Dosa (Rice & Lentil Crepes) – Back to basics
Idli & Dosa are the most quintessential south Indian breakfast choices. I hardly remember not having idli batter in the fridge in our house when I was growing up. I used to dislike Idlis as a child, but I loved dosa. Especially the ones from a restaurant!! The thin, crispy paper roast, masala dosa, onion dosa, rava dosa, everything!! I’m sure this is the same with most people! But after coming to the states, after idli and dosa became un-available, I started missing them so terribly. Now I LOVE idlis. In fact so much that, I eat idlis for breakfast everyday when I’m visiting India. I do make dosa very often, because they can be made with raw rice. Idli rice is not available at all the places, so I manage with the Idli rava idlis. They are alright, but are not at all comparable to the soft, fluffy idlis that Amma makes! I have already done a post on making idli’s using Idli rava HERE. In this post, lets concentrate on dosa.
Dosa is a thin, crispy crepe made with ground rice and lentils. I’m sure all of you are familiar with the masala dosa that you get at the Indian restaurant buffets. While some places have decent dosas, some restaurants sell pathetic dosas. They don’t even deserve to be called as dosa! Dosa is not too difficult to make, you just need the right type of lentils and rice and a blender to process the batter. The recipe that I’m sharing today makes really thin and crisp, restaurant style dosas. The addition of lentils (other than urad dal) give the dosa strength, so they don’t tear apart easily. Adding a handful of cooked rice or poha (soaked in water for some time) gives the dosa its beautiful golden color. Today we’ll see the basic dosa. I will also suggest some other variations at the end of the recipe. (I’ll include masala dosa recipe in the next post, as this post will become too lengthy)
The most important thing about making dosa/idli at home is fermenting the batter. Because of the cold weather here in the US, this seems like a daunting process to many people. I follow very simple tricks to get my batter fermented. I’ll share my secrets with you today and hopefully they’ll help you
- Soak the rice and urad dal separately at least for 6 hours or overnight. In this recipe, I use raw rice (NOT parboiled). You may use sona masoori, ponni, basmati or any long/short grain rice. I’ve only used the short/long grain rice from walmart. I don’t know if jasmine rice is a good substitute.
- Always grind the urad dal and rice separately. Urad dal tends to increase in volume when ground, actually it almost triples in volume when you use a wet grinder!! But I know most of us make do with a blender, and that is perfectly fine. Add water carefully, until the urad dal batter looks like as smooth as whipped butter!
- While grinding the rice, add very little water. Rice does not need a lot of water. Grind rice also into a really smooth batter. It need not be a very thick batter, but neither too runny.
- Mix both the batters urad dal & rice, along with some salt (refer to the recipe) and mix them together using your hands. It is important to use your hands, the warmth of your hands gets the good bacteria started, which aid in the fermentation process. Mix for about 3-4 minutes and cover and keep in the warmest place in your kitchen. I like to store the batter in a stainless steel or a glass vessel instead of plastic containers. If you made the batter in the afternoon, keep it near the stove while making dinner. Or, just turn on your oven to the “Warm” setting or lowest temperature for 15-20 minutes. Then turn off the oven and place the vessel with the batter inside the oven over night. Remember to turn OFF the oven before you place the batter inside. And in cold weather the batter may need more than 12 hours to ferment. Taste your batter and check if it is sour. If it is, then store the batter in the refrigerator.
- If you have a radiator heater system, just place the batter by the radiator overnight. The batter may sometimes double in volume if it ferments properly. Keep this in mind and use a large vessel.
- When the batter has fermented, it will have a pleasant sour smell. Mix the batter thoroughly before making the dosas. Use some water to adjust the consistency if the batter is too thick.
Now, armed with all these tips, let’s get to the recipe!
Urad Dal – 1 cup
Rice – 2 cups
Moong dal – 2 Tbsp
Channa dal – 2 Tbsp
Toor dal – 2 Tbsp
Salt – 3 tsp
Cooked rice/Poha – 1/2 cup
Water – as required
Oil – as required, to make the dosa
- Two days before you would like to make dosa, rinse and soak the urad dal and rice along with the other dals in two separate bowls. Add water to cover by at least 2 inches and soak for 6 hours or overnight.
- Drain the urad dal and keep the water aside. Process the urad dal in a blender/wet grinder, adding water as required, to make a smooth batter, stopping in between to scrape the sides of the blender. Transfer into a large bowl.
- Drain the rice and dals and grind into a smooth batter, in batches. Add water judiciously, as rice needs very little water. When you are processing the last batch of rice, throw in the cooked rice or poha (see note below)
Note: The cooked rice or poha contribute to the beautiful golden color of the dosa. If you are using thin poha, just rinse it with water and keep aside. It will soften in 2 minutes. If you are using thick poha, rinse and soak it in some water for 3 minutes, drain and use.
- Combine the urad dal and rice batter, add salt and mix well, using clean hands. It is important to use your hands, the warmth of your hands gets the good bacteria going and the fermentation process begins. Set the batter aside, covered, in a warm place (see tips in the introduction) for about 12-15 hours. The batter is ready when it has slightly risen in volume and smells pleasantly sour. You can also taste the batter to check if it is sour.
- Store the fermented batter in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Heat a 12 inch or larger tawa/griddle (preferably round) over medium high heat. Brush a little oil on the griddle and wipe off the excess with a paper towel (the better will not spread if thecere is too much oil). Alternately you can also use a halved onion to wipe the griddle in between the dosas.
- Stir the batter thoroughly. Pour 1/2 cup in the center of the griddle, Working quickly, spread the batter outwards in a continuous spiral motion, using the back of a large ladle (use a ladle that is more flat than curved). Drizzle 1/2 to 1 tsp of oil around the edges of the circle and some oil on the surface of the circle as well. Cook on one side only, until the bottom is crispy and golden brown, about 2 minutes. You can also cook on both sides, flipping the dosa after 1 1/2 minutes and cooking on the other side for 30 seconds.
- Fold the dosa into half and transfer to a plate.
Tips: You can also roll the dosa, as shown in one of the pictures below. Or make a cone. Using a knife, cut the dosa from the center to the edge in one straight line (radius). Then shape it into a cone.
For Masala dosa
After you have drizzled oil around the dosa, apply some erra karam chutney on the dosa with a spoon and place 1/4 cup of potato curry (recipe below) on each dosa, when the dosa is ready and starts to curl slightly at the edges, then flip the other half over the filling, or roll it up.
For Onion dosa
Combine chopped onions, green chillies and cilantro leaves in a bowl and keep aside. After you have drizzled oil around the dosa, sprinkle the onion mixture on top. Fold or roll up the dosa to serve.
For Egg dosa
There are two variations of egg dosa. The one I like is a sunny side up on my dosa. After you have drizzled oil around the dosa, break an egg onto the center of the dosa. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and cover the dosa, with a dome shapes cover (from any of your pots and pans). Cook on low heat until the dosa is crisp and the eggs are done (I like the runny yolks!!). Or just beat up an egg, with some salt and pepper and spread this on the dosa. Cover and cook on low heat until the dosa is crisp and the eggs are done.
Use ghee/butter instead of oil to make the dosas. Use ghee/butter generously!!
As you can see, you can get really creative with the kind of fillings you want to use. Dosa is also gluten free, so everybody can enjoy this. With just a little practice, you can make fabulous dosa at home. Dosa is usually served with Sambar, coconut chutney and/or onion chutney. Today I’m serving my dosa with a different type of onion chutney (Vengaya Thogayal) and Cilantro-tomato chutney.
- If you are not able to spread the batter into a smooth thin crepe, and are ending up with lumpy dosa, check the heat. The griddle may be too hot and the batter might be cooked even before you spread it. Just remove the griddle from the heat for 2 minutes and continue.
- If the dosas are not getting a nice golden color and look pale white, the heat is too low. The griddle is not hot enough.
- Usually the first two dosa never come out perfectly. It takes some time to season the pan and achieve the correct temperature to make perfect dosa. So don’t get disheartened if the first dosa is not successful.
- Using a non-stick griddle helps immensely. You can also use cast iron griddles, but may need to use a little bit more oil. Cast iron griddles actually make wonderful dosas, because the heat is evenly distributed though the griddle. My mom still uses the griddle she has been using for more than 20 years. The more seasoned the griddle, the better the results!