Like any northie living in Delhi, dosa (South Indian Rice & Lentil Pancakes) was always a luxurious treat for me, involving a trip to the neighbouring Sagar Ratna. It was often our family outing on Sundays! When I got to college, it became a staple at the cafeteria and lost some of its exclusivity! But only after I started dating Arjun and his parents made impromptu dosa for me at tea-time or for lunch, did I realise the value in fresh, home-made dosas, devoid of the artificial fermentation of Sagar Ratna & college cafeteria!
Given a choice, I have always preferred idlies, for their healthier “steamed” attributes rather than the “pan-fried” dosas. But now I need a weekly dose of dosas for the week to feel complete! Thankfully, we were gifted a stone-grinder for dosa batter by a close friend and my MIL decided to give me a few lessons to initiate me into the art! My dosas are nowhere as good as hers, but I’m improving with every try. Here’s what my dosas look like:
In this post, I’m not going to concentrate on the step-by-step of the batter (since I don’t have pics) but more on the process of making it. I’m adding a simple recipe for the batter below, but you can always buy ready-to-make batter from the closest South Indian “Rama Store” or mix up a batch using the MTR powder.
For the batter, I used:
1 cup urad dal (de-husked black lentil)
3 cups idli rice/ dosa rice/ par-boiled rice (this rice has a much shorter grain and is more round than long – looks a little like arborio rice). Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on this. I have friends who use regular rice to make dosa/idli batter too. Just don’t waste precious superior basmati on this!
I soaked the dal and the rice overnight in separate dishes with lids. In the morning, I first put the dal in the stone grinder and let it grind and churn without water for 5-7 mins. When it was roughly ground, I added a dash of water just to loosen it and help it churn better. Minimal use of water is important. I churned it for another 10-12 mins, adding a dash of water as and when required, until it looked frothy and had doubled in quantity.
Removing the dal from the grinder, I then added the rice in batches and ground till it was almost smooth. Water was added very sparingly, just to allow the grinder to move more smoothly. The rice is done when the paste is almost smooth but still slightly grainy. Test it by rubbing a drop between your fingers.
Then I added it to the dal and mixed well to combine. I covered it and kept it in a warm place for 24 hours. The soaked dal causes the whole mixture to ferment and double in volume. At this point the batter will be ready to make idlis. I moved it to the fridge (to avoid spoiling as unrefrigerated food in India in any season is not particularly safe!). It was ready for dosas 2 days after the idli stage!
Here’s how I made the dosas:
Firstly added a tsp of salt and mixed well into the batter.
Then I heated a non-stick griddle on high heat on the largest burner (griddle should be of good quality else the dosas will be hard to handle. They’re very thin and too much poking and scraping will cause them to tear). I rubbed half an onion on the hot griddle just to ensure that it is evenly clean and un-greasy so that the dosa won’t stick.
Then holding the griddle off the fire with my left hand, I dipped into the batter with a steel ladle (approx capacity 2/3 cup) with a long handle. Then pouring the batter on the griddle, I used the back of the ladle to spread the batter outwards in slow, even, concentric strokes, applying steady pressure.Ideally, you should hold the ladle close to the middle of the handle – too close to the cup and the pressure will be too much and too close to the end and the pressure will be too little… As soon as I was done spreading the batter, I replaced the griddle on the stove on high heat…
As you can see, I removed the griddle from the stove top and was holding close to the batter bowl to make it easier. Also, another important reason for doing that is that if it is being heated while you are spreading the batter out, it will set faster and not allow you to spread properly. I spread the batter almost all the way to the edge of the griddle to look like this – to get thicker and thinner ridges…
This is the beauty of being able to control your dosas. Most restaurant and cafeteria dosas and thinned out evenly and are evenly crisp. These alternating thin and thick ridges make the dosa crisp and soft at the same time and that is the MOST divine aspect of home-made dosas!
Anyhow, once the dosa begins to set, about 30 secs after the batter has been spread fully and returned to heat, I sprinkled about 1 tsp oil evenly across the dosa. I even lift the griddle off the heat and swirl it around so that the oil can reach all parts of the dosa. After about another minute or so, you will see the thinnest parts of the dosas turning golden…
When the thinner parts look like the next pic, it’s time to gently slide a flat wooden flipper all around the sides to loosen the dosa. If your griddle is of good quality, the edges should come away from the pan easily…
I looked at the underside as well to ensure it was nice and golden at the bottom too…
Happy with the colour, I slid the wooden flipper all the way from one edge to the centre. Holding the griddle steady with my left hand, I lifted and flipped the dosa quickly with my right hand.
I pressed down on the dosa centre and edges gently. After about 1 minute on this side, I flipped it back again because we need to fold the dosa in half and the fully golden side should be on the outside.
Then I carefully lifted it off, supporting it with my left hand, and placed it on a plate lined with a kitchen towel (cloth, not paper towel).
Before beginning the next dosa, I lifted the griddle off the stove and sprinkled a tsp of water on it and swirled it around. This will sizzle and you need to be careful. My FIL taught me to do that to lower the heat of the griddle else spreading the next dosa would be a challenge. Most of the water will sizzle and evaporate. If there is a drop or two left, just drain it in the sink. Ideally, one should also rub the onion on the griddle between dosas (after the water stage) to get rid of any specks/ bits of the previous dos and causing burning. Im usually lazy and skip it!
A few notes on dosa batter, dosa making & serving:
1. The amount of batter I make usually makes 16 idlis on day 2, 8-10 dosas on Day 4 and another 8-10 dosas on day 5 or 6. The batter will remain fine in the fridge for about a week after the 1st day outside. It will keep fermenting, despite refrigeration and you will be able to tell the difference in the sourness over the days. Ideally, make idlis on day 2 and finish up the batter in dosas by day 5-6.
2. The spreading of batter and flipping dosas on the griddle will take practice so you can make tear free, even dosas.
3. Since AK usually has about 7 dosas and I have 2 at a go, I refuse to stand and serve him dosas as they are made,which is ideal. I usually insist he waits for me and make all the dosas, stacking them one-on-top-of-the-other on a plate lined with a kitchen cloth. But if you don’t intend to consume so many, I suggest you serve as you go!
4. Like making rotis on a tawa or pancakes or waffles, the first one of the batch is not the best as it usually seasons the griddle/ pan.
5. Typically, dosas are served plain or with a potato based filling (called Masala Dosas). If you would like to use a filling, add it just before folding it.
6. In addition to chutney(s), dosas are served with sambar – dal & vegetable stew of sorts. AK doesn’t like it and I’m too lazy to make the effort for one person. I will post a recipe soon, along with idlis, for those of you who do like sambar!
That’s all I have to say for now
Happy Dosa Making!!