They're not potatoes, they're idlis, South Indian steamed cakes made from a rice and lentil batter (above). Sliced and deep-fried, they turn into an incredible snack that kids go crazy for, especially because they come sprinkled with tomatoes, onions and cilantro, almost like salsa.
But they don't lose their Indian identity entirely. The traditional idli accompaniments come with them too. These are sambar, which is a thin lentil and vegetable soup for dipping or pouring over, and fresh coconut chutney, made extra creamy with ground cashews.
The only place you can get the fries is Udupi Palace, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant in Artesia's Little India. And you have to know the password, because they're not on the menu. Just say "fried idlis," and you'll be rewarded with a sensational snack.
The name is Spicy Chilly Cheese Dosa, and it's in a long list of dosas on the menu (above). These large crisp crepes are as typical of South India as tacos and quesadillas are of Mexico. Maybe that's where the idea came from.
After this spicy food, you'll want something cooling, like rose lassi (above). Flavored with rose syrup, it's topped with ice cream sprinkled with pistachios. Sweet basil seeds (sabja) are mixed in, and the one in the photo includes translucent falooda noodles too.
Also, be sure to ask for a milky Mysore coffee. One taste and you'll know why South India is as famous for its rich, deeply-flavored coffee as for its unique cuisine.
Udupi Palace, 18635 Pioneer Blvd., Artesia, CA 90701. Tel: (562) 860-1950.