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Dec 1, 2009 03:15 PM

South Indian food truck in San Diego

Greetings everyone
This is to report on a really interesting food find near Miramar - the Copper Chimney South Indian food truck!
In India, it is very common to get snack-based south Indian food (dosas, idlis, vadas) from food carts or street vendors, but this hasn't really caught on in the U.S. - so eating a dosa or idli streetside remains a rare experience (I know of just one other such truck - and its in New York - i'm sure theres others in different cities that would be great to learn about)

In any case, San Diego now has it's own food truck. It is usually parked at the intersection of Black Mountain Road and Kearny Villa road, opposite the Am-Pm gas station. The owner, Allen mentioned that they may change their location, but they can be reached at 619 997 6946 to find out where they are parked. They are there fridays 5-7, sat/sun from 12.30-5pm and mondays 5-7.30pm. Probably better to call and check before driving out there.

As for the food, the menu is short - idli (rice cakes), medu vada (the donut shaped deep fried savory dough), dosa (masala and plain), mirchi bajji (fritters of anaheim chillies) and hyderabadi chicken biryani. We tried the bajji, vada and dosas. They were out of idlis when we ate there, and as a vegetarian, I couldn't try the biryani (the owner said if I notified him, he could prepare a veggie version). The vadas and bajji were prepared fresh to order. Both were spiced excellently, and served with green coconut chutney (authentic and excellent!). the bajji also came with a terrific tomato chutney. The vada was served with a red chutney and very good sambar - while sambar does not traditionally have baby carrots or bell peppers, it was piping hot, well spiced and with enough flavor, so that I wasn't bothered by the wrong choice of veggies (at least there were no green peas or corn). Besides, eating that food while standing streetside brought such nostalgia that I am not inclined to be critical (others may disagree)

The dosa was served with the same 2 chutneys as the vada and sambar. It was crisp, thin and the potato masala was spiced and cooked just right (mashed, not diced and with no red pepper powder). The owner did mention that they change the menu often - they sometimes add Hyderabadi dishes as well - this is A REAL treat, since good Hyderabadi cuisine is not found in San Diego outside Hyderabadi homes.

Additional pluses - our meal of the above items plus 2 bottles of water cost just $9! The owner also assured me that they have all the required health dept certifications etc. etc. - moreover, they prepare the vegetarian and non vegetarian food separately (often a key issue for strict vegetarians). They do catering too.

I forgot to ask how long they have been in business - it's likely they already have a following, but I did not find any mention on this Board, and a place like this certainly merits a mention. The Indian food scene, especially the south Indian scene in SD is nothing special, and this place adds a welcome dimension. I am keen to know if other hounds have been here and if their experiences were positive, or different.

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  1. sounds like a promising find! Too bad they're not open later on Saturdays.

    1. Wow!!!! This is great. Thanks so much for reporting on this truck, especially from a person who has such a clear knowledge and appreciation of the cuisine.

      I was recently rereading some surati farsan posts and I was really impressed with your information you shared. I had been gearing up for a trip up to Artesia to check the Indian cuisine scene there - but that will have to wait in light of this - I can't wait to check this out.

      What kind of Hyderabadi dishes should we inquire after ipsit?

      1 Reply
      1. re: kare_raisu

        Thanks for the compliment kare_raisu!
        Here's my not-so-brief thoughts on hyderabadi food
        Hyderabadi cuisine is complex - even though Hyderabad is in the south, it has a rich Islamic heritage, hence the cuisine combines north Indian cooking techniques with more south Indian spicing (Wikipedia has a nice quick introduction to hyderabadi cuisine, including a long list of representative dishes). Another distinction is that though Hyderabad in the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderbadi cuisine is not the same as Andhra cuisine. The restaurant 'Annapurna' located on Miramar (in the strip mall with Target, next to Vinh Hung) has a selection of Andhra dishes in addition to staple South Indian fare.
        Biryani is a specialty - as of now, they only seem to have a chicken biryani, but Allen (the owner) mentioned that if demand grows, he is able to expand/change the menu at will. It is definitely worth checking if they make 'dum' biryani (slow cooked with veggies and lamb), Haleem (spicy porridge, with or without meat), Mirch Salaan - a curry made with whole peppers, and Khatti dal, which is a sour dal , flavored with tamarind. I plan to go back soon, and get a list of potential Hyderabadi dishes he might add. As I understood, theyre starting out slow, but will expand once demand grows, so it is in our best interest to visit them often!
        I'm looking forward to hearing about your 9and otehr hounds') experience at the truck

      2. "Wow!!!! This is great."

        Is right.

        I made it out here today for the first time today. I go to Surati so often - I kind of felt like I was doing something wrong not getting anything there - but man, is this place so worth the drive in such weather!

        Copper Chimney is the chow trifecta of unique, delicious and special for me. I can't thank ipsit more for leading me here.

        The two cooks Allen and Tirupathi (I think) are very friendly and eager to talk about their food from my questioning.

        I had the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani, and the Mirchi Bhaji. From the steady stream of south Asian customers I could see very homestyle looking samosas, dosai and idlis being consumed. All looked fantastic and were devoured about the same speed as I.

        Ive never had Hyderabad style food but after trying it here -- all I can tell you is I want more.

        The rice was perfectly cooked style al dente, fragrant and redolent of spicing. The chicken - moist dark meat drumsticks. This was paired with a raita with onion and what Allen called a spicy yellow onion gravy but would not reveal more to me! The three counterpoints of food were wonderful together.

        The mirchi baji - an Indian subcontinent Chile relleno if you will and put simply is one of the best things I've ever ate in San Diego. Crisp near greaseless besan flour pillow encapsulating a tender roasted chile - stuffed with some sort of garnishing. Off the hook,
        The peanut-dried red chile relish - sharp and rich - the cooling coconut coriander chutney...jeez

        Get out here and check it out - this is the most exciting chow find for me in a looong time. Thanks Ipsit a milllion.

        6 Replies
            1. re: kare_raisu

              "Get out here and check it out - this is the most exciting chow find for me in a looong time. Thanks Ipsit a milllion."

              See? And people keep bashing Mira Mesa but the truth is there is some good food to be found if one looks for it.

              1. re: oerdin

                A lot of people do not consider the Black Mountain / Kearney Mesa intersection to be in "Mira Mesa" (it's south of Carrol Canyon), thus the reason for the Mira Mesa bashing. Though there are a few gems in Mira Mesa proper, once you exclude Little India you are on pretty thin ice.

                It's like the "Cafe Chloe and Cowboy Star are not in the Gaslamp" nitpicking. :)

                1. re: RB Hound


                  The city government, and everyone I know, believes Mira Mesa is everything from the I805 east to the I15, north to Los Penasquitos Canyon south the Miramar Rd. I grew up in Mira Mesa & Scripps Ranch and everyone always considered those to be the boundaries including the city government. To each their own though I guess.

                  1. re: oerdin

                    I stand corrected. Still, I'm willing to bet that most the people that bash Mira Mesa dining options are leaving out the gems in the Little India area.

            2. Thank you! I have marked this for my next trip to San Diego....hubby might be convinced to make a trip just to try it out!

              1. Thanks for the heads up, ipsit! I'll be patronizing this truck shortly, probably with a good friend of mine originally from the Hyderabad area. He's pretty excited and so am I!

                11 Replies
                1. re: RTee

                  OK finally went to the truck last night and was thoroughly impressed. I got the masala dosa (by chef recommendation), mirchi bajji (sp?), and chicken biryani. There were two guys working the truck last night, and the one I talked to mostly was a super friendly guy by the name of Allen.

                  The mirchi bajji were fried fairly well, if a bit greasy, with two sauces/chutneys. The red one was supposedly "dynamite," according to my cook, but apparently that's just because I'm not Indian. Regardless, it wasn't that spicy despite the fact that I can't eat super spicy (I'm not bad, just not your average Indian) foods. The white chutney was yogurt with coconut, I want to say. Overall, the mirchi bajji were damn good for $2. The flavor of the chiles really stood out here, which I thought was pretty impressive.

                  The $3 dosas were well cooked, with an AMAZING sauce of reddish color. I ate it so fast I didn't bother to make mental notes of the flavor, other than Holy Crap, This Is Good! There was the yogurt/coconut chutney on the side again, too, and the classic lentil soup thing. Sorry, I don't know the names of these sauces. The dosas' filling were good too, if fairly standard for what you'd expect out of a masala dosa.

                  The $5 biryani was quite unlike the other ones I've had before. The flavor of cardamom seed was REALLY strong, and there was quite a bit of star anise in there too. So if you like a fragrant biryani, this one's for you. My Hyderabadi roommate loved it. The chicken was really well seasoned, and I couldn't get enough of it.

                  Overall impression: I will be back as soon as possible. You should go too. =)

                  1. re: RTee

                    I made my second visit last night also - I guess I just missed you RTee - Allen did say that he had some folks there previously who mentioned learning about his truck on CH. Its really great that your Hyderabadi friend liked the food, since he probably has a much broader reference range for this cuisine.

                    - Got to try the idlis. Soft, fluffly and the perfect amount of sourness from the fermentation in the batter. They serve those with the coconut chutney and sambar, as well as the 'dynamite' chutney - red chillies and a distinctive peanut flavor. Its not blowout hot, but packs a nice kick. Most tellingly though, I took an order to idlis as carry-out, and 2 hours later, they were still soft, moist and fluffy. To me that is a sign that they know what they are doing, since idlis dont always travel well - they often get gummy, or dry out.

                    - I asked for a side of the gravy that goes with the biryani. It is called 'salaan', and is an onion based gravy, with strong spicing. I detected star anise in there, as well as clove and cinammon. Tried the salaan gravy with mirchi bajji - divine!. There is a classic Hyderabadi curry called mirchi salaan, which is effectvely the chillies (non batter fried) cooked in the salaan gravy. I've tasted some amazing mirchi salaans in India before, cooked by accomplished Hyderabadi chefs. While Allen's version is not as thick, the flavors are spot-on. I recommend a side of salaan with the bajji next time, in addition to the chutneys.

                    - I also learned some more about the operation. They have a bigger menu on weekends, especially saturdays, when they will carry a vegetarian dum biryani (this coming saturday anyway). I was also told that they sometimes make Indian Chinese food on weekends. Im not sure what theirs will be like, but at this point, the only place serving Indian-Chinese (to my knowledge) is India Princess next to Surati Farsan, and the Indian Chinese there is awful! If the truck does it well, it could become the go-to spot for TWO distinct Indian cuisines! In general, Allen said business has been steadily growing, and in time, we may see more Hyderabadi specialties appear on the menu.

                    I'm getting excited just thinking about trying that dum biryani this saturday...

                    1. re: ipsit

                      Anyone know if they'll be open on Jan 2nd?

                      1. re: ipsit

                        Haha that's hilarious! Allen asked me how I found out about the truck and I told him online, and he immediately said, "Chowhound?" in his thick accent. Then he told me to go post. =P

                        I saw those idlis and figured I'd have to try them eventually. I saw lots of other people get them too. I believe they have plain idlis and also deep-fried versions.

                        Salaan sounds like a winner. I'll remember to ask for that next time, thanks!

                        Now I want to go back and see what other stuff they have on the weekends. Also, I've never had Indian-Chinese food. I'm a little wary of it, to be honest, just because it seems like generally the flavor profiles wouldn't match up well. I'll sure find out, though! It's a shame I'm not around this weekend to find out, but maybe I'll see ya next time. =)

                        1. re: RTee

                          They're open Jan 2nd. They were even open christmas. I drove by the place and saw the truck there - it was crowded even!

                          As for the Indian-Chinese, it is its own subclass of cuisine, with little in common with either Indian or Chinese. Wikipedia has a nice primer on it

                          I tried the Vegetable Manchurian - very good - it is basically vegetable fritters, tossed in soy, onion and loads of garlic. This does not taste like the Indian Chinese in India, but is easily the best Ive tasted in San Diego. Since Indian Chinese food is also best eaten off food carts in India, thats a double strike for Allen. The menu is also growing - Ii saw 5 or 6 non-vegetarian dishes yesterday including a fish curry, chicken curry and a curious dish called chicken 65 - im not sure what that is ( Allen said only that it was a chicken dish created in 1965!


                          check it out!

                          1. re: ipsit

                            here's Wikipedia's info on Chicken 65:


                            deep fried chicken w/ ginger, cayenne pepper, mustard powder and vinegar sounds pretty darn tasty!

                            1. re: daantaat

                              I asked one of the students who frequents the truck, and he said that it comes from an urban legend about a cook using 65 spices in the recipe. It's a funny name in any case...

                              1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                Chicken 65 is one of my favorite dishes when I visit Hyderabad, and am looking forward to tasting the version served by truck.

                                1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                  Wikipedia had several hypothesis on how the name came to be, which of them are accurate, I have no idea.

                                  1. re: SaltyRaisins

                                    A friend of mine said that back in Hyderabad the urban legend he heard had something to do with cutting the chicken into 65 little pieces. The myth continues to grow....

                            2. re: ipsit

                              I am SO there tomorrow for the vegan dum biryani..