This comes from our 2017 Cheap Eats list, our guide to inexpensive ethnic dining in the region.
The world of Indian breads and chaats (crispy snacks) is much larger than the ubiquitous naan and samosa. The best place to explore is Balaji Cafe (298 Sunset Park Dr., Herndon; 703-437-1267). Chef/owner Naresh Advani makes more than ten doughs and batters that ferment overnight in the kitchen’s warmest nook, whose temperature mirrors balmy Southern India. Some of our favorites:
Yogurt is the fermenting agent in this balloon-like bread, which causes it to puff up in the fryer and deliver a texture that’s crunchy on the outside, airy inside.
Dosas—rice-flour crepes stuffed with potatoes and vegetables—are common these days. Try Advani’s rava dosa, a semolina version with a crackling texture.
These pillowy pancakes are fashioned from cream of rice that’s soaked overnight, fermented, and steamed.
A whole-wheat flatbread that looks similar to naan but is thinner and cooked on a griddle, not in an oven. It can be plain or stuffed with fillings such as cauliflower or lentils.
This Mumbai snack features veggie curry served with dinner-roll-like buns, split and griddled with butter.
The batter for this pancake is similar to a dosa’s, but the result is thicker—like an American hoe cake studded with onion, ginger, and green chilies.
Ground black lentils, green chili, ginger, and mustard leaves are the base for this doughnut-shaped fritter.