Masala Dosa Series Part 1: The Dosa Batter
One of my favorite Indian dishes of all time has to be dosa – a very thin and crispy rice/lentil crepe usually stuffed with potatoes and served with a green chutney and sambhar. I remember when I was a little kid, the only way I would go shopping to the Indian grocery store was if my mom promised to buy me some dosa and mango juice at the store. I would sit in the restaurant part of the store happily munching on dosa while she went about buying groceries. This was shopping my way – and if I was extra good, I would get some Indian ice cream (flavored with mango, pistachio, or my personal favorite cashews & raisins!).
So, I’m going to teach you how to make dosa and all of its components. All of the recipes in one post would be horribly overwhelming, so I’m splitting it up into a 3 part series. The first one will feature the batter of the dosa and how to cook it. The second part will focus on the potato filling, which can also be a great side dish and new way to eat potatoes. And the third part will focus on the condiments.
This recipe and the technique is my grandmother’s, passed down to me from my mom. Like all good and tricky grandmothers, they never exactly tell you everything. And certainly, the concept of measuring has no place in Indian cooking, so I’ve tried to translate as much of “a pinch”, “a little bit”, a “good amount”, and “i just know how much, ok!” into a recipe that I am sure will work beautifully for you.
What I love about dosa is that there is a great tradition behind it. Usually the first thing I eat when I go to India is dosa. You get off the airport and go to a “hotel” (which is a restaurant, and not really a place to get a room), and eat some food before our long drive home. But, you can also adapt the tradition and make this a very versatile dish. This batter could be filled with sauteed wild mushrooms and thyme, or ham and cheese, or be served plain with a green salad. Once you learn the base recipe, you can do a lot of things to it. But for the purpose of this series, I’ll show you the traditional way so you can see how it’s done.
So, let’s proceed, shall we?
Basic Dosa Batter (serves 4-6)
(recipe courtesy of Lata Surti aka Mom)
3 cups long grain rice, washed
1 cup urad dhal (see note)
1 tsp. sanchoro (see note)
2 tsp. sugar
1.5 T kosher salt
Ghee, or clarified butter.
Once you have thoroughly washed the rice in a few changes of water, put it in a bowl and just barely cover it with water. In another bowl, put the urad dhal and just barely cover with water. Keep these two ingredients separate and let them soak overnight. It’s key to soak these separately because when you blend them, the grains are different sizes, so one would overprocess while the other one was still chunky. We used to blend them together, but keeping them separate greatly enhances the texture of the dosa.
In the morning before you plan to serve, put the rice in a blender with all of the water. Let it run in the blender for a good 2 minutes until it is completely pureed. (if you got one of those fancy Vita-Mix blenders, it probably won’t take as long). Put the puree into a bowl. Then, blend the urad dhal in the same fashion. Once pureed, combine the urad dhal puree with the rice puree. The consistency should be something like crepe batter. If it looks too thick, add a tablespoon of water until it reaches the right consistency.
Now, add the sanchoro, sugar, and salt to the puree. Sanchoro is an interesting ingredient which ensures the dosa comes out with the proper texture. Sugar is added to help the dosa crisp up, and salt is of course the seasoning agent.
Let this mixture sit for at least 2 hours before you start to cook.
When you are ready to cook, heat a heavy skillet, either a cast iron crepe pan or a 10 inch non stick fry pan over medium high heat. Put some ghee in the pan and swirl it to coat all sides. Then, add a ladle full of dosa batter to barely cover the bottom. Pour a little more ghee on top. Once the dosa is brown on the bottom, about 1.5 minutes and firming up on the top, give it a flip. Cook the other side for just a few seconds. It’s done when the dosa is brilliantly crisp and the inside is just cooked through and soft.
Ok, dear readers. Given this is my first Indian recipe with a dish that perhaps not all of you will be familiar with, my mom and I created a video (about 3 minutes) showing you how to make dosa. It’s shot straight through, so you’ll see how to cook it from start to finish.
Check out the video here.
Stay tuned this week for the next two installments.
*NOTE: If you are having trouble finding these ingredients (because they are not likely in the grocery store), go to one of the good Indian grocers in town and they will be more than happy to help. Here are the two that we frequent most often:
3808 Nolensville Pike
Nashville, TN 37211-3402
4043 Nolensville Pike # B
Nashville, TN 37211-4549