Stovetop: Dosa, South Indian Crepes

March 05, 2024

Stovetop: Dosa, South Indian Crepes

TO ME, MAKING DOSA IS LIKE FLYING TO INDIA. Both require planning and take a ridiculous amount of time - about 20 hours. Until you realize that most of that time is hands off. For India, you're flying through the night and hopefully sleeping. In the case of dosa it's waiting for the ingredients to soak at least 8 hours and then once blended, waiting for the mixture to ferment on the counter for again about 8 hours. Oddly, once you get through them, you realize both are easy and you're ready to do it again! If you have my third cookbook, Indian For Everyone, turn to page 253 for this recipe and photos. In this recipe, I used a long-grained rice which worked fine. I've even subbed the rice for quinoa. But again, dosa is traditionally made with a parboiled rice variety. 

I'm not the best planner, but when I do make this batter, I have one of my best cooking and eating weeks. You see, dosa is a naturally gluten-free 'bread'. It's a crepe made and eaten extensively in South India and it's made from rice and dal. That alone is amazing nutritious news. But, once you take that batter and ferment it - wow! That's where the nutrition magic truly happens. You've likely heard of the benefits of other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi? Think of dosa batter in the same light. And, kids absolutely love dosa!

Now, why would you take South Indian cooking lessons from someone who is North Indian? I was fortunate to grow up with a very close South Indian auntie network in Pennsylvania. We all attended the same temple and I not only tasted their authentic dishes, but learned many of their household tips and tricks. Like taking the flat side of half of an onion and rubbing it back and forth on a hot dosa pan before adding the oil to ensure that the batter does not stick. I'm by no means an expert, but I will say I'm pretty good. Whatever I can share with you, I will. Please do make a large batch of this recipe and keep it in the fridge once it's fermented for weeks to dole out for your family and friends. And, if you are North Indian, consider swapping out roti for a dosa now and then. It pairs fabulously with our sabzis. 

Want to make this with minimal fuss? Consider ordering our newest product launch - Spice Kits. This one for dosa will give you the hard-to-find ingredients below. 

Stovetop: Dosa - Batter and Crepes

3 cups uncooked idli rice *
1 cup whole or split urad dal without the skin **
2 tablespoons chana dal
1 teaspoon methi seeds, fenugreek 
Room temperature water, to cover
3 cups ice-cold water, for blending
1/2 cup cooked white or brown rice, any kind 
2 teaspoons Himalayan sea salt
Vegetable oil, for frying, set aside in a small bowl
End of a raw onion, for prepping pan

1. Take two separate and large mixing bowls. In one, add the rice. In the other, add the urad and chana dals and methi. Wash both with water and then add enough fresh water to cover the ingredients and set aside to soak at room temperature for 6 hours to overnight. I've separated the legumes from the rice and I've made this with everything combined as well. Rice and legumes have different textures when ground - why separating them can help give you a better end product. 

2. Drain both bowls and discard the water. Place the rice in a blender. Add about 1 cup of the ice-cold water. Blend until smooth and frothy. Add more water as needed. And, add the cooked rice. I find that the cold water helps the batter from warming when blending. This mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter. 

3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Remember, this bowl must be large enough to allow for the batter to ferment and expand. You don't want it to overflow. Ideally, the batter should double in size. 

4. In the same blender jug, add the drained dal mixture. Add about 1 cup of the ice-cold water and blend until smooth, thin, and frothy. Add a bit more water if needed. Add the cooked rice to help  Transfer this to the bowl with the blended rice. 

5. Add the salt and stir with your clean, bare hands. The warmth of your hands helps the fermentation process rather than using a metal spoon. Keep in mind that regular table salt has iodine in it, which inhibits fermentation. If you are using table salt, simply add it in later post fermentation. 

6. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel or paper towel and set aside in a warm, dry place for 6 hours to overnight to allow the batter to ferment. If you live in a cold climate, heat the oven to 200 degrees Farenheit for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven, wait 10 minutes, and then place the covered bowl in the oven for the fermentation process. You'll end up with a thin batter that is slightly bubbly, frothy, and sour. 

7. Once fermented, transfer to glass storage containers with lids and store in the fridge. The batter will last 2 weeks in the fridge and about three months in the freezer. Dole out and use as needed. 

8. To make a dosa, simply heat a griddle. Use the flat side of the onion and rub the pan down. Add a touch of the vegetable oil. Once hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter in the middle of the pan and in a circular clockwise motion, work from the inside to the outside until you have a very thin, round crepe. Cook through. Flip and cook the other side. This takes practice. Note that if the pan is too hot, the batter will clump and cook too fast. Keep the pan moderately hot. Like any crepe or pancake, the first one is usually not the best. The ones that follow will be perfect. Serve with Sambhar, chutney, or any sabzi. Use as a substitute for bread and as a wrap for veggies and hummus. 

* The best rice for dosa is a shorter grain parboiled variety like idli rice. You can find it online and at any Indian grocer. You can substitute long-grained basmati rice as well and I do that, but the shorter grained variety is better. 

** Urad dal without the skin is traditionally used for dosa largely because it maintains a light and neutral color. I've made dosa with different legumes including urad dal with the black skin. The color will be varied. My mom once made dosa with dark grains and it turned out purple and delicious! 

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