Andhra messes (short for mess halls) serve freshly made vegetarian food very cheaply. Hotel Vasavi is a dark, basement joint where, for a dollar, I am offered two types of rice: one plain and one flavored with a well-spiced tomato sauce. Rice is the base of the meal. To add variety of flavor, texture, and nutrients, there's majjiga pulusu, mixed vegetables cooked in a buttermilk sauce; palakoora vepadu, a stir-fried spinach; a curry made from jackfruit; and sambar, a spicy lentil-based stew. Since fried foods are essential to the soft, wet meal I'm having, I order kosu vepadu, a crispy cabbage fritter, which looks a bit like Medusa's head, with the strands of shredded cabbage providing a crunchy, unruly halo. All of the foods are startlingly, marvelously hot.