So, what do you think it is?
No, it is NOT butter chicken, it is NOT palak paneer, it is also NOT rogan josh and it certainly ISN’T vindaloo!!
It is the most artistic and yet simplest of dishes.
In the north of India it is called dossa, in the south they call it thosai, but I call it dosai!!
In 1990 I moved to Sydney from Melbourne.
Well Melbournians, I had to as the restaurant I worked for closed down and after a good two weeks of trying with no luck, I was asked to go north.
Sydney was not entirely different to Melbourne except that Sydney restaurateurs, unlike their Melbourne counterparts, always gave me hope, which helped me feel good but did not pay my bills!!
But, after a good four weeks on the run I finally got a job as a ‘dish washer’ in an Indian Restaurant in a suburb called Mosman!
This restaurant was owned by one Mr Ronnie, who was a food and beverage manager in a 5-star hotel during the day and ran this restaurant with his wife in the evening.
My job description was very clear, I was to wash all the crockery, cutlery and the pots and pans. Simple!
Although I had worked as a chef in India (actually, I had been an executive chef in the two years before leaving India), Ronnie did not trust my skills as a chef.
This was perfectly fine by me at that time as it meant less responsibility and, of course less, headaches!!
Who wants any headaches?!!
On the menu in Ronnie’s restaurant was a dish I had not come across before in Sydney, and believe you me, I had seen a lot of menus in Sydney as I had tried my luck in around 60 odd restaurants, or so, looking for a job.
It had been my favourite dish as a child, masala dosai!
So many Indians were living here in Sydney, there were so many Indian restaurants and not one was serving masala dosai. How could this be?
It was unbelievable!!
Ronnie’s restaurant, however, served masala dosai but it was not made in the restaurant, it came from his kitchen at home and was re-heated in a microwave and served to the customers!!
Never in my 10-year short life as a chef had I seen anything like this before.
I had learnt the art and craft of making masala dosai in Taj Residency, Bangalore from KK Shiva.
So, on a ‘not-so-busy’ day in Ronnie’s restaurant I called the chef, who was from Bangladesh, and showed him how to make this dish, from start to finish, just the way my friend KK Shiva had taught me years ago in the Taj Residency, Bangalore.
Ronnie’s wife saw me do this and I was promptly asked to move on.
That was the day I decided, if I was ever to run my own restaurant it would always have this dish on it even if the menu was from the North of India!
Masala dosai, I believe, is the national dish of India and is cherished by both the rich and the poor equally who stand shoulder to shoulder and have it made right in front of them, from the roadside stalls of Bandra (in Mumbai) to the restaurants in Bannerghatta (in Bangalore)!!
At nilgiri’s I don’t care whether you’re a king or a pauper but I do care to make fresh masala dosai in our open kitchen so you can see for yourself that it is made fresh for you. If you want to try out this recipe at home please follow the recipe (all the quantities are shown in this recipe) and follow the pictures to make sure you’re getting things like consistency, and etc., right.
Good luck. As we all know, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs so don’t be put off if your batter doesn’t seem to work the first time or the second time!
Usually by your third attempt the dosai will be good.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes practise but you’ll enjoy eating the ‘rejects’ along the way.
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!
Can I also take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2012 and I hope you have a Happy Christmas.
The ingredients: 1 part white lentil flour, 3 parts rice flour, a pinch of salt (to make the pancake golden)
adding salt to the rice flour and white lentil flour
mixing the ingredients with the best and most natural whisk otherwise known as fingers!
add water [approximately 3-3 1/2 parts
mix or whisk
check texture, it should be a ‘dropping-like’ consistency
pour into pot to let it ferment and rise!!
the mixture will ferment
cover fermenting mixture with a moist cloth, set aside for a few hours or overnight
remove cover to see it rise like a soufflé
set aside a teaspoon of the risen batter to form a ‘starter’ for the next batch
keep ‘starter’ in the refrigerator covered in cling wrap
add water to prepare batter for dosai
mix, or as I say, ‘fold’
check consistency, it must be close to a ‘pouring-like’ consistency for making the pancake
get ready for the act!!
prepare cooktop, or a griddle plate, or a ‘tawa’ by heating it and putting salt on the cooktop
wipe away the salt thus leaving behind a teflon-like surface when the salt starts to ‘cook’
add mixture to the smooth cooktop, just a big drop, holding the steel cup with 3 fingers only!
pouring the mixture on top of hot plate/griddle plate
smoothing the mixture with a circular motion, moving outwards in a concentric ring-like motion
enlarging the circle
enlarging the dosai
enlarging the circle, at this stage you drizzle clarified butter and oil over the dosai, or, if you are vegan simply omit the butter and use oil only
adding oil to the butter stops it burning
drizzle butter in a circular pattern
gently spread butter with a spoon
the upper surface of the dosai will fry and start to turn golden
the dosai will fold
roll the dosai
the first dosai is never perfect so don’t worry!!
the second dosai is never perfect either!
the third dosai; well from now on it is perfect!
the beautiful circles left by the cooked dosai
add potato filling
gently lever under the dosai, working around its perimeter
lever the dosai upwards gently
fold over filling
serve masala dosai with classical accompaniments, sambhar and coconut chutney!!
your wonderful dosai served at the table!