Chow Bella

Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian Kitchen in Chandler

It's tough to find a restaurant that's 100% vegetarian, but when in doubt, look for a place that serves authentic Indian food. Why? India has the highest population of vegetarians worldwide. 

In 2006, Indian newspaper The Hindu conducted a survey, and the results showed that 40% of the country's population is vegetarian. While not all Indian food is spicy, South Indian food is the spiciest of all. For a spicy vegetarian fix, look no further than Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian Kitchen in Chandler. All of the diners when we visited were Indian, so you know it has to be good.

Find out what we ordered after the jump...

Dosa are a popular South Indian street food. The huge, thin, crepe-like shell is made from rice flour, and it's stuffed with a wide variety of options. Woodlands offers 14 types of dosa, and while it took a while to pick one, we settled on the Woodlands Spring Dosa, stuffed with vegetables and hot chutney. The mix of potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, and cilantro was light yet filling, and our server suggested enjoying it with coconut chutney, which added a sweet note to the rich flavor profile.

If you're really in the mood for heat and need to clear out your sinuses, start off with a bowl of Rasam - a tamarind, lentil, and tomato soup that primarily gets its spice from chili peppers. This soup is typically one of the spiciest foods that can be consumed, but the version served at Woodlands only ranks a spice level of 7 out of 10.

An appetizer that everyone will enjoy is the ever-popular samosa. And Woodlands takes their samosas seriously. The pastry shell is crispy and flaky but still tender, and unlike some samosas, it didn't break off in a difficult-to-eat way where you end up cramming more than you intended into your mouth. These were easy to bite into, were just the right size (about three bites), and were stuffed with potato, onion, peas, and spices. Don't forget to visit the Woodlands chutney bar to pick out the perfect dipping sauce. We went with tamarind for these appetizers.

No Indian restaurant would be complete without curry, and Woodlands offers 9 different types, and no, the Anglicized tikka masala isn't one of them. For something a little different than the usual dhal or vegetarian curries, we tried the Gobi Manchurian, described on the menu as "cauliflower marinated with flour & sautéed with garlic, ginger, chili, and soy sauce." But it is so much more than that. Gobi simply means cauliflower, but these veggies were served as little fritters in a savory-sweet sauce. As the name "Manchurian" implies, this curry is an Indian riff on Chinese food. The sauce is a lot like the sweet red glazes found in Chinese restaurants, but this curry definitely had an Indian twist with the cauliflower, cilantro, and basmati rice. This was the least spicy item that we ordered, which means it's about a 3 out of 10.

Be careful to know that almost everything in Woodlands will have a bit of heat, but the best part about South Indian cuisine is that they skillfully add the heat without ever sacrificing flavor. To balance out the heat, try a Mango Lassi. Milkshake fans will enjoy this yogurt-based drink. It may take a few sips to get used to the tangy flavor, but there's nothing better to cut the heat from the delicious onslaught of spicy food.

Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian Kitchen is located at 4980 W. Ray Rd, Suite 10 in Chandler. They are open for lunch on weekdays from 11-3. For dinner, they're open Monday to Thursday from 5-9:30 and on Friday from 5-10. Visit Saturday from 11-10 and Sunday from 11-9:30. They also cater and can be contacted at 480-820-2249.

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Dominique Chatterjee