The making of dosa. A journey in itself.
There must be a lakh of dosa variations. At its simplest and most traditional, it is a naturally fermented rice-based batter that is cooked on a flat pan and eaten like a flatbread with wet spicy dishes and spicy chutneys.
Today, not all dosa (thosai) are fermented. But I love the process of making fermented ones. One evening you take some rice and lentils and soak them overnight. The next morning after rinsing, you grind them to a paste, adding water to make a batter. You leave this batter for 12 or 18 or 24 hours until it is fermenting nicely.
Then you make the dosa in a very special way. Add a ladleful of batter to a heated pan. Using that flat-bottomed ladle, start in the middle, and using a circular motion, ease the batter out to form a thin, flatbread. This process is the most wonderful way to cook.
Cook until slightly browned and flip (or not, according to the recipe) and repeat on the reverse side. You now have 1 dosa, at least 24 hours in the making. Serve with curries of your choice (in the West) or the traditional dosa accompaniments of your region (in India and throughout SE Asia).
notes on the recipe
First let me say that I am not an expert dosa cook. I love dosa and luckily I have an Indian restaurant close-by that does the best dosa in Adelaide. But dosa making is an art.
This dosa is a simple one but ultimately delicious. If you don’t have access to fresh coconuts, use good, frozen, shredded coconut meat available in any Indian grocery. Also check your supermarket if it stocks a range of foods for Asian, Indian and/or Island (Fiji, Philippines etc) cuisines.
While the original recipe does not call for fermentation — you can cook these immediately after grinding — I find that allowing the batter to sit for 8 hours or so will improve the flavours.
If you are making dosa for the first time, be prepared to throw several attempts away. It happens, even to experienced dosa makers. Be careful of the pan that you use. Traditionally it is a heavy, flat-ish tawa or round pan without edges, capable of sitting directly over a fire. These days, non-stick pans are recommended. You will find both at your Indian grocer.
I began by using a non-stick pan, and it certainly is easy to make dosa this way. But I have shifted to the tawa, now that it is properly seasoned. Somehow the taste is different when the dosa is cooked on a tawa. I would be interested in any comments and experiences people have had with different pans.
There are many YouTube videos on how to cook dosa. Enjoy!
One chutney that would go beautifully with this is a fresh, Pineapple Khatta Chutney. Or take some raw mangoes and dice. Mix with fresh black pepper, green chillies, onion, lime juice, ginger, salt and a touch of excellent white vinegar. Yum, enjoy.
Coconut Dosa / Thosai
Source : inspired by Dosa Dhamaka by Sudha Chandrakant
Prep time: 10 mins plus time for soaking and fermentation
Cooking time: a few mins per dosa
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
1 cup raw rice
1 cup grated coconut (use frozen if fresh is not available)
salt to taste
Soak the rice in plenty of water overnight or 8 – 12 hours. Strain and rinse the rice.
Grind the rice along with the coconut and sufficient water to make a medium density batter. Grind in an Indian grinder if you have one, or in a blender otherwise. If using a blender, allow to blend for some time, to get the smoothest batter that you can.
Allow the batter to sit for about 10 minutes. You can cook the dosa at this point. Alternatively, I like to leave the batter to sit during the day and make the dosa in the evening. It will have some fermentation at this point, making the dosa lighter and more flavoursome. (Fermentation adds that very slight sour tang, in a similar way that sour dough bread has a tang from its fermenting dough.)
You need to add salt. If you are cooking the dosa immediately, add it while or after you are grinding the batter. If you are letting the batter sit, add it about 30 – 60 minutes before using. Salt inhibits fermentation, so it is best to add it afterwards.
Heat a tawa or flat pan. Take a flat-bottomed ladle and add a ladle of batter to the center of the pan. With the bottom of the ladle, and starting in the centre, use a circular motion to spread the batter, aiming for a medium-thin result. Typically, it is not a uniform thinness, but rather the dosa develops some “roads” or markings following the tracks of the ladle. Here, practice makes perfect.
Drizzle a few drops of melted ghee over the dosa and around the edges. When it is cooked and slightly browned, flip it over for a few moments to cook the other side.
Remove from the pan and fold gently in halves. Serve with wet curries, or some sambar and chutney.
Leftover batter can be kept either at room temperature for a day or so (it will continue fermenting and the sour tang will develop more) or in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook the dosa, to allow it to return to room temperature.
You can double the recipe if you want enough batter for a few days.