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Breakfast

Eating the World Every Morning

Soul Food for the South Indian Palate

May.30.17

Soul Food for the South Indian Palate

by Deepa Bhasthi

Curd rice in Bangalore

This city sometimes feels like a wide river I am trying to ford to reach my friends on the other side. We tell ourselves we are too busy or that the summer this year is particularly hot, and that is why we cannot meet more often. We don’t always tell the truth.

We are at Koshy’s. The most Bangalorean thing to do in Bangalore is to hang out at Koshy’s, an old restaurant in the middle of town that retains an unimpeachable disdain for the new business of hurriedness. People grow old around its tables, and we talk about how one day we will, hopefully, be among them.

Liver on toast is the best thing to eat at Koshy’s, I am told. However, I am a vegetarian, and for me it is not an option. Koshy’s has been a constant through the years. I have conceived a food journal there, begun a relationship, made new friends, gossiped, grown older. It is our village square. And whenever it was close to any mealtime, sometimes even when it wasn’t, at Koshy’s I have always asked for curd rice, or mosaranna, or thayir sadam as we call it in these parts of the country.

No one I know believes me when I say how good Koshy’s curd rice is, especially in relation to the gooey, paste-like nonsense you get in every other restaurant in the city. Curd rice is something you eat at home, not something you order for a late breakfast as a standalone dish at, of all places, Koshy’s. But here, the cold bowl of perfectly tempered rice is an ode to mama’s cooking, to the soul-food status that curd rice, very deservingly, has attained in the palates of us true-blue south Indians.

Curd rice at Koshy’s is, I like to think, a well-kept secret. It comes when we are in the middle of discussing our current reading lists, in a shallow bowl, all jet-white and gleaming. It is tempered with mustard seeds, mildly spiced, and has a big red chili garnish, “like a cherry on ice cream,” says one of my friends.

It is cold, the perfect temperature to soothe a belly fired up by the many cups of coffee we have had while going through small-town gossip from back home in the hills, where some of us are from. It is milky with a hint of sourness from the curd, and vanishes within minutes.

I am tempted to order another plate, but by then we have made plans to go to Pecos, another of those ancient establishments, for beer. We are, all of us migrants from elsewhere, as close to local Bangaloreans as we can get on that bright May afternoon.

Photo by: Sharmila Vaidyanathan

Order Biscuits the Way Michael Jordan Ordered Biscuits

Dec.15.17

Order Biscuits the Way Michael Jordan Ordered Biscuits

by Cole Whitaker

Biscuits in North Carolina

The paper bag is tantalizingly weighty as I scoot out the door and flicker in and out of the line of morning headlights. In a puff of steam, I pull out the first tender biscuit, a study in delicious contrasts; light crisp of crust revealing soft flaky dough, a hint of sweetness meeting the salty bite of sausage—simplicity and decadence all in one.

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen has been serving professors and farmers, southerners and northerners what they rightly call “Bigger Better Biscuits” for nearly 40 years. The kitchen is a shoe-box-sized drive-thru at the bottom of the hill leading to the white-columned campus of UNC Chapel Hill. The menu isn’t long, but it offers more than you might expect—even an incongruous low-carb option—and the orders are rattled off in rapid-fire displays of familiarity.

Don’t make the mistake of looking too far down the menu; everything you need to see is right there at the top, and has been since the beginning. Biscuits plain, or with jam, sausage, or fried chicken can fill you up for little more than pocket change.

Despite the efficient art of the biscuit-builders in the kitchen, the line still gets long, but those in the know, like Michael Jordan in his college days, get out, weave through the cars in the drive-thru, and slide in the door to the kitchen where there’s just enough room to place an order. The room is glowing and glorious, bustling with southern mamas buttering trays of biscuits and men with tattoos that hint they haven’t always spent their mornings folding flaky layers into the dough. Flour floats in the warm air and the scent of rising dough is nearly intoxicating. Before you know it, there’s a full bag in hand and you’re out the door.

The owner’s grandmother ironed out the recipe for these biscuits when she was putting food on the table for her 17 children. Like toast or oatmeal, the biscuit was a humble staple of breakfast tables across the south. Cheap and filling, simple yet sublimely satisfying, requiring minimal ingredients yet demanding a touch of magic, biscuits were an industrious and indulgent way to fill stomachs—and still are.

Among artisanal doughnut shops, avocado toast brunches, and even biscuits dolled up with the latest superfood or meat substitute, Sunrise is a holdout of the Southern style, when hearty excellence and thriftiness were natural companions.

I pull out my biscuit, plain, and revel in all that is wrapped up in this simple package. Taking a bite, I remember one of the men in the kitchen telling me that the same woman who created this recipe lived to be nearly 100. I pray that the biscuits were her secret to longevity and I’m doing my best to get my daily dose.


Sunrise Biscuits Kitchen
1305 E. Franklin St.,
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Monday-Saturday 6:00am – 2:30pm
Sunday 7am – 2:30pm

A Thick Salvadoran Tortilla is the Only Cure for a Rainy Day in Vancouver

Dec.12.17

A Thick Salvadoran Tortilla is the Only Cure for a Rainy Day in Vancouver

by Toni Ford

Pupusas in Vancouver

My elbows are on the table and my chin is in my hands as I watch the traffic crawl bumper-to-bumper through an endless rainstorm. I’m in Duffin’s, a diner of sorts that stands on the corner of one of Vancouver’s busy suburban intersections with only the petrol station opposite to keep it company. I’ve been in Vancouver for four days and it has yet to stop raining.

Several Canadians warned me against moving to Vancouver in October.

“You know that it basically rains every day, right?” they said, eyebrows high.

“I’m from the North of England,” I said, eyebrows low. “I’ll be fine.”

I shift uncomfortably, damp jeans cold against my skin and sticking horribly to the vinyl-covered seat of the window booth I sit in. I didn’t choose this seat for the view, just like I didn’t choose this city for its weather, and I wonder now if I’ve made the wrong decision on both counts.

Duffin’s Diner doesn’t seem to quite know what it is. ‘DONUTS’, said the sign outside but also, ‘TORTA SUBS’, ‘CHINESE FOOD’ and ‘FRITOS’. Laminated photographs of plates of food faded into sepia tones line the walls. With the idea of ordering some kind of safe sandwich and a black coffee, I approach the till and see a handwritten sign taped to the counter. ‘Pupusas,’ it reads. “$2.85 (minimum order two).”

Back at my table I listen to a nearby group of Chinese men argue happily over something and nothing, paper cups of milky coffee and sugar-dusted donuts covering their table. Two police officers come in, awkward in their street armor, and disappointingly ignore the donuts to order two turkey subs. I twist in my seat to glance at the table behind me, where a large Spanish-speaking family tuck into a feast of fried things on paper plates and soft things wrapped in banana leaves.

When my breakfast arrives, I realize I’ve chosen well. A pupusa is a thick tortilla of fried corn batter filled with beans, cheese, and shredded pork. The crispy fried coating of the pupusa splits under the pressure of my plastic knife and piping-hot dough inside bursts out. I scoop some of the surprise side dish of cool, crunchy coleslaw onto my pupusa and add a splash of salsa. It’s not salsa from a jar, the sort you dip Doritos into that always tastes a bit like vinegar; no, this is real salsa, made with sweet tomatoes and smoky chili. I take one bite and I’m the world’s biggest pupusa fan.

I sit back, stuffed at a total cost of $5.70 (Canadian) and look out of the window again. The rain is still going strong but in the morning gloom I can see the reflection of everything happening behind me in the fluorescent strip-lit diner. I might be eating alone but I’m not by myself, and I feel a warmth inside me that isn’t just the heat of that great salsa. Vancouver is going to be great and, no matter what they say, it can’t rain every day. Can it?

Lagman Vs. Laksa: Who Will Win the Noodle Championship?

Dec.11.17

Lagman Vs. Laksa: Who Will Win the Noodle Championship?

by Magdalena Tan

Lagman in Tashkent

Igor spoke more English than our usual Uzbek hosts, though he shared their tendency to overfeed us.

It was a fine Monday morning when he took us to his favorite kafesi for a bowl of lagman; he told us that it was the best in the city. But I had my doubts, because I come from Malaysia, and I believe we have the best noodle soups in the world.

When we arrived in an alley packed with florists and bakers, I could smell fresh bread wafting in the air. A young boy holding up a stack of lepyoshka, a Central Asian flatbread, walked across the room, which was filled with people tucking into bowls of red soup.

We had tried a lot of different lagman in the region, from dingy establishments near the vokzal—the main bus station in small towns—to homemade noodles prepared by grandmothers who insisted on us having a second round. But Lola Kafesi had a reputation among the locals. Igor said that even during the financial crisis in 2008, its tables were always full.

We ordered three bowls of hot lagman, two pieces of lepyoshka, and a pot of green tea with lemon for three people. There is no such thing as carb overload here, and people always suggest you wipe your bowls clean with the bread. The noodles arrived, and I could see that the soup contents had a variety of herbs, red peppers, cubes of beef, and the layer of oil so common in dishes in Central Asia.

“Time to eat!” exclaimed our host. “Every time I host someone from Couchsurfing, I take them here and they are never disappointed.”

Couchsurfing is quasi-illegal in Uzbekistan, because tourists need to register with their hostels and hotels whenever they stay in a city for more than three days. The registration process causes a lot of confusion and anxiety for travelers and their hosts. Igor hosted us for two nights. We were supposed to leave Tashkent afterwards, but we ended up staying in the city for a few more nights. I had no trouble crossing the border into Kazakhstan, but my friend did. So, he tried another border, where they let him through. The rules are a little hazy.

I slurped on the soup, and felt a sense of relief that it was not as oily as other ones I’ve tried. A bite of the tender beef brought a smile to my face. It was no laksa, but the broth was full of flavor and the combination of chewy noodles, soft vegetables, and beef made the dish a pleasure to devour.

The clientele was mostly middle-aged men who came here with their friends, sharing some lagman, bread, and tea. I could not see a single tourist; they usually join tour groups who take them to restaurants on their planned itineraries. If it weren’t for Igor, who took a risk by hosting us and taking us to this local spot, we would never have known about it.

Photo by: Kim Sergey

Is This the World’s Best Vegetarian Dish?

Dec.05.17

Is This the World’s Best Vegetarian Dish?

by Pranjali Bhonde

Misal in Pune

Its 11 a.m. on a Tuesday when I amble down the footpaths in the historic ‘peth’ area of Pune, in search of breakfast and the legendary misal at Shri Krishan Bhuvan.

Vendors in the bustling market area of Tulshibaug thrust their wares at me—a neckpiece, handkerchiefs, chappals, fruits, etc. I maneuver through the crowd and finally reach Shri Krishna Bhuvan.

Established in 1941, the place is all coy minimalism—a few wooden tables and benches and waiters darting in and out of their open kitchen. The tables are shared; it’s absolutely normal for a stranger to come and sit beside you. Thankfully, it’s a weekday and I don’t have to wait. The waiter asks me how would like my misal—normal, medium, or ‘picy’, hastily skipping the ‘s’. I order a medium with buttermilk. The misal arrives in record time, with a bowl of the ‘sample’ (curry, infused with ginger-garlic paste, freshly grated coconut, chillies, tomatoes, and potatoes) and bread slices.

The misal at Shri Krishna Bhuvan is prepared by combining poha (rice flakes sautéed with onions and curry leaves), batata bhaji (potatoes tempered with mustard, asoefitida, and chilli), chiwda (a mixture of dry rice flakes), and sev (noodles made of chick peas). It’s garnished with chopped onions and lemon, and topped with tari—a searing mixture of oil and spices.

The flavors of the coconut, ginger, and garlic beautifully unfurl on my tongue. In between bites of bread and misal, I take brave swipes at the red tari. Beads of sweat gather on my forehead. When it gets too hot to handle, I take large sips of the buttermilk.

Several tea-houses and corner shops serve misal, each with their own method of preparation. For people in my state, Maharashtra, misal is more than just a dish. It stands for camaraderie and bonhomie, and it’s also a perfect cold remedy. It’s a versatile dish: it can be an evening snack, but it’s common to eat it for breakfast and lunch, too. Don’t just take my word for its charms: in 2015, London’s Foodie Hub Awards declared misal the world’s tastiest vegetarian dish.

Shri Krishna Bhuvan, 1164,
Budhwar Peth Road, Tulshibaug,
Budhwar Peth, Pune,
Maharashtra

Breakfast Curd: It’s All About the Pot

Nov.29.17

Breakfast Curd: It’s All About the Pot

by Charukesi Ramadurai

Curd in Sri Lanka

We are still bleary-eyed as our car makes its slow progress through the streets in Sri Lanka’s south. Our flight landed at an ungodly hour in the morning, and my husband and I are headed from Colombo’s international airport to Yala National Park.

The streets are empty, the dozens of villages dotted along the stretch slowly coming to life. We have been looking for breakfast, but nothing is open yet. Crossing the coastal resort towns of Tangalle and Hambantota, we reach Tissamarahama, when these shops first begin to appear. The first sign that catches my eye is Jayasuriya Curd Shop.

Wait, wait. What is a curd shop?

Our driver, Anand, turns to us in the backseat—taking his eyes off the road, as is his habit—to gush over the delights of the local curd. As he talks, we notice that both sides of the highway are lined with open stalls (with and without signboards) selling curd in shallow earthen pots.

Known as mee kiri, this is Sri Lankan curd, traditionally made from buffalo milk. The milk’s high fat content gives it an unmatched creaminess. The curd is made through natural fermentation, with tiny spoons of old curd added to milk that’s boiled for two hours to reduce the water content, then cooled to room temperature. It’s then sealed with paper and set aside for 12 hours (usually overnight). A part of the secret to this curd’s taste and texture lies in the coarse and porous nature of the baked clay pot (kiri hatti) in which it’s set, which provides natural insulation.

Stomachs rumbling, we pull over at a relatively uncrowded shop. Sanduni, the smiling teenager whose family has been in this trade for several years, welcomes us with a shy smile. She has even set up a hut with makeshift chairs and tables; a couple of local men seated on rickety plastic chairs pour a generous quantity of a viscous brown liquid on the yoghurt in their cups.

This Sri Lankan treacle, known as kithul peni, is made from the toddy (kithul) palm and is a perennial favourite among locals. Somewhat like maple syrup, it is smooth and thick, without the cloying sweetness of sugar or honey. Kithul-tapping is carried out by specific communities in Sri Lanka, with both men and women collecting the sap from trees and then boiling it to produce treacle (as well as jaggery, another natural sweetener).

As we dig into our kiri—we can’t bring ourselves to pour quite as much kithul as the locals do, especially because the curd has an innate sweetness—we chat with Sanduni while Anand acts as interpreter. Like other families in the village right behind this bustling highway, hers also makes and sells this yoghurt—over 250 pots a day.

Kiri with kithul is a most delicious and satisfying breakfast. We buy another pot for later in the day, the thought of kiri for dessert after lunch running through our heads.

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