Of Chinese idlis and chutney and an omelette which never saw a hen!

khandvi khandvi

For anyone who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, the culinary scene was very exciting because it was the time that the world of world cuisines opened up to us even in India. Pizzas happened – maybe this had something to do with Sonia Gandhi – the controversial B-f-rs deal being sweetened by pizza chains??!

Chinese was not world cuisine, not by a long shot – Chinese was Indian, for heaven’s sake! Punjab was probably the best thing to happen to China’s food!

I remember a Chinese origin friend from college (his family had left China so long ago that he’d have felt like a foreigner there, I’m sure!). So, one day, we – some dozen of us, decide to bunk college and go for a “picnic” (feeling a bit like a dinosaur when I use this word – does anyone ever go for a ‘picnic‘ now??!) Much food from many homes are packed (budgets are tight, restaurants in picnic spots are unknown and even if they did exist, am pretty sure we couldn’t have afforded them, ergo home food!) and we set off to one of those many places we used to go to – Jubilee Hills lake (now known as Madhapur lake, i think) or some poultry farm somewhere on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Why these poultry farms were such popular picnic spots is still a matter of mystery to me – considering how smelly they tended to be!

Lunchtime arrives – earlier than normal – well, we have taken two buses to get to the spot so… and everyone watches like a hawk as each dabba is opened. All dabbas are opened with great expectations and all are greeted with enthusiasm – as I mentioned earlier, we are a very polite bunch in Hyderabad! Then this Chinese-origin pal opens his, let’s call him KP (no, not short for Kung Pao chicken!!) we’re all waiting with serious expectations – we love Chinese food – and the dabba has… idlis! With a tamatar ki chutney! Expectation turns to disbelief, then someone giggles and then the whole bunch erupts as KP tries to pass it off as Chinese chutney!

The first time I encountered a – vegetarian omelette – I had a similar reaction – it was an eggless omelette! A Gujju friend introduced me to this delight in school – only a Gujarati can turn old sayings like “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” on its head. Patel bhai says you can! And he does!

It looks like an omelette, smells a bit like one but… and here’s where the resemblance stops – doesn’t taste anything like one! But, and here’s the thing – stop thinking of it as an omelette and that’s when you’ll begin to appreciate the beauty of this dish…


  • Besan or gram flour – 1/2 cup
  • Buttermilk – 1 cup
  • Salt
  • Turmeric – 1 pinch
  • Chili powder – 1 pinch
  • Oil – 1 tbsp

Mix everything except the oil together.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the batter and cook, stirring continuously so the batter stays smooth, for about 7-8 minutes. The gram flour will stop smelling raw.

Pour out one ladleful on a greased thali and spread thin – a little like a dosa. Repeat till the batter is over. Let it cool. Cut into 2-inch strips and roll carefully into little packets. Lay out on a plate. Sprinkle coconut and chopped coriander over.


  • Oil – 2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Sesame seeds – 1.5 tsp
  • Grated fresh coconut – 2 tbsp
  • Green chilies – 2 – minced
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Chopped coriander – 2 tbsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 generous pinch

Heat oil, add all the ingredients with the sesame seeds being last and pour over the prepared khandvi.

This is a great summer dish because it can be made ahead and is best served at room temperature or lower.

You definitely can have your “omelette” and stay veggie too!