Cauliflower chops | Saravana Bhavan style

I suffer from what I call the “adjacent table dilemma” (pakkathu table dilemma) in restaurants. Let me explain.

Cauliflower chops

I am at Saravana Bhavan. I am torn between ghee roast and mini idli sambar. Others have made up their minds. I am struggling. Idli is classic. But ghee roast is always a restaurant special. Piping hot tiffen sambar tips me towards idlis. But the sheer amount of fragrant ghee beckons me the other way. I am not sure if I want to go the slurpy route or the crispy crunchy route. The waiter has come back for the second time. I have to get it right. Jagan glares at me.

Me: “If I order two tiffens will you share with me?”

Jagan: “No”

Me: “What do you suggest for me – mini idli or ghee roast”

Jagan: “Mini idli”

I turn to the waiter and say “Ghee roast”

Jagan again glares at me.

We wait for the dishes to arrive. The ghee roast arrives crispy, golden and crunchy heady with the aroma of ghee. I feel convinced I’ve made the right decision. When I am about to pop the first piece of dosa into my mouth, Idiyappam and Cauliflower chops arrives at the adjacent table. It looks like the best combination of steamed goodness and fragrant masala. I want that. I am back to scene one. It was Idiyappam and Cauliflower chops that I’d wanted all along.

It looks like I should also discuss with the adjacent table folks before I order.

Cauliflower chops

I came back home with a longing for the adjacent table’s Idiyappam and cauliflower chops that wouldn’t go away. The next week I decided to rectify things. I made Idiyappam and cauliflower chops at home. I don’t trust myself to order right at restaurants.

Cauliflower chops

I am a fan of the cauliflower chops at Saravana bhavan. It is this incredibly fragrant, rich luscious gravy that is cooked to perfection. This cauliflower chops is in between a kurma and a regular onion-tomato gravy. It’s a hybrid. This cauliflower chops is also great with Chappathis. I attempted the cauliflower chops and I am happy to say I got almost 90% there. I am sure it won’t disappoint you. Do try and let me know how you like it! Enjoy!

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Cauliflower chops

Cauliflower chops

Jayanthi Padmanabhan
Rich, luscious cauliflower gravy that goes great with Idiyappam or chappathis!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 4


  • Cauliflower chopped into small florets – 3 cups
  • Onion – 3 large
  • Tomatoes – 3 large
  • Ginger – 1 inch piece peeled
  • Garlic – 5-7 cloves peeled
  • Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – ½ tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Grated Coconut - ¼ cup
  • Fennel seeds Sombu/Saunf – 1 tsp
  • Coriander leaves – a handful
  • Kal paasi Sea weed – a pinch
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Cloves – 5
  • Cinnamon stick – 2 - 1 inch pieces
  • Oil – 2 tbsp


  • 1. Grind ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes to a puree. Set aside
  • 2. Heat a kadai and add oil. When the oil turns hot add the whole spices – bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and kal paasi.
  • 3. When the spices turn fragrant, pour in the puree. Add the spice powders – red chilli, cumin, coriander and salt. Mix well. Cover the kadai with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  • 4. Cook until oil separates – about 12-15 minutes. Stir the mixture from time to time.
  • 5. Add the chopped cauliflower florets into the kadai and mix well. Add about a cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until cauliflower is cooked through.
  • 6. Grind cocnut and fennel seeds to a smooth paste. Add this paste to the simmering mixture. Stir well and cook for another 5 minutes. Add chopped coriander leaves and mix into the gravy. Switch off. Serve hot with Idiyappam or chappathi. Enjoy!
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