Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Ultimate Masala Dosa- Part 1

My mom makes THE best Masala Dosas in the whole entire world. Next in line would be CTR. CTR is a tiny little restaurant in Malleswaram, Bangalore. Now sadly for me, both my mom and CTR are about 9000 miles away and so I get to eat those scrumptious dosas only once every couple years. Yeah, tell me about it--- ridiculously sad. But I can't just sit here all sad and glum, yearning for their dosas every day, now can I?

I used to get those ready-to-make dosa packets from the Indian Store. You just take the mix (full of unnecessary sodium bicarbonate) and add some water and then make the dosas. Pretty blech, if you ask me. I stopped buying those. Then a couple years ago, the Indian Store started carrying the actual batter. So there was no need to mix up a powder with water- it was pre-made and well, definitely way more convenient. But I soon discovered that the batter was well, not great, in fact not good at all. Then my cousin V advised that I should just make it at home. My first reaction was, "Uggh! Soak all that stuff and then grind it all and then allow it to ferment?? Too much work!!" But then, after much reluctance, I decided to give it a shot. And I have not looked back ever since!

What is Dosa?

In my dictionary, I like to define Dosa as a South Indian rice and lentil "pancrepe" (somewhere between a pancake and a crepe) and a Masala Dosa is basically the same pancrepe with some beautiful jazzed up smashed potato filling.

In this post I shall tell you how I go about with the very first and basic step- making of the dosa batter. If I want to make dosas on a Thursday, I make the batter on Wednesday. So really, there are two parts to this whole dosa-making process. Therefore I call this Part 1.

Ingredients for Dosa Batter:
  1. Rice (any kind of rice should be fine, except maybe sticky rice. My mom says no to Basmati, but I have used it and have had no issues......)
  2. Urad Dal or White Lentil- available at any Indian Grocery Store (IGS) (picture follows)
  3. Salt
  4. Fenugreek Seeds
  5. Toor Dal or Pigeon Pea- again, available in any IGS
  6. Rice Flakes
  7. Water
P.S.: Ingredients 4,5 & 6 are totally optional. I just use them coz my mom said so. Apparently the fenugreek is good for the tummy and the other two just impart better texture and color to the end product, the Dosa. 

Urad Dal or White Lentil

Fenugreek Seeds (called Methi Daana in Hindi)

Toor Dal or Pigeon Peas

Rice Flakes (Poha)

I know, I know, the ingredients' list seems pretty long and complicated, but hang in there with me--- I promise that this is EASY! Besides, like I mentioned above, you don't even have to use 3 of the ingredients from that list if you don't want to........ so there, you can go  "Phew" now!

  1. Per mom's instructions, I take 3 measures of rice in a container. I wash the rice a couple times or so to remove any unwanted foreign particles. Then I soak the washed rice in water.
  2. I add a teaspoonful each of fenugreek seeds, toor dal and rice flakes to the above and cover the container and proceed to the next step.
  3. I take 1 measure of Urad Dal in another container and wash it like I wash the rice, you know, a couple times or so. Then soak the dal in water, cover the container and then leave it. 
That's it. I leave the rice and dal soaking away, at least for 2 hours. The soaking helps soften the grain, thereby making it easy to grind into a nice smooth batter.

Top container has the rice (+fenugreek+toor dal+poha) soaking and bottom one has the urad dal soaking

Grinding- Making of Dosa Batter:
  1. After 2 or 3 hours, I discard the water from the containers. I then take the rice in my blender, add cold water to it and blend it into a nice smooth batter. This usually takes about 2-3 minutes, max 4. In the beginning I suggest you start adding water in batches, little by little, so as to avoid making the batter too thin. Remember, this is somewhere between a pancake and a crepe and so the consistency has to be neither too thick nor too thin.
  2. I then pour this rice batter into a big enough container. The container has got to be a tad bit larger than the actual quantity of batter because the batter is going to be left to ferment. Upon fermentation, the level of the batter will rise and if the container is not big enough, the batter will actually flow out of the container and it will be one big mess and I say this with experience, yessiree! It usually takes a couple rounds to finish grinding all the rice.
  3. And then I proceed to do the same with the dal. The only glitch here is that the dal tends to get ground very fast and then starts sticking to the blade of the blender. OK, not trying to scare you, but you just gotta be prepared. As soon as you hear the blade make a weird sound, you must stop and add some more cold water. This takes no more than 2 minutes. Just keep adding cold water until the weird sound stops. 
  4. I then pour this dal batter (which, BTW, is so lovely to touch--- it is super smooth and silky and you  might be tempted to dab some on your face.......) into the rice batter, add some salt to this and then give it a couple stirs. 
  5. Finally I cover it up and set it aside on the counter if it is a nice hot summer day or put in the oven like I usually end up doing in this part of the world where it is usually overcast and chilly. I keep the oven light on for warmth that helps with the fermentation. I leave it in the oven with that light on for the whole night. 
Dosa Batter sitting in Appi's Multipurpose Oven (yeah, I do store some other kitchen stuff in my oven....... hey, I don't live in a palace, you see!)

There, Part 1 of the dosa-making process is over. I did that today and right now my dosa batter is quietly fermenting away in the oven. Tomorrow morning I shall take it out of the oven and make sure it has indeed fermented well enough for me to proceed to Part 2.

Until then, I say to my dosa batter- Happy Fermenting!!

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