Ιn South India, rice is king.
There are so many delectable foods made of rice in some form. Dosai is one such dish; from the thin paper roast to the masala dosas rolled around a spicy potato stuffing, these savoury rice crepes are a popular breakfast and lunch, eaten at home, or on the go.
I attempted to make my own ‘Indo-European’ version of dosai, and to my great satisfaction and surprise, the experiment succeeded; now, the experiment has become experience and I am making dosai almost on a weekly basis.
I felt so proud when the first golden-brown dosa came out of the pan! To quote George Costanza from the Jerry Seinfeld show: ‘This is like discovering plutonium by accident!‘.
I have tried several combinations so far: wholegrain rice and red lentils; whole buckwheat and red lentils; white rice and urad dal. The crispiest resulting crepes were the ones made of wholegrain rice and red lentils. Buckwheat provided the bubbliest mix and a more sour-tasting pancake. As for the rice and dal combination, it makes a very smooth batter.
You can substitute the grains of this recipe as per your whims and preferences.
For approx. 6 dosas you will need:
1 dl whole grain organic rice (1 dl = 100 ml)
1 dl red lentils
200 ml water at room temperature, salt
- Wash the rice and the lentils, place them in a recipient and cover them with water. Soak them for at least 4-5 hours or overnight. Once I placed the bowl in the fridge and left to Berlin for the weekend. I resumed the preparations upon my return.
- When the grains are well soaked (like after a weekend in Berlin), remove excess water and grind them. I use a simple stick mixer. The result will resemble houmous. With a more powerful grinder, the resulting batter will be smoother, but I find that the coarseness just adds a bit of texture. Add 100 ml of water at room temperature.
- The next step is to ferment the batter. Now, the European climate cannot really be compared to that of the subcontinent, and given that fermentation takes some heat, I put the oven on at 50 degrees for around 10 to 15 min. I cover the recipient with a towel and place it in the oven where I let it ferment for some hours. If the batter does not bubble up, I repeat the same exercise. It will happen.
- When the dosa batter has fermented, add about 100 ml of water; the batter should be thicker than normal pancake batter.
When baking the dosai, grease a non stick pan and place around 4 spoonfuls of batter at the centre of the pan and spread it out with circular movements. Then place the pan on the heat. When you move on to the next pancake, remove the pan from the heat and repeat the process.
Sharing this recipe makes me happy. Making dosai is wonderfully addictive and I’ve got a feeling that I am going to be making a lot of them over Christmas. This is one of the many immaterial things that have stayed with me from the time spent in India.
A pure source of joy.
A new technique, a new perspective. When the world seems like an unfriendly place, returning to a dosa batter is therapeutic. You just give it some love and attention and it pays back, manifold.