On making dosa

Dosa is another heavenly food item from India – the land of mystery and more recently, outsourcing! The humble dosa originated in Kerala (South India).

Dosas are very thin and crisp and is usually the size of a plate. There are bigger chattis which can produce dosas that hang from either side of the plate and even a small table. The are rolled up like a big hollow tube and can be stuffed with partly mashed potatoes and the like. A plain dosa can be eaten with dry or wet chutney (usually made with coconut) or other curries. To compare dosa to pancakes is sacrilege!

Chitra recently went to India to bid final farewell to her mother of 77 years. On her way back she carted a 10 pound tabletop grinder that makes the batter for dosas. Chitra’s reasoning, “If you can buy it for less, why not?” She can turn around any argument, even though we started the discussion with the odds against her!

Preparations for the dosa begins the day before. In separate containers, fully soak 4 cups of idli rice and ½ cups of urad dal. After 12 hours, the rice is then ground to a very fine paste, followed by the urad dal with 1 tbsp. of methi. The ground material is mixed and kept in the oven (with just the light on; not heated) overnight. The dough will rist to twice the quantity.

There are two ways to make dosa – on a seasoned hot plate or one with a teflon coating. For the health conscious, the teflon coated hot plate is recommended as it does not use oil at all. But this whole story is about dosas made on the seasoned hot plate.

The hot plate (seasoned) comes in a slightly curved and flat version. This does not affect the texture of the dosa. When the hot plate is uniformly heated (keep the knob on the stove a shade above the halfway mark), drop a touch of oil and spread it around with a soft cloth or tissue. With a ladle that measures about 100 ml, take the batter (add water to have the consistency of a thick liquid) and pour it in the middle. Then using the underside of ladle and at a steady height spread the batter around very thinly in a concentric circle (clockwise or anti’) till the end of the plate. Pour a teaspoon of oil over the batter. Turn it around for just a moment, fold it and take it out; the outer portion will be a glistening golden brown!

You can stuff dosas with potatoes or even meat. Put the stuffing before taking it out finally and roll the edges. Dosas are eaten with a wide variety of accompaniments from coconut chutney, podi and ghee, curries like sambar, puzhukku, and meat if you prefer that.

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