I remember moving to DC some 20 odd years back and finding this little place at The Old Post House Pavilion downtown on Pennsylvania Ave., literally a few paces, a short walk away from the White House, and it's still there. A super casual incy wincy counter called Indian Delight, at the bottom food court level of the pavillion with their reasonably priced, delicious dosas. We don't go as often as we used to when Jonathan was studying for his masters at Georgetown, but when we do, we relish every crispy bit of it with the spiced potato filling and green chutney for that extra bite.
Shulie and I were talking a while back. It all started with a casual conversation and like with all the food lovers, it ended up being about food. I told her about my lack of ability to cook a beautiful loaf of bread and she empathized with me. She told me how her family, especially her better half, loves dosa and I shared how easy it is to make. The conversation went on and by the end of it somehow we were deciding on dates when we should share those recipes with each other. What better way to share a recipe with a food blogger than through the blogs. So for you fabulous readers and for a bit of our own selfish need we thought lets guest post on each other’s blog and share the recipes we both love so much. Last week Shulie came as a guest on my blog Indian Simmer to share her recipe of a perfect and ah so gorgeous Challah. Today she very generously invited me over to her space to share my recipe for a crisp, golden brown and comforting dosa. Thanks Shulie for the honor, I am stoked!
For those who are not very familiar with dosa, it is an Indian style crepe or thin pancake. While in the north India roti or bread made usually with wheat is popular, dosa is a southern favorite. It is usually made by mixing rice and lentils in a particular ratio and then ground and fermented before making crepes out of it.
I come from the northern part of India, the part where rotis are more of a staple than dosas. Although I do make dosas at home all the time but I wanted to learn more about them so I took a quick lesson from my friends Vijitha and Rose. Dosa is kind of their forte and they did teach me a lot about several varieties of dosas common in a South Indian family. Some dosas are savory and some are sweet. Some are thicker and soft while others are thinner and crisp. They can be made with wheat flour, a lentil based batter, semolina based batter and what not. But to share with you here I decided to pick the kind that is most common and also popular. The kind you can find at any Indian restaurant and the kind that is made with a two simple ingredients - Rice and Urad dal (Split black gram).
I have realized that making dosa is no rocket science! Just two main things to keep in mind – one, the ratio of rice and lentils must be accurate and second, fermentation has to be done carefully. Ratio between rice and urad dal for a dosa should be 3:1. Three parts parboiled rice and 1 part washed split black gram. The two are soaked separately in water for a few hours or overnight. Then the two are ground into a flowing batter later to be left to ferment in a warm dry place. Usually I let it ferment overnight, so technically getting a dosa batter ready to finally make the crepes takes at least 24 hours. But if you own an oven or enjoying some warm weather then you might be in luck and things might speed up a little for you! Look out for some little tips on how to make a crispy thin dosa which I have later discussed with you. But I have to add that everyone has their own little tricks for making dosas, these are mine and I am sharing because they work for me. If you have any other tricks up your sleeve feel free to share and educate us!
1 ½ cups parboiled rice (washed and soaked overnight)
½ cup split urad dal (washed and soaked overnight) I use washed urad dal with no skin on.
2 tbsp semolina or poha (flattened rice) - Using this makes dosa crisper.
1 tbsp salt
Oil (If you have an oil spray then better.)
You will also need:
Griddle, spatula, a wet grinder (to grind rice and lentils) - if you don’t have a wet grinder your blender should also work but with a wet grinder the batter is just smoother.
Soak rice and urad dal for at least 6 hours or overnight. Then grind them separately into a smooth flowing batter. Grinding the two separately and then mixing makes the batter lighter. It also helps in speeding up the fermentation process.
Mix the two, add salt and cover the batter. Let it ferment overnight. The lid should be tight enough to trap the temperature inside but loose enough to let a little circulation of air. So don’t use an air tight container. Also the temperature should be somewhere around 80-85 deg. F for a proper fermentation.
Making of crepes:
Heat a griddle. To test I sprinkle water on the griddle, if the water sizzles away right the moment then the griddle is hot enough.
In a bowl, mix water and oil. ½ tbsp. oil to 2 cups of water. This water and oil mixture is used to clean and oil the pan after every dosa comes out of the griddle.
Spray some oil on the pan. Dip a piece of cloth on the water oil mixture. Squeeze out extra water and then rub it over the pan to clean excess oil.
Now pour a ladle of dosa batter. Starting from the center in an outward direction, swirl the ladle in a circular motion spreading the batter into a thin crepe.
When the batter is spread, after a few seconds (8-10) it will start getting dry, spray or sprinkle oil on the dosa.
Give it a few more seconds and the bottom of your dosa will start getting darker and golden brown in color. This means your dosa is almost ready.
At this point if you want to add any filling in your dosa, you can place it in the center and fold the two sides, one over the other. The filling can be a simple potato filling or vegetables or even minced/cooked meat.
Traditionally dosa is served with sambhar (lentil soup cooked with vegetables) or spicy coconut chutney.