Anyone who has eaten at a South Indian restaurant will have tried this ubiquitous crisp dish, sometimes stuffed with spicy potatoes or served alongside various chutneys and saambar. I learned rather quickly after being married that dosas serve as both the starch and the protein component of a meal, and requires as much merit on a plate as a serving of vegetables. Restaurant-style dosas, or the thin and crispy variety, are faster to make and appear to be easier to digest than thick dosas—they are actually less filling as a stand-alone meal, because they use very little batter compared to thick dosas, and their crisp texture is achieved through the generous dousing of oil! The best dosas are the thickness of thin pancakes or fat crepes.
According to my husband, his grandma’s dosas were at least a 1/4-inch thick, soft and pillowy, cooked on both sides, and perfectly filling. To me, any kind of dosa is delicious.
Makes: 8 or more servings
Diet: Vegetarian, Vegan-adaptable, Gluten free
Prep Time: 3 hours soak, plus overnight fermentation
Cook Time: Less than 25 minutes
3 cups Basmati, Sona Masoori or par-boiled rice
1 cup split black gram/urad daal, skinless
Salt to taste
Oil or ghee, as needed
Wash and soak both the rice and the urad daal separately for 6 hours. Drain and rinse separately. Use a blender to grind each of them separately into a fine paste using only small amounts and 1/2 cup of water at a time. They create batters of different viscosity—the ground rice creates a grainy batter whereas the lentils create a sticky batter. After each has been ground, combine both in a utensil deep enough to allow the batter to rise. The combined batter should be kept at the consistency of a heavy cake batter. The utensil should be covered with a tight-fitting lid and kept in a warm, dark place overnight to ferment. The best places to ferment the batter include draft-free spaces such as a pre-heated oven that is turned off at 120°F or on a kitchen counter, wrapped in kitchen towels, away from windows. Do not keep the batter in a hot space, such as under direct sunlight, or the batter will turn very sour. The fermented batter will be light and airy and may double or triple in volume overnight. It may also have a slight sour smell, this is normal. If the batter does not appear to have risen, keep it covered in a warm spot for a few more hours. Dosa batters are typically ready to use within 6-8 hours of the grind but only if they have fermented and risen. Unused batters, after they have achieved the first rise, may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To make dosas, spoon out a small quantity of fermented batter into a separate bowl. Each dosa requires 1/4 cup of fermented batter. Add a little water to bring this fermented batter to pancake batter consistency, and salt to taste, mixing it very lightly.
Heat a nonstick skillet. Wipe the bottom of the hot skillet with a little oil. Drop a ladle full of the thinned out batter, about 1/2 cup, on the skillet and spread it quickly in a circular motion with the back of the ladle to be as thin or thick as desired. Drizzle a little oil or ghee all around and let the dosa cook uncovered on medium heat. If preparing a thick dosa, cover the skillet to allow the dosa to steam cook. When the edges begin to separate from the skillet, the dosa is ready to be turned over. Cook in the same manner on the other side, but for half the time as the first. Gently slide the dosa off the skillet into a serving plate. Serve hot with suitable accompaniment.