Yet there it is, Nomad Dosa, in a shiny Airstream recently relocated to that great big mess of trailers on South Congress.
I discovered dosas a few years ago when I lived behind the restaurant Sarovar in North Austin. A friend of mine from Pakistan encouraged me to go beyond my usual order and try the vegetarian dish of potatoes, peas and onions wrapped in a delicious pancake made from lentils and rice. One bite and I was hooked on the savory and aromatic flavors, and I still go back to Sarovar when I get a craving even though it is a longer trip now.
Thursday afternoon, the Austin Post boss man Tim and I went to try Nomad Dosa so I could see if the dosas measured up and Tim could discover a new kind of Indian food to love. As an added bonus, Nomad Dosa is another of those trailers that will make your vegan and unrestricted diet friends happy.
The trailer does a good job of initiating those who don’t know what a dosa is and makes the ordering process simple. The menu describes what a dosa is made of and calls them essentially crepes. When you order, you have a choice of a thin crispy dosa, a soft spongier dosa or a rice bowl, which you can then customize with your choice of filling, topping, and chutney and lentil sides.
My order matched the dosas I have loved in the past, and I got a soft dosa called the Holy Cow (no cow included) filled with potatoes, sauteed onions, roasted cashews and green peas, further topped with carrots and onions. For sides I got cilantro chutney dipping sauce and sambar, a small cup of lentil soup that you can also use for dipping your dosa.
The crepe-like dosa pancake was perfectly browned and slightly plumper than the crispy dosa, which adds just a little bit of texture to the meal. The potato, onion, pea and cashew filling gets stewed together in a mass of Indian spiced aromatic joy that holds just a little bit of a texture like mashed potatoes with peas in it. One of my favorite things about a dosa is there is no waiting for the flavor to fill your mouth. Even before it touches your tongue, the spices and flavor fill your nose, and once you have had a great dosa, the memory will have you salivating. Or at least has me salivating. Needless to say I was satisfied, and I think the dosa stood so well on its own that I hardly touched the dipping sauces, except to eat the little lentil soup by itself.
Tim ordered a different dosa called the India Jones, a more unusual combination of flavors in my admittedly limited dosa experience. His was filled with spinach, big squares of paneer cheese, spiced onions and tomatoes, and coconut cream as well as carrots. The overall taste was more mild and sweet than the dosa I had thanks to the coconut cream and spinach. The individual ingredients in the India Jones slide together well, but are easier to pick out as part of a textured, layer of flavors. It seemed to reflect Indian flavors that you might find in other dishes like palak paneer and any of the sweeter dishes with coconut cream.
For chutney lovers, the cilantro chutney we both ordered as a side was the middle of the road in heat that the trailer offers and if you are looking for some serious spice, I would suggest going up to the third and hottest option on the menu, the tomato chutney. The cilantro chutney, however, had a nice flavor, and with the large portion given as a side, I am tempted to sautee some chicken or beef in it.
I have always thought dosas were one of the most approachable kinds of Indian food, so I’m glad there's a place opening the door to more people in Austin who can now at least know what I’m talking about when I start to rave about them. And if they eat at Nomad Dosa, I think most people will be able to appreciate my love.
Nomad Dosa is closed Monday, and open from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. the rest of the week.
Also available in the cooler are Thums Up, a soda made by Coca Cola in India. It tastes like a lot like other brown sodas, but with an aftertaste that is hard to place.