Dosa is my second favorite among Indian breakfast foods. We in God’s Own Country call it dosha with a soft ‘d’ and the ‘sh’ quite similar to the sound we make when we shush someone ‘shh…!’ To others it can be dosai or thosai or even dosey, depending on their geographical location. Whatever name it goes by, it is, and take my word for it, yum.
Dosa is akin to a crepe of the savory kind and is made with rice and black gram, the split variety. They are soaked overnight in a four to one ratio and ground into a fine but thick mixture the next day, either in an ordinary mixer or the special high duty wet grinder (with stone base and blades) we have for the express purpose of making dosa batter. The batter is then allowed to ferment (and rise) for five to seven hours, the time being dependent on how hot the day is. Everyone has their favorite version of this basic recipe. Mine involves adding a liberal tablespoonful of uluva (fenugreek seeds) along with the rice and black gram. It gives the final product a special flavor I love, also a golden sheen to the underside of the dosa.
When dosa made from this particular batter is cooked on the cast iron tawa, the aroma takes me back to the dark old-fashioned kitchen of my aunt’s home and the wooden table with chairs in one corner of it. I can almost taste the accompaniment, the hot and spicy chutney made by grinding red chilies, the small potent Madras onions (shallots) and salt together, the mixture then smothered in coconut oil with a few curry leaves used as garnish. Nothing beats the combo, believe me, though nowadays I go easy on the hot factor in foods in general.
Oh, I forgot to tell you how the dosa is cooked. How remiss of me! The well tempered flat iron griddle goes on the stove, and the by now salted-to-your-preference batter is spread on its hot surface with drops of ghee or gingelly oil added. Thin or thick, soft or crisply done, all depends purely on your personal choice though believe me, those in the northern part of the country will have us believe we do not know to make dosa because we do not make it crisp enough to break in your hands like in the restaurants they frequent. Yeah, right. Go on and enjoy the blackgram-less restaurant dosa and tell us, the real experts, that we know nothing of making dosa. Talk of nerve! Anyways…
The best accompaniment for dosa is of course sambar which is lentils cooked with vegetables and special spices (and which has like so many variations from region to region), as also coconut based chutneys. Apart from the n number of chutneys you can cook up, you can also have dosa with coconut milk based vegetable stews, egg curries, chicken, fish, beef or mutton. Personally I can have it with any kind of vegetable stir fry as also fried fish. The truth is, it goes well with everything, even sweet concoctions (as children we were given a clarified butter and sugar mixture!) if that’s what you prefer.
It is funny, if in the past someone had suggested that I’d one day be writing of dosa on my blog I’d have laughed at them so hard. You see, I was not really a dosa fan, but more of an aloo parantha (a breakfast dish originating from the Punjab region) kind of person. In fact when my mother-in-law used to tell of her preference for dosa as breakfast food every single day, I secretly wondered how she could do it. In more recent times I have heard brother-in-law refer to dosa as Food of the Gods. It now looks like I am right there with them now.
© Shail Mohan 2021