Woodlands has been serving vegetarian South Indian food since 1981 in Tsim Sha Tsui. The main fare at this unpretentious institution is still South Indian today– dosas (a crêpe-like staple, with or without fillings), idlis (steamed fluffy rice cakes), and sambar (lentil-based spicy soup)—but the photocopied, one-time-use-only paper menu that duplicates as a table mat has Punjabi food and Bombay street food on offer as well.
Start with a fresh pineapple juice. Alarmingly yellow, but delicious. Next, move on to a masala poppadum (crispy flatbread), which arrives covered with tomatoes and spices, and makes for a good appetizer to share. If you aren’t sure what you want next, try a South Indian ‘thali’ or platter with several selections in little bowls, or choose a dosa, which is what most people come here for. Choices include masala dosa, Jain dosa, paper dosa, and Mysore dosa amongst others. The masala dosa is filled with spiced potatoes and onions. The Jain dosa is stuffed with plantains instead of potatoes in keeping with Jain customs, which proves to be a delicious substitute. The Mysore dosa is much like the masala dosa but folded into a triangle instead of a loose roll. Amidst this smorgasbord of choices, the paper dosa steals the show with its gigantic size. Use your hands and break off bits to dip into the sambar or the accompanying coconut chutney.
If you want something heartier, there are different types of rice available: tomato, lemon, coconut, and lemon, to name a few.
To drink: masala or ginger tea, lassi, milkshakes, juices, non-alcoholic beer, or strong Madras filter coffee – a roadside staple which arrives in a steel cup. Regulars at snack stalls in the south of India pour it out of the cup and into a bowl and vice versa a few times to cool it down, but don’t try this trick unless you’re willing to risk getting scalded!
Everything is very reasonably priced at $45-$55 per dish, so go ahead, try a few things on the menu. Service is prompt, and the atmosphere, extremely casual and in keeping with the location on the 2nd floor of the Wing On Plaza.
Woodlands International Restaurant UG 16-17, Wing On Plaza, 62 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
By Sai Pradhan