Here in Kerala, everyone loves dosas!
A dosa is a thin, crepe-like pancake. Most commonly made from urad daal (a tiny white bean) and rice, dosa is a ubiquitous item on the breakfast menu in every Malayalee home and hotel. My brother Sanju – our manager at Rasa Ayurveda – says dosa originated with the Tamil Brahmins, who are strict vegetarians.
As with almost all things India, the spectrum of dosa possibilities is wide! You can find raava dosa, green gram dosa, coconut dosa, enormous, crispy ghee roast dosa and many more variations.
Dosas make good picnic fare, wrapped in a banana leaf for transport. And dosa for dinner is a common repast. Whether served at dawn or after dusk, a dosa is a delicious comfort food throughout South India.
But in most in Kerala homes, it’s the simplest, soft dosa made of urad daal and rice that’s offered to hungry family members. That’s lucky for women taking treatment at Rasa Ayurveda, because this kind of dosa fits nicely into a delicious menu that supports the goals of Ayurvedic treatment. Wheat and gluten-free, the saada dosa is super-tasty, provides a complete protein, and is very easy to digest.
Saada dosa is great served hot off the griddle, perhaps accompanied by a companion puddle of sambar (a spicy daal and vegetable soup fragrantly flavored with asafoetida), and a dollop of tasty coconut chutney.
Sometimes this saada dosa is stuffed with one of countless filling options, including the famous golden potato masala, the intriquing and radiant beetroot masala, or my personal favorite – lightly-grilled translucent onion.
Here at Rasa Ayurveda, we might stuff dosa with fresh medicinal and tasty! leaves, like those of the fertility-promoting Drumstick Tree (botanical name: Moringa oleifera).
To make dosa in your own kitchen, try this recipe for the soft urad and rice saada dosas, as served at Rasa Ayurveda.
dosa kallu – (literally, dosa stone) or tava – a round, cast iron griddle about 10″ across used in modern times (Please avoid using non-stick cookware. The coating material can release toxic particles into food.)
a stainless seel ladle (flat bottomed is helpful)
grinder – a proper dosa grinder rotates a stone pestle again a stone mortar, but you can also use a mixie (blender) or food processor
bowl for holding batter
dosa chatugam (flat, stainless steel “spatula” or pancake turner)
2/3 cup short grain white rice
2/3 cup whole (or split) skinless urad daal
Place the rice and daal in a bowl and rinse it well. (Three times is usual.) Pour water over the rice and daal, to more than cover. Cover the bowl and allow it to soak for about 3 hours.
Pour out almost all the water after soaking. Grind the rice and daal in a blender or food processor, adding just enough water to create a batter that will flow a little when poured.
Transfer to a bowl. Let the mixture sit, covered, overnight to ferment. Fermentation occurs more readily in some climates and seasons than in others. (As San Francisco is famous for it’s sourdough bread – which also requires fermentation, South India is famous for dosa, idli and a variety of other fermented, easy-to-digest ground rice preparations. If you are preparing dosa batter in a cool, dry environment, be certain to set the bowl in a warm place, and cover the batter bowl with a damp towel.)
You can tell the batter is ready to cook when you see signs of fermentation: bubbles in the batter, a little foam on the top. Stir in a teaspoon of salt to the batter and mix well, just before cooking.
Cook the Dosa:
Place the tava on the burner, over medium heat. Soak a piece of cotton cloth in sesame oil, and apply a thin coat to the tava, covering the surface in a circular motion.
Take up a ladleful of dosa batter. Pour it into the center of the hot tava and immediately spread the batter out from the center by spiraling the bottom of the ladle out from the center, carefully in a clockwise direction.
Don’t worry if your first few doshas have an odd shape. During cooking classes here at Rasa Ayurveda, we like to joke around as students make their first attempt. That’s a nice shape… What continent are you making? Africa? India? South America? You’ll get the hand of spiraling the batter out from the center, and before you know it, all your dosa will be round like the entire world!
After 2-3 minutes, loosen all ’round the outer edge of the dosa with the dosa chatugam.
Once the top of the dosa has bubbled and appears dry, loosen around edges once again and slide under the center of the dosa, pick it up and turn it over. Once turned, smooth the dosa with the dosa chatugam and let brown a little bit for 1-2 minutes. Check out this super-short video of Jalaja, who cooks at Rasa Ayurveda, showing her dosa-flipping skill:
How to flip a dosa!
When it’s done. take the dosa off the tava and set aside on a plate. Repeat the process until you have a nice stack of hot dosas!
If the tava gets too hot and the surface appears dry instead of slightly glossy, sprinkle some water to cool it a bit. Then apply sesame oil again, and pour the next ladleful of dosa batter.
If you like, you can study the fine points of dosa-making in a Taste is Healing cooking class. We look forward to welcoming you to Rasa Ayurveda, where while you regain your health and happiness, you’ll be served your fill of saada dosas!
With warmest regards~
Niika Quistgard, CAS (Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist)
Women’s Health & Happiness Advocate
Founder & Director, Rasa Ayurveda Traditional Healing Centre for Women
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India