Deliciously Cheap: Udipi

Daevan Mangalmurti, Writer

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Over the past decade, Pittsburgh has experienced a revolution. Not a revolution in thinking, or in agriculture. A revolution in food. Twenty years ago, there were two good foreign restaurants in Pittsburgh- Tram’s Kitchen and Udupi (or so I’ve been told). So residents and strangers alike have been pleasantly surprised by the  explosion of restaurants serving delicious global food in the past couple years.  Starting this week, I’ll be talking about one of these affordable foreign restaurants every so often. I’ll offer a little about their cuisine, their location, and my recommendations for each of them. We’ll be starting with Udipi, a South Indian restaurant frequented by Indians living in Pittsburgh.

 

Udipi

Udipi is an old favorite of the Indian community in Pittsburgh, dating back at least two decades, before which its history is lost in the annals of time. The restaurant is located in a hard to find old building at 4141 Old William Penn Hwy in Monroeville. While that may seem like a trek for just some food, Udipi is well worth the journey. As you enter, you’ll immediately spot the tile floor and heavy Indian concentration inside the restaurant. The majority of the servers and chefs at the restaurant are of Indian or Latino origin, but the Indian managers are proficient English speakers who are more than happy to help you out.

 

Udipi specializes in South Indian cuisine, which is very different from the North Indian cuisine served at restaurants like Tamarind and All India in the city. For appetizers at Udipi, I recommend two dishes: the idli fry and gobi manchurian. Idli is an Indian dish made from rice and lentils, and to make idli fry it is deep-fried until it is a slightly charred golden-brown. At Udipi it is served a coriander salsa and a tamarind syrup, which give the drier idli fry a moistness and freshness that make it the perfect snack. Idli fry also has a satisfyingly crunchy texture that makes it delicious plain. Gobi manchurian is an Indo-Chinese fusion dish made from deep-fried cauliflower that has become popular in recent years. Udipi makes two types of gobi manchurian- dry and regular. I strongly recommend the dry gobi manchurian, as it has a better, crunchier texture than the regular gobi manchurian, and preserves the same strong and delicious flavor of slightly spicy garlic, soy, onion, and chili. As for the main course, nearly every Indian in Pittsburgh will recommend one dish: dosa. Dosa is a South Indian specialty, a crepe-like dish made from rice and lentil carefully poured onto a pan and grilled until it has a crispy outer edge and softer inner edge with a wonderfully savory taste. While you can get a plain dosa in this style, my personal favorite is the Andhra Sada dosa, an extremely spicy, pepper-coated dosa. If you don’t like the spicier things in life, there’s also the Rava dosa, made with onions and optional chiles, the Masala dosa, served with potatoes and mustard seeds in the middle, and the Paper dosa, a super crispy, wafer thin dosa.
Each of these dishes is absolutely delicious and really embodies the traditional tastes of South Indian cuisine. Along with the meal I recommend a refreshing mango or sweet lassi (an Indian yogurt drink). If you’re in the mood for dessert the kheer (a sweet mixture of heavy cream and semolina noodles) is delicious, and if not the masala tea is a perfect finisher.

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