I had mentioned dosas in my previous article and promised I would give them my full attention later. And believe me, they deserve it. This fermented crepe, made from rice and urad dal (split, skinned black lentils) batter is a staple food in South India. It has become popular all over the world due to its unique taste and versatility. It’s a popular dish for vegetarians, sold in restaurants and street stalls, or cooked at home. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack. I did all of the above and if I were to list all the delicious dosas I ate while traveling throughout India, we’d be here awhile.
How Dosas Are Made
I’ll be giving you a complete (and very flavorful) dosa recipe later, but I wanted to provide a brief overview of how dosas are made. The batter is prepared by soaking rice and urad dal separately for several hours, after which they are ground to a fine paste. The paste is then mixed together, fermented for a few hours, and then made into thin crepes on a griddle. The fermentation process gives dosas their distinctive tangy flavor and also makes them more nutritious.
Dosas can be made in different shapes and sizes. The most common ones are the plain dosas, which are crispy and light, and the masala dosas, which are stuffed with a spicy potato filling. Other variations include onion dosas, rava dosas (made with semolina), and neer dosas (made with rice flour).
If you’ve ever made crepes before, you know that it requires a deft hand – and lots of practice – to achieve that perfect thinness. The same is true for dosas. I was fortunate in that I got to observe – and eventually lend a hand in – the dosa making process in several home kitchens. Let’s just say my first few efforts weren’t worthy of a Michelin star. But with a little practice, and a lot of patience from my more-than-hospitable hosts, I was able to get the basics down. My dosa game still has much room for improvement, but that’s part of the fun of learning a new recipe!
How to Eat Dosas
The best way to eat dosas is with chutneys and sambar. The chutneys are made with coconut, coriander, mint, or tomatoes, and are ground into a fine paste with spices and herbs. Sambar is a lentil soup that is flavored with tamarind and a variety of vegetables. It is usually served hot and is perfect for dipping dosas in. And if you think that dipping a lentil-based crepe in a lentil sauce equals lentil overload, I’m here to tell you that there’s no such thing.
From India to the World
Dosas have gained immense popularity in recent years and are now available in different parts of the world. I’ve eaten them at several restaurants in the U.S., and even on the street, courtesy of New York’s now legendary “Dosa Man” (https://gothamist.com/food/video-meet-the-legendary-dosa-man-of-washington-square-park) They have become a favorite of people looking for a healthy and delicious meal, as they’re rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They’re also relatively low in fat. Seriously, it’s rare to find a low-calorie dish with this much flavor.
Dosas are not only healthy and delicious but also easy to make. The batter can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for a few days. This makes it easy to make dosas whenever you want, and it is a great option for busy mornings. The chef’s life is a hectic one, which is why I love food that I can prepare in advance and quickly cook as-needed. And if you look in my fridge these days, you’ll see a hefty amount of dosa batter. That, and about a dozen half-empty bottles of hot sauce, but hey, who’s counting?
Delhi’s Best Dosas
Like I said, I ate too many dosas to count during my trip to India, but I am happy to share my top five. These were my favorite dosas in Delhi. And keep in mind that, while Delhi is not in South India, as the heart of the capital region, it brings in dishes from all over this vast and diverse country.
Andhra Pradesh Bhavan
Located in India’s capital of New Delhi (an administrative district adjacent to the much larger – and older – Delhi), Andhra Pradesh Bhavan is a government-run canteen known for its authentic Andhra-style food, including dosas. Andhra Pradesh is a south Indian coastal state where dosas are very popular. And if you think the government can’t dish out some tasty food, you have to try the dosas here.
This restaurant in the National Crafts Museum serves a variety of Indian dishes, including some South Indian specialties like dosas. They give a creative twist to traditional dishes and use locally sourced ingredients. The museum itself is worth checking out, so this is a great way to get your dosa fix and your culture fix.
This chain of restaurants is known for its South Indian cuisine, particularly its dosas. They have several locations throughout Delhi, including Connaught Place, Defence Colony, and Rohini.
This restaurant in Greater Kailash is known for its dosas. Its specialty is the “Paper Dosa,” which is extra thin and crispy–just the way I like it.
Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR)
MTR is one of the more popular South Indian restaurants in the Delhi area and they’re famous for their dosas. Here, the specialty is the “Set Dosa,” which tends to be softer and fluffier. I guess you could say it’s the opposite of the Paper Dosa. Try both and see which one you prefer!
Finding Dosas Near You
As I said, dosas are starting to gain serious traction in the U.S., but they’re still not as ubiquitous as say tikka masala or saag paneer. If there’s a restaurant near you that specializes in South Indian cuisine, there’s a good chance they’ve got dosas on the menu. Otherwise, feel free to check out my recipe so that you can make this delicious dish whenever you crave it.
If you enjoyed this article or have suggestions on how we can improve it, please leave us a comment below. Also, make sure to check out other articles I’ve created or stories I’ve written about food culture – here.