If you have ever been to an Indian restaurant, chances are you have seen someone eating an enormous thin pancake, served with various chutneys and sauces. What is that crazy thing? It's called Dosa, and it's a staple in South Indian cuisine.
I've studied Indian food quite a bit, and I have certainly eaten my fair share of Indian cuisine, and Dosa is one of my favorites. It's an excellent shared appetizer or main course if you really feel up to it!
Dosa is a large crispy pancake made from fermented rice and urad beans. Urad beans are a small, lentil-like bean native to India. The rice and beans are soaked for several hours, ground with water to make a batter. It is then left to ferment for six to eight hours. After its properly fermented, it is then poured onto a hot griddle pan, and cooked just as a crepe would be. The result is a large, slightly crispy crepe that is eaten plain or filled with any myriad of delicious things! Masala Dosa, or dosa stuffed with spicy potatoes and onions, is my personal favorite.
One of my favorite places to get dosa is Mysore Woodlands on Devon and Rockwell, in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. Devon Avenue is the epicenter of Indian cuisine and culture in Chicago. There is a stretch of about a mile that is dotted with Indian restaurants, Indian clothing stores and sari shops, video stores advertising the newest Bollywood video on DVD, and lots and lots of markets and grocery stores. At Mysore Woodlands, you can order Masala Dosa, plain Dosa, Onion Dosa or Butter Dosa.
Here is a masala dosa we had at Mysore Woodlands. The Dosa there comes with two types of chutneys.
If you want to make your own Dosa, here is a recipe found in "Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts" by Ammini Ramachandran.
2 cups long grain rice
1 cup whole Urad
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
Salt to taste
1/3 cup sesame oil or vegetable oil
Soak the rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds separately for five to six hours. Wash the soaked ingredients until the water runs clear, and drain. Grind the rice and dal separately along with water to make a very smooth batter (similar to pancake batter) of pouring consistency. Combine the batters, stir in salt, cover, set aside for six to eight hours to ferment. Keep the batter in a large vessel, as the volume of the batter increases with fermentation. Stir the batter thoroughly to make sure it is of pouring consistency.
Heat a heavy cast griddle or non-stick griddle over medium heat. Lightly brush the griddle with oil. When the griddle is hot, pour half a cup of the batter into the middle of the griddle. With quick circular motions, spread the batter evenly into a thin pancake. The bottom of the dosa will begin to turn light brown and the edges will leave the griddle. Flip the dosa, and cook the second side for one and a half to two minutes, depending of thickness of the dosa and heat of the griddle. Remove it to a plate.
Have a fever for more Indian food? Join us for Passage to India on Tuesday, August 30th at The Chopping Block Lincoln Square.