into Pastry Corner, an unassuming little bakery that’s been around since 1985. And that’s just its morning batch. Two more batches of food come in by 3pm, and, by 6pm, it’s all been polished clean. Sink your teeth into a warm blueberry muffin, or ask for a scoop of the plum ice cream. Or you could just pack an entire pear teacake to gorge on later.
At some point, you will realise that although you’re in the heart of South India, some of the best cuisine to be found in Kodi isn’t native to the region. Far from it, in fact. Modern Kodaikanal was established as a hill station by American missionaries in 1845. Since then, it has drawn couples, hippies and filmmakers from around the world, bringing to the place a mélange of cultures and cuisines rarely seen elsewhere in the deep south.
Take, for instance, Tibetan Brothers. Having fled his motherland in 1963, 70-year-old Ngawang Dorjee opened shop 32 years ago, doling out hot noodle soup, or thukpa, and momos to a crowd that had probably never tried such fare before. However, today, he counts not just visitors but also scores of locals among his clientele. At his rival, The Royal Tibet, try the fried beef momos, which pack some serious flavour. If you’re looking for something light, the Golden Dragon Fuyong is the way to go – the fluffy omelette has bits of chicken and chopped veggies, making it a small meal in itself.
But worry not; Kodi is not just about Tibetan food. Due to the influx of visitors, the town has always been open-minded when it comes to its cuisine. To find out just how open, head next to Cloud Street, a spacious yet cosy restaurant that serves a mean bacon, sausage and ham pizza, along with other continental dishes. Oh, and all its pizzas are made in an authentic wood-fired oven. Tanya is a gracious host, while her husband, Sharat, is the genius in the kitchen, aided by a small team. Everything is made from scratch (apart from the pasta, which is store-bought), from the dough to the sauces. And it shows. The food is delicious, its flavour and freshness shining through. In fact, where using organic produce is usually a pleasant exception, in Kodi’s kitchens, it appears to be standard fare.
For instance, Café Cariappa lets you sip on coffee sourced from the surrounding Palani Hills. Order yourself a cuppa of the heady brew and a slice of the wholesome carrot cake, perch yourself on the verandah, and watch the world go by. Also great for people-watching is Muncheez. A favourite with kids from the nearby international school, this eatery has recently expanded to include indoor seating. But opt to sit outdoors on the bright blue plastic stools, and order yourself a chicken roll – the spice in which hits all the right spots – and counter the heat with a slice of the creamy cheesecake.
Across the road from Muncheez, Nia’s Treats, which calls itself “the No 1 green café in town,” serves up snacks and healthy beverages. Order the waffles, which have just the right amount of sweet and buttery, and give the organic carrot sorbet a try – it comes recommended.
Kodi certainly has it all – misty mountains, dense forests and cascading waters – but, if you’re in it for the food, make sure to pack your comfiest (read: stretchiest) pair of pants, because no belt will be able to hold that food baby in.