South Indian Breakfast Dosa’s
by Tyler Burns
January, 23 2013
South Indian Breakfast Dosa’s 2
If you want to see the eyes of a grown Hindi man light up, tell him you will be making
dosa’s for breakfast. The dosa, is a savory south Indian breakfast pancake. Although recipes
vary, most are made from some sort of dal (chick-pea, lentil, or bean) and rice. Part of the allure
to dosas is it’s various impressive presentations. Whether rolled into 1-2 foot lengths, standing
upright like a cone, or paper thin, the dosa is sure to draw a crowd of hungry admirers.
Interestingly enough the process begins with uncooked dal and rice. The beans, and rice
are soaked in water, ground, than left to ferment over night. Modern day preparation involves
using a blender for grinding but traditionally the mixture is ground in a stone bowl. After
seasoning, the batter is thinned and beaten with a ladle to the consistency of heavy cream. Than
the batter is spread out in a circular motion onto a hot skillet. Most dosa types are not flipped
over with the exception of the delightful paper-thin, and Mysore dosas.
Since the 6th century A.D. Tamil Indian’s have ogled over these tantalizingly nutritious
treats (Farnworth, 2003). “Dosa is rich in carbohydrates, contains no salt, sugar or saturated fats,
and its constituent ingredients of rice and lentils mean it is gluten-free, and contains protein. The
fermentation process increases the vitamin B and vitamin C content (Dr J. S., December 2006).
One of the more common dosa recipes is listed below:
Dosa Recipe (Bladholm, 2000):
1.5 -cups split urad (black-lentil) with or without skins, the skins come off after
4.5 -cups long grain, basmati rice
3 green chili’s, seeded and minced *optional
1 onion cut in half
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Put the rice and urad dal into separate bowls and soak for 6 hours. Drain well.
Place the urad dal in a blender and process with water until thick and smooth.
Pour into a large bowl. Puree the soaked rice in the same way and pour into the
pureed dal mixture, and mix together with salt. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth
and set aside at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight. The longer the
batter sits, the better.
Stir in the green chili, if using, and stir in enough water to make a thick batter,
about the consistency of thick cream. Heat a skillet, flat pan, tava, or non-stick
frying pan over high heat. Rub pan with half an onion (this cools the surface
slightly). Brush pan with oil and pour in a ladle (about ¼ cup) of the batter
smearing it quickly with the back of the ladle to form a thin pancake, about 5-6
inches in diameter. Cook 2-3 minutes until the bottom is golden and the top is
starting to set. For extra thin dosa, scrape off a layer of the setting dosa with a
spatula and discard. Do this carefully as to not destroy the whole pancake. Turn
it over and cook it on the other side another few minutes. Continue until batter is
used up, keeping dosa warm in a preheated oven. Serve with coconut chutney
Makes 25 Pancakes
As you can imagine, over the last 1400 years many variations of this popular dish were
born. There is the paper dosa which I mentioned above that is scraped with a spatula to create the
paper like texture, the masala dosa, which is a dosa stuffed and rolled like a burrito with a spicy
vegetable mixture, a cone shaped dosa, set dosas (a double dosa generally served with meat
preparations), Mysore chutney dosas, Uattapam dosa, vegetable masala dosa, and paneer chili
dosas. In the uattapam/uatteam dosas, onions, chili, and tomatoes are added on top of the
pancake, the cake is than flipped over. Mysore masala dosa’s are spread with cocoanut and onion
chutney along with bhaji ( a type of vegetable fritter). In the Bombay Rava, Rava masala dosas
call for semolina instead of rice. There are also Chinese dosas which are made with Chinese
ingredients like schezwan sauce and noodles. The list goes on and on but I only found one recipe
that is actually named after someone in particular. The Davanagere Benne masala dosa is named
after Davanagere in Karnataka, this is prepared by adding liberal doses of butter and also a
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potato filling (palya). In Bangalore, the masala dosa is usually served with a red, garlicky
chutney applied to its inside surface (Indian Cooking, November 10, 2007). Some of the more
popular accompaniments served with dosas include chutney, various masalas made with potatoes
or peas, sambar, and rasam. Sambar is a staple dish similar to a thin lentil soup (South-Indian-
recipes, 2012), and Rasam is a thin, spicy tomato soup.
In spite of the fact that there are probably hundreds of dosa recipes in existence, countless
ways to eat them, and a legion of sauces to serve them with, almost every South Indian agrees
upon one thing…the best dosa is the one made by their Mummy. Namaste and
(enjoy your dosa)!
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Bladholm, Linda (2000). The Indian Grocery Store Demystified. Recipes p. 241.
Dr J. S. (December 2006). "Traditional Indian Foods: Physio-Chemical Aspects".
PFNDAI Bulletin: 3.
Farnworth, Edward R. (2003). Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods P. 11. Retrieved by:
Indian Cooking, (November 10, 2007). Andhra Cooking in Telugu. Retrieved by:
Raul, Santha (1975). The Cooking of India. Chapter 3 An Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine P.
South-Indian-recipes (2013). Sambar Recipe. Retrieved by: http://www.south-indian-