for a long time, i've wanted to make the south indian "pancakes" or crepes called dosa and have them end up tasting as good as they look and look as good as they taste. my previous several attempts ended either in disaster or were just mediocre and not worth repeating. that being said, i guess i can't feel too badly since i know indians who say they aren't the easiest thing to make. merely following cookbook instructions and having them turn out as described isn't always that simple either. perfection in this arena amounts to the proper ingredients, cooking method and implements. in other words, a properly fermented batter, a hot griddle (pan) and a fast hand that can move in concentric circles.
dosa can be made in various ways and can use different ingredients (flours, grains, lentils). not only is there is a wide variety of kinds, they also range in size from small to large, with the larger 2 to 3 feet long ones obviously being made in restaurants and not in the everyday home. another aspect is texture which ranges from spongy and somewhat thick to very thin and crispy while still being malleable.
the following recipe differs from the standard fermented one in that it is ready to cook immediately after the mixing of the batter and uses rice flour and all purpose instead of the classic lentil and ground rice mixture. its "fermented" or sourdough taste instead comes from using yogurt, the more sour the better, in this case. it is also cooked on both sides instead of just the one.
for those purists who say no to this, i say give it a try! it is quick, no fuss, always successful and delicious either on its own or filled with your favourite stuffing.
no-fuss "instant" dosa
south indian crepes
makes approx. 8 dosa
1 c all purpose flour
1 c rice flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 med onion, chopped
1/4 c ground coconut (fresh or dried)
1 c yogurt
3/4 c water
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp peppercorns, coarsely cracked
1/4 c oil in a small dish
in a blender, place the flours, onion, coconut, salt and chilli powder.
add the yogurt and the water and blend for 2 minutes on puree or until it is finely blended. there should be no chunks of onion.
place the mixture in a bowl and set aside.
in a small pot [with a lid], heat the oil on medium high heat and then add the brown mustard seeds. let them cook until they no longer pop and splutter. you may want to almost completely cover the pot when they start to pop to prevent them from flying everywhere! remove from heat and let cool for a minute.
add them to the dosa mixture and stir well to incorporate.
crack the peppercorns until they are coarsely ground. you do not want to add finely ground pepper as it changes the taste and is not the same. don't worry, it's not overpoweringly strong once cooked!
heat a non stick fry pan or cast iron pan over medium heat. you want something which can be covered with a lid of some sort. let it get hot.
meanwhile, place a 1/4 c of oil in a small bowl and have a teaspoon ready and a spatula. take a paper towel and crumple it up at one end. use this to dip into the oil and smear the pan well with the oil.
take a 1/3 c or so of dosa batter and place it in the well heated pan in its center. from the center of the batter, quickly swirl a spoon around in a one-way concentric (circle) fashion to spread the batter.
this may take practice; the idea is to extend the batter and thin it out. it should be about 1/8" thick or so.
put about a 1/2 tsp of oil over the dosa crepe and then another tsp around the circumference of the crepe.
cover the pan and cook it for about 4 to 5 minutes or so until the underside is browned and the edges are golden.
place the cover aside and then flip the dosa over and let it cook another 4 minutes until the other side is browned. make sure the pan is not covered at this point.
now you can fold the crepe over in half and stack them or they can be filled with a filling of your choice, such as the typical potato one, rolled up and served with a chutney. they can also be eaten as is. cover them with tin foil to keep the dosa warm.
the batter can be put in the fridge for a few days and crepes can be made as you want them.