• Dosa in the sun (Camellia Aebischer)Source: Camellia Aebischer
These crisp and soft rice-based Indian pancakes are a fun, quick fermentation project for home.
Camellia Ling Aebischer

1 Jul 2020 - 10:41 AM  UPDATED 1 Jul 2020 - 10:41 AM

Of all the Indian flatbread options, dosa would have to be one of the most underrated. We all know naan, roti and maybe even chapati, but the dosa, with its crisp exterior and soft and slightly sour inside, seems to go largely unnoticed in Australia.

Dosa can be eaten with nearly anything, but one of the most popular fillings is a spiced potato mix. It’s great as an appetiser or snack, or can be made in jumbo size if you’ve got a big appetite and a big hotplate.

Making them is surprisingly easy, and the combination of ingredients is flexible. Usually, it’s a mix of rice and lentils which are soaked, pureed, seasoned and left to ferment overnight before being cooked in a hot pan. You barely need a recipe, just a few tips for guidance.

How to make dosa

For the dosa, I used a ratio of 1 part lentils to 4 parts rice, so ¼ cup red lentils (it’s what was in the cupboard) and 1 cup long-grain rice. Be sure to use long grain rice because the short stuff will become too sticky and thick when blended.

The ratios are flexible, you just need a base of rice and some lentils. Urid dal is the most popular.

Soak the lentils and rice separately, for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. Once soaked, drain the rice and place into a blender or food processor (high powered preferred), then add the lentils and some of the lentil soaking water. The lentil water will help kickstart fermentation.

Blend until smooth, adding extra lentil water till you achieve the consistency of thick pancake batter. The mix may get hot while blending as it will take a little while to get things nice and smooth. Be careful that it doesn’t get too warm or you’ll kill off the bacteria that will help it ferment. Let cool and blend again if need be.

Put the mix into a large container with extra room for it to rise – ideally you want it to almost double in size, but it's ok if it only rises by half or so.

Sit in a warm spot overnight to ferment – this could take anywhere between 1-3 nights, especially if its cold. I’m in Melbourne during winter so it’s taken a lot longer than it would for someone in FNQ or Darwin.

Serving suggestions
Coriander and mint chutney

This recipe for coriander and mint chutney has to be the number one Indian dip. It goes with almost everything - I even eat chutney sandwiches - and you can serve it with meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or plain naan.

Masala filling for dosa

A classic Indian dish where dosa is filled with a spicy potato curry and served with an array of delectable accompaniments.

Once it's puffed up, smelling a touch funky (don't take it too far) and you can see little air bubbles in the mix, thin out with water if needed and season with salt. Using a scoop with a flat bottom (a 1/3 cup measure works well), spoon the dosa batter into the middle of a hot pan, pushing the batter out from the centre in a circular motion to flatten.

Cook on one side and when almost cooked through, spoon a little ghee or melted butter on top of the dosa and let it sizzle until the underside is nice and evenly browned.

As you remove them from the pan, optionally fold while hot to set into shape.

Fill with spiced potato mix or chutneys, or really anything you like! They have the most addictive crispy-chewy texture like if tahdig was a pancake, so even as a vehicle for leftovers they’d be great. And you know, there may even be a dosa ice-cream taco in your future.

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