A Dosa a Day

The wall of the Vasanta Bhavan restaurant in the Phoenix Mall caught my attention soon after our arrival in Chennai:

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Recently I began to take this advice to heart. We can get these crisp, satisfying crepe-like creations fresh from the griddle at the Radisson Blu Hotel breakfast buffet. As previously mentioned in Food, Glorious Food, dosas are generally eaten with a side of sambhar and three chutneys: coconut, cilantro, and tomato.

Sauce and chutneys for idli and dosa.

Sambhar (left) and chutneys

Besides their taste appeal, I find dosas to be quite digestible, being made of soaked rice–no flour, at least in a simple dosa. (See Poori and Vasanta Bhavan Hospitality for a description of rava dosas) The whole rice is mixed with whole soaked lentils, which gives them at least a modicum of protein content.

You can also buy a dosa mix from the grocery store. The traditional method is a bit more labor intensive, but the availability of modern mixers eliminates the need for laborious hand grinding required in the past.

The steps, as explained to me by Vasanta Bhavan chef Mohanras and fleshed out by Mrs. S. Malika Badrinath in 100 Tiffin Varieties, are, in brief, as follows:

  • Soak separately one cup of rice and one cup of urad dal for one to three hours.
  • Drain, combine, and blend the rice and dal in a blender with a little water.
  • Let batter sit overnight.
  • The next morning, heat a nonstick griddle. Ladle a spoonful of batter in the middle. (I don’t know if cast iron will work, but I intend to try when I get home.)

    Radisson Blue chef in action

    Radisson Blu chef in action

  • Spread batter with circular motions to form a large, thin circle.IMG_0666
  • Sprinkle the surface with a little oil.IMG_0668IMG_0671
  • Turn over and sprinkle with a little water.
  • The end result will be crispy but flexible.IMG_0672

A note about urad dal: I’ve never seen this in the U.S., but the Vasanta Bhavan chef said one can find it in Indian grocery stores.

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It is also used whole, along with mustard seeds, to flavor chutneys and other dishes. A chef at the Radisson Blu told me it is fried before being used in this way.

Watch for the next post to learn more about Indian cooking and cookbooks, including the above mentioned 100 Tiffin Varieties.

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3 responses to “A Dosa a Day

  1. Very informative, although I wonder what the english meaning of dosa is. What do the chef’s think of all your questions?

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  2. George & Roxanne Kent

    That’s interesting that the Chennai locals employ the adage “A dosa a day keeps the doctor away.” Given the opening observation in your Sept 14 post citing the curious doctor/barber relationship of yesteryear, perhaps the Chennai locals would also accept the idea that a dosa a day keeps the barber away. Or would that be splitting hairs?

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  3. Pingback: India-in-Your-Pocket Cookbooks | Birds' Words

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