The Delectable Dosa

You know how the world is today. If in doubt, enter the word on the Google search bar and hit enter. Imagine the horror of an American teenager trying to find out what his new Indian (ABCD perhaps) origin girlfriend meant when she said ‘I ate dosa’ i.e. when he lands up on one of the first results - that the dosa is a Korean dog (actually called Tosa)…and well, in Korea they did eat dogs..

Some other hits - Hanina Ben Dosa was a Jewsih healer much before Christ (1st century) But for management & IT professionals it means something totally different, it is an
acronym that stands for Discussion-Oriented Organizational Self-Assessment. Or it turns out to be a designer clothier. While these dosa specialists have dosa sessions of the verbose kind, we South Indians believe in the culinary kind of dosa session. As for me, I can call myself a dosa connoisseur and am pretty adept at making them.

There are dosa places everywhere today, preparing open dosa, closed dosa, paper dosa, ghee roast, masala dosa, rava dosa, godambu dosa, the various thicker utappam varieties… or the paruppu variety . Then there is the Konkan neer dosai or the Malayali Velleppam…The list will go on and on, if you also consider the 100 or so varieties you can get at certain specialist hotels in the Majestic area of Bangalore.

I don’t like the huge/long paper varieties (I have seen pictures of dosas carried by two persons to the astonished/embarrassed patron); I like the softer ghee dosa. Some of the best I have eaten are at Ashoka Bhavan in Sultanpet – Palakkad, Ananda Bhavan Bombay, a small hotel across the station in Baroda, Madras Dosai in Eastham London and of course, lest I forget, the famous street cafĂ© at Matunga – a place where even the Don- Varadaraja Mudaliar used to come and eat in public!!

Making a good dosa is another matter altogether. Everything has to fall in place like the stars and the horoscopes, in an arranged marriage. The rice has to be right, the proportion with urad daaal has to be right, the exact amount of fenugreek and salt have to be added, the grinding should not go on an on heating the batter and destroying the bacteria…the temperature and fermentation has to go well..and finally the consistency has to be ‘Jhusht puuurfeect’.

Once all that is OK, you need a good cast iron Dosa kallu, Idayam nallennai and a stainless steel Kayil. After a few hundred of dosa experiments, you would have perfected the thickness and size. Some don’t turn it over, but I do…. and never put ghee on the dosa while at home, the next ones made with plain oil will tend to stick up a bit, ruining the evening..

Check out
Wikimedia if you want to see a video of the ‘making of a dosa’ with sound, and all.

But watch it made by bare bodied, sweaty experts in South Indian hotels and you may balk a bit. They have this huge cast iron plate with gas fires burning underneath and the oil is spread using a Broom!! With those contraptions you can have a tava evenly hot ending up with dosa’s crisp on the outside and naram on the inside (as they say in the Gits ‘zimpli made it with gitzu’ ad!!)

Now that the dosa is done, the options to go with it are many. The most traditional being the white chutney and sambhar…Variations include red chutney, green chutney, onion chutney (ulli chammandhi as we say in Palakkad), mulaka podi (so many versions of it – I like the 777 variety). And finally one polishes it all off with a great glass of Filter coffee attified in a dovarah…lots of paalpatha on top…

While the dosa can be folded and filled with potato bhaji (or other veg / non veg combinations) to make the masala dosa, the dosa cousins are eaten differently. Aapam/neerdosa goes with all kinds of non veg curries and Ihstu. Parippu dosa goes with katti chatni or dollops of butter. In Palakkad, at least in our house, Parippu dosa (Pesarattu) is called varadi. Upon further investigation I found that the word comes from the Maharashtrian Varadi cusine which probably was where the dish originated!! But I am not so sure about all this. It could be Varattiya dosa as well, since it is served crisp. And there is the uthappam which is our rice pizza of sorts. These days, they put all kids of stuff - veg & non veg and give them fancy names Tandoori oothappam for example…

well times change, the dosa will, too….but

Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it crisp, some like it soft
Some like it plain, some like it filled
Some like it open, some like it shut
Some like it thin, some like it thick
Some like it turned over, some like it unturned
Some like it brown, some like it white
Some like it oiled, some like it dry
Some like it with oil, some like it with ghee
Some like it with more methi, some like it with less
Some like it with more urad, some like it with less
Ah! so many options to make this a great dish….

Only in India - You are my masala dosa," went the line of a Bappida song from the mid-90s(Rock dancer – you are my chicken fry----) . Like somebody said, maybe great food can inspire such music. On the other hand, Can you imagine John Lennon making a song equating a girl to pizza or pasta?

Some interesting dosa links
Frozen dosa,004100180001.htm


Biby Cletus said…
Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog
Payal said…
So Maddy you are also a foodie freek isn't ?
Nice post man.
Gini said…
Loved the dosa post. I have all the right tools, but my dosas still need working on. The paruppu dosai- is it the same as adai?
Maddy said…
Payal - you stumped me there...well, I love dosas and quite a few other dishes, so I guess so...

Gini - Practice will perfect it..and yes, parippu dosa is adai..malabar adai as it is commonly referred to..adai again is a generic term as we have the mallu 'adai' which is totally different.
diyadear said…
very nice post..i am proud to say i know to made gud dosas too :)
n hey u know how imp dosa is.. my friend who is now married had been asked by her hubby during their frst meeting, whether she cud make gud dosas for him.. ;)
diyadear said…
n hey im blogrolling u.. :) hope u dont mind.
Pradeep said…
As usual a very interesting post. Enjoyed reading this.
Maddy said…
Thanks Biby

Diyadear - may we dosa people flourish...of course you are welcome to blogroll me, i have added ur name to..

Pradeep - thanks a lot..
Gini said…
The mallu adai is all I knew of, until I saw the 'other' adai in a food blog. I was surprised I didn't know of the parippu adai although I have lived almost all my life in Kerala. Is it popular only in the palakkad region?
Maddy said…
Gini - I think so. I do know of other places where people know of malabar adai, like Calicut. But here is a link for you, to get the details, our own recipe is a little more complex.but this seems good. and it does tatse yummy.
mischief said…

You forgot to put a link to the Dosa Boys site on a post about Dosas!!!!


Gini said…
Thanks for the link, Maddy. I think SH's blog is the first place I saw adai. I have made it once since then. It definitely is yummy.
Maddy said…
gini - maybe you should try neer dosai sometime, easy & great..
hope u had some good dosas from komala vilas at serangoon when u went there...
Gini said…
Maddy, never tried neer dosa. I have seen a recipe in a blog once. Actually, I think I am going to make that for lunch. Thanks for the idea :)
My vacation is going to be postponed, it seems. But when I do go, I will visit this Komala vilas. Hopefully in June.
Happy Kitten said…

Was going thru ur blog and landed on this post which made me hungry.... we have a udipi restaurant out here.. but else only my own creation for crispy dosas... not bad as per my kids and hubby...

u really know how to make us imagine the situation with ur writings.. and here I am drooling!
Maddy said…
Yup HK - it is these imaginations which start & get my pen rolling. We do make dosas every week, but the ambience of eating a good dosa at places like Ashoka bhavan Palakkad can only be recreated in your mind.
Maddy said…
This link came thanks to Suresh at covering quite a lot including a CNN IBN video!!