- 1 cup sona masoori rice (or any long-grain rice)
- 1/3 cup urad dal (split black lentils)
- 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1/3 cup poha (flattened rice)
- 3/4 cup water, divided, plus more for soaking
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- vegetable oil, as needed
- coconut chutney, for serving (recipe below)
- 1 cup frozen grated coconut, thawed
- 1/2 cup water, plus more, as needed
- 1-2 Thai green chilies
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
- 5 curry leaves
- 1 dried red chili
Whether it is kimchi, kombucha, kefir or curd, fermentation has played a huge role in Asian households for a very long time. From South India hails another type of fermented food that has begun to gain more popularity recently in the States — dosa.
There has never been a day at my grandparents’ or parents’ house where there hasn’t been a pot of dosa batter in the refrigerator. This endless cycle of weekly batter preparation is deeply ingrained in their routines. Typically, the process starts on a Sunday afternoon, when my mother would soak the lentils and rice with fenugreek seeds for a few hours before grinding it to a smooth batter in the evening, to let it ferment before returning it to the refrigerator to use throughout the week. As someone who now lives in New York, I have understood (after calling my mother at 3 a.m. IST in a panic, worried that my dosa batter attempt has failed) that South Indian fermentation times do not translate here, simply because it is a much colder climate here for most of the year, except for the scorching hot summers that would cause fermentation to occur within seconds.
Technique tip: Once one dosa has been prepared, it’s important for the temperature of the pan to come down a notch. Sprinkle some water on the pan to reduce the temperature. If you'd rather have a thick pancake instead of a thin, crispy crepe, pour one ladle of batter at a time without spreading it.
Special kitchen equipment: 8-inch flat griddle pan (alternatively, you can use a cast-iron pan).
For the batter:1.
Soak the rice and lentils in separate bowls with the fenugreek seeds in the rice bowl, for 4 to 5 hours.2.
Drain the water from the rice and lentils. Soak the poha before starting the next steps.3.
In a high-powered blender, add 1/4 cup of water, soaked rice and fenugreek seeds. Blend into a fine, thick paste. Add more water, 2 tablespoons at a time, if required. The batter must be thick enough to not splatter around in the blender. Pour the rice batter into a large bowl (one that contains enough room to allow for the batter to double in size), scraping out any excess with a rubber spatula.4.
Drain the poha. In the same blender jar, add the soaked lentils and soaked poha with the remaining 1/4 cup of water and blend into a thick paste, yielding the same consistency as the rice.5.
Pour the lentil batter into the rice batter, scraping out the excess. Gently mix until fully incorporated. The batter should have a thick trail falling from the spatula that remains on top of the rest of the batter before slowly dissipating into the mix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. For fermentation, I've seen the best results when the bowl is left in the oven with the light on. This takes anywhere between 6 to 24 hours based on the weather; 6 hours at the hottest time of year, and 24 hours at the coldest time of year.
For the dosa:1.
Once the batter has doubled in size, gently mix it while not disturbing the air bubbles too much. Add 3 tablespoons of water, one at a time (adding more, if necessary but ensuring it thickly coats the back of a spoon and doesn’t become runny), and salt to the batter.2.
Heat up an 8-inch flat griddle pan on medium-low flame.3.
Scoop one ladle worth of batter and pour onto the pan. Using the back of the ladle, swiftly spread the batter in an counterclockwise motion (or you could go clockwise, if you prefer), from the center, until you reach the edge.4.
Increase the flame to medium-high. Once the batter seemingly cooks on the top, sprinkle a tablespoon of vegetable oil.5.
When the dosa turns golden brown, about 2 minutes, using a flat spatula, loosen the edges and fold in half or roll it into the shape of a cigar. Continue the process until you use all the batter.6.
Serve immediately with coconut chutney, if desired.
For the coconut chutney:1.
In a blender, add the coconut, water, chilies and salt, and grind to a smooth paste. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed. Empty into a bowl, scraping the insides of the blender to ensure none is wasted, and set aside.2.
For the tempering (tadka), heat a small sauté pan over medium. Add the oil.3.
Once the oil is hot, add the rest of the ingredients. When the curry leaves and mustard seeds start to splutter, pour the tempering into bowl of chutney. Stir to incorporate everything well.4.
Serve with dosa or idli.