Food @ Trivandrum

Venkadesa Bhavan: Classic South Indian Vegetarian Cuisine

Yesterday, my parents ended up going to West Fort area early in the morning and based on my suggestion, stopped by this old and very famous restaurant in Trivandrum called Venkadesa Bhavan, near West Nada of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple… The place has been famous for a very long time for their Classic South Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, and are especially famous for Tamil Brahmin delicacies and is considered to be the best restaurant to have food from that Cuisine in Trivandrum… So, we had a few of our favourites as takeaway today and this post is about the same 🙂

So, lets talk about the food we got and start with the Curd Vada… This is a South Indian classic called Thayirvadai thats said to have originated in Tamil Nadu, but is also very popular in other places including North India where its eaten as a Chaat item known as Dahi-Vada or Dahi-Bhalla with quite a number of toppings unlike how it is usually in the south… Its basically Medhu Vadai or Uzhunnu Vada (think of it as a doughnut made using Black Gram / Black Lentils with onions, chillies and curry leaves) soaked in fresh Yogurt and tempered with herbs and chillies… This is usually eaten as a cool and refreshing snack and is also something my mom makes at home once in a while…

Coming to the Curd Vada that we got this time, first of all, the Yogurt was incredibly creamy and had just the right amount of sourness… It appeared to have absorbed the flavour of the Coriander Leaves and Green Chillies used in the tempering and the Vada was soaked very well in it… The vada by itself felt to be made entirely of the Black Lentils and was essentially disintegrating at the slightest touch using the spoon… Everything felt well seasoned and well balanced… This is definitely the most authentic Thayirvadai that you can get in Trivandrum… Its a must try… 🙂

After the Curd Vada, next up is another favourite snack of ours from there and its called the Karavada… Unlike the Curd Vada, this is a very special snack thats unique to Trivandrum and is said to have been created by the Tamil Brahmins who settled in Trivandrum long time ago… Unlike the Medhu Vadai, this Vada is made using Rice and Lentils mix and is typically made spiced with Dried Red Chillies and Asafoetida and hence the name Karavada as in Spicy Vada 🙂 Venkadesa Bhavan is known as the authority when it comes to this snack as its said to be the first restaurant to serve it…

As always, it was good with a very crispy outer layer and soft interior though not as soft as Medhu Vadai usually is… Thats what happens when you mix rice in the batter… To me personally, I felt that the flavour of the asafoetida used was standing out from the rest of the ingredients here… Spice level was just right for me and its a great snack to have with Chutney or just as it is with a glass of hot tea 🙂 As far as I know, Trivandrum is the only place where you can get this snack and it is a must try cause of its uniqueness…

Next up is the Masala Dosa… This as you may already know is the most famous food item from South Indian Cuisine… For those who may still be unaware, think of Dosas as crepes but made using Rice and Lentil based batter and then stuffed with a southern Indian style spicy Potato Mash which we call as the Potato Masala or “Podimas” and hence the name Masala Dosa… We bought one for each of us and what you see in the following pic is just all 3 of them dumped on the plate (sorry for the mess) 🙂

Coming to the taste, as can be seen in the pic below, the masala appeared to be made using Potatoes, Onions, Ginger and Chillies and was spiced with Turmeric ad it also appeared to have Mustard seeds as well… The flavours are well balanced as in it was possible to feel the taste of all of the ingredients used… The Dosa was just like any other… It ended up being a bit too sour and dry for me… Loved the Masala inside though… 🙂 To be frank, you can get much better tasting Masala Dosas in other places as this version is pretty much the basic non-fancy version of the same… Still, worth a try to know the basic version if you haven’t had that 🙂

Of-course, the most popular accompaniments to most South Indian food items is of-course the Sambar and Chutney… Of-course we eat the Curd Vada as it is but for both Masala Dosa and Karavada, Sambar and/or Chutney are used to accompany… Which among the two to use and which kind of Chutney are typically a personal preference… Here, they gave us their Sambar and Coconut Chutney as shown in the pic below… The Sambar (think of it as a spicy Vegetable curry made using a Tamarind and Lentil base) was quite thick and incredibly flavourful… Just the right balance of Spiciness and Sourness for me… The Coconut Chutney has some lentils ground into it along with the Coconut and had a nice flavour of Green Chillies and Ginger as well… Its undoubtedly one of the best Coconut Chutneys I have ever had and I felt it to be working exceptionally well with the Karavada as well as the Masala Dosa… The Chutney is usually the trump card of the chefs in South Indian vegetarian restaurants 🙂

Last but not least is the Sweet dish called Rava Kesari… Its essentially a pudding made using Semolina or Rava along with Saffron (which gives it that yellow color), Ghee, Sugar and Nuts… It is said to have originated in present day state of Karnataka as a temple offering during auspicious times… It is another popular item of South Indian origin thats also has a popular version in the North, but made to be a lot less sweet and without the Saffron use, which they call as Sheera or Suji Ka Halwa, thats eaten as a breakfast item…

The Rava Kesari that we got here had a very good fragrance of Ghee and Saffron in it (though I am skeptical about that bright yellow color being from just the Saffron)… The Semolina used was the finer kind and not as coarse as how we usually see… There were also some fried Cashews and Raisins in it… It was so soft that you don’t need teeth to eat this (except when you encounter the nuts and raisins of-course)… The texture felt almost like jelly if you ask me that comes apart at the slightest touch… The sweetness was was just right and not too much – I mean you certainly won’t be getting a sugar rush from this but it is still sweet enough to be enjoyed as a dessert… This place is one of two favourite places of ours for getting the Rava Kesari… Its a must try… 🙂

Thats it for now… 🙂 Because of the timing, we could only get food from their Breakfast menu and not from their Lunch menu which was what we were hoping to get… But its okay… There is no law against eating Breakfast food items as lunch now, is there?? 😀 😛 As I mentioned above, Venkadesa Bhavan is the iconic place for South Indian Vegetarian cuisine here in Trivandrum and so if you are into that cuisine and you are in Trivandrum, thats the place to be 🙂

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