What is a dosa ? For starters, it is pronouced “Though-sah”. It is a South Indian crepe or savoury pancake and is the pride and joy of that part of the country. There is nothing like a fresh brown, crispy dosa served with a little blob of butter melting on top of it. The city where I come from (Bangalore) and the state it belongs to (Karnataka) take the humble dosa very very seriously. In fact, a good dosa joint is worth sitting in traffic for along time. Luckily for us, when we visited Bangalore, one of the best dosa places in town was across the road from where we stayed. At the cost of about 60pence a dosa, we had they to our heart’s content!
The traditional dosa is made mainly of lentils ( urid dal) and par-boiled (partially boiled and dried) rice with little embellishments such as fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds. One starts by soaking the lentils and rice overnight to soften them. Then, each ingredient is ground to a slightly gritty (grit size about 1mm) paste in a strong kitchen blender or a dosa grinder. The batter for dosa is then made by mixing the two pastes, adding a bit of salt and allowing the batter to ferment for 8-10 hrs but usually overnight. The natural yeast in the air are what makes dosa batter ferment. If you are in a cold country, then your best choice is to place the dosa batter inside your boiler cupboard to ferment.
The resulting batter is airy, slightly tangy smelling and an absolute treat once cooked. Mum says that the ratio of rice to lentils for dosa batter is 3:1 and perhaps a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds (to soak with the lentils). Cook dosas like you would cook any pancake with vegetable oil to easy the edges of the pan. While a lot of taste is in the dosa itself, the things that go with dosa add a whole new dimension to this traditional crepe. The most popular form of filling for a dosa is one made with boiled potatoes. In addition, dosas are served with chutneys (dips) made of coconuts, chillies, onions, garlic and roasted lentils.
Today’s blog is going to be about the friends of a dosa. The dosa I made was a cheat as I bought an instant-mix by a company called MTR. If you don’t have easy access to an Indian store to buy MTR dosa mix, you can make dosas out of semolina and standard flour. Use one cup of semolina and half a cup of standard flour, mix in one cup of yoghurt, salt and enough water to make a pancake-like batter. To jazz it up a bit, you can add finely chopped onions, green chillies and cumin seeds to the batter too.
The cheat’s dosa:
I’m quoting the recipe from the back of the MTR packet. Mix one cup of the dosa mix with one cup of water and half a cup of yoghurt. Rest for 5 mins and then cook on a pancake pan (Pictures 1-6 below). Easy!
Serve dosa with its chutney and potato palya friends (see recipes below).
1. If you find the batter too runny like I did, don’t panic, just add a bit of standard flour and that will save the day.
2. Check the ingredients of the instant mix carefully if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies as I might have missed the fine print.
3. I used two cups of instant mix and that made enough for lunch, dinner and lunch box the next day with a little additional flour!
4. To make a “Masala dosa”, spread the onion and chilli chutney on one side of a cooked dosa (Picture 7 below), place potato palya in one half of the dosa (Picture 8 below) and fold the other half over (Picture 9).
5. My parner’s mother sent me an electric crepe maker and dosas turn out really well on the crepe maker!
The potato palya (Pronounced : Pal as in principal + yah and means cooked vegetable)
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 -2 large onions (depending on how much you like onions), thinly sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 green chillies, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
a handful of fresh coriander
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida
1. Boil the potatoes in salty water until they are soft but still hold their shape (Pictures 1-3)
2. In a large pot, heat the oil for tempering and to it add all the tempering spices, ginger and chillies (Pictures 5 & 6).
3. Once the mustard seeds start popping, add the onions and cook them until they are soft and light brown (Pictures 7 & 8).
4. Finally, add the potatoes and mix well so that the yellow colour spreads evenly through the potatoes as do the cooked onions. If the potatoes go a bit mushy at this stage, don’t worry, it makes the palya tastier 😉
5. Finally, turn the potatoes off the heat squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into it and top with fresh coriander (Picture 9 below and main picture above).
6. Serve with dosas, rotis, any other flat bread or even rice!
The lentil, onion and chilli chutney
The recipe for this chutney and the next one are heavily based on the ones described on the following blog
Hope my pictures help you follow the steps….
1. I used half a cup of lentils, coconut and onion and only 2 red chillies. This made quite a thick chutney which could later be diluted with water.
The coconut and coriander chutney
This is the ideal companion for dosas and is the most popular and common “chutney” found in South India. This is a raw chutney so all you need to do with the ingredients is grind them into a fine paste. No cooking involved!
You can serve this chutney with dosas, idlis and if you are a bit desparate, you can mix it into rice and eat it that way too 🙂
1. I used mild green chillies and this is recommended if you can’t handle spicy chutneys.
2. If you are using tamarind, try and get your hands on tamarind puree from Asian supermarkets. The stuff you get in regular supermarkets is dark brown (top left corner in the picture below) and not the greatest. I had run out of my usual tamarind and hence I turned to this poor substitute!