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Destination Dishes: Vegetarian Indian in West Broward

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We've got a hankering for: Vegetarian Indian food. When looking to go veg, the southern tip of the Indian peninsula works best. That means dosai, fried breads, pilaf, and plenty of spicy, meat-free dishes, some with Chinese influences.

Where we go: Two West Broward joints on University

Drive that are barely two miles apart from each other. The first is Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, a small South Indian restaurant between Commercial and Oakland Park boulevards. The second is Udipi Cafe,

a Kosher/vegetarian Indian restaurant between Oakland Park and Sunrise.

The prices are so low at both places that two people can order a feast

and not spend $50.

What we get: The menus at both places

feature a broad range of South Indian and Indo-Chinese dishes anchored

by an assortment of delicious starches. Big hits at Woodlands include

the dosai, which are massive lentil or rice flour crepes stuffed with

curried potatoes and vegetables. We also like Woodland's take on

baingan bartha, a roasted eggplant dish with plenty of heat, and muttar

paneer, a tangy tomato curry filled with mild cheese cubes and green

peas. Woodland's best dish, though, is the chana batura, a bowl of

sweet, curried chickpeas served with a disco-ball-sized sphere of fried

bread. You peel the walls of the bread off and use it to scoop up the

chickpeas. It's phenomenal.

At Udipi, the menu skews similar.

Everything is great, but the Indo-Chinese dishes and house curries are

showstopping. The restaurant makes probably the best version of gobi

Manchurian I've ever had called "cauliflower 99." It features big

pieces of cauliflower that have been deep-fried in lentil flour. The

pieces are then stir-fried with chilies, garlic, ginger, and spices

until the breading moistens up and becomes extremely flavorful. The

tender pieces have a meat-like texture and big umami flavor thanks to a

rare ingredient in Indian food: soy sauce. Served with sautéed onions

on a sizzling platter, this is one vegetarian dish anyone can get

excited about.

If you go: Folks coming from East Broward

should avoid Oakland Park Boulevard -- its Western strip has a stoplight every ten feet, it feels like. Stick with Commercial or Sunrise.

Both places take credit cards and are open until 10 p.m. most nights

and feature lunchtime buffets.

Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Cuisine
4816 N. University Drive, Sunrise 33351

Udipi Cafe
2100 N. University Drive, Sunrise 33322

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John Linn

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