The simple and humble dosa has fused and adapted itself with world cuisines that this is now the star of most food carnivals and desi fast food joints and almost every other month there is a dosa carnival or dosa fest featuring dosas with bizarre prefixes like chocolate fondue dosa, risotto dosa etc.,
What is so unique about this dosa?
The signature food of most south Indians are Idli and dosa. You walk into any tamilian household unannounced and open the refridgerator, you will find the idli/dosa batter.
There cannot be many variations in idli though it is made with the same batter. But the variety of dosa’s you can make depends simply on the way you would love it. It can be plain/stuffed with filling, It can be small as a medal or as big as your table. It can be crisp like a wafer or thick like an American pizza. Most often it is the size of a regular pizza(8”) but it can be in any shape as you desire. Sometimes rolled like a newspaper some times shaped like a cone/triangle.
The Indian dosa, whose origin predates to the sangam age of Tamil literature has its cousins in American pancake and French crepes. They are made from a batter of parboiled rice and full urad dal (round one not the split urad dal) in the ratio of 4:3/4. One can also add 1 table spoon of ground fenugreek seeds to make it softer. When tasted by itself it is very simple and boring, but it turns delicious when it is eaten with an accompaniment like Sambar( thick lentil soup),ground chutney( ground coconut sauce/onion sauce with chillies or milaga podi( spiced powder). It can also be rolled with fillings of your choice.
You can get very creative with dosa. Few years back, people were just enjoying plain/masala dosa. But now every road screams of a dosa corner and they surprise you with the unexpected fillings. The adaptable dosa is now slowly emerging as desi fast food.
Having grown in South Bangalore, which was famous for thindi beedhi’s (eat streets) like Sajjan Rao circle, Gandhi bazaar, Mavalli tiffin room( MTR), Hotel Kamat etc., The purist dosa lover in me refuses to accept the fusion taste, although i love the various fillings.
My tryst with the variety dosas started at Dosa corner at Jayanagar IV block in Bangalore.(perhaps they were the pioneers of the variations and fillings - not too sure about this)
15 years back when we were staying at JP nagar in Bangalore, We used to frequently make many trips to this joint. It was a part of Ganesh darshini but because of the oil and smoke the griddle of dosa emits the dosa making area was towards the corner of the shop.
We had to buy tokens and stand in a serpentine queque till your turn came. You could watch the dosa’s being flipped on a big black griddle. The griddle was seasoned with oil and wiped clean and then a scoop of batter would be taken and drawn into a circular shape and oil would be drizzled around . When it would turn brown below, it would be smeared with red chutney made of onion and chilli and then customized with filling of the customer’s choice. At one go they make 8-10 dosa’s. It was a feast for the eyes and nose while they flipped making those crispy brown dosas. It is definitely an art to make so many dosa’s of the same shape and size and so quickly.
They have a variety of fillings here. All dosa’s irrespective of the filling is served with sambar and chutney.
Set dosa: a set of medium sized dosa’s( 3 no) served with sambar and coconut chutney. This is also very famous at Dwaraka hotel near bull temple road.
Masala dosa: Dosa with potato curry filling along with sambar and chutney. This is extremely tasty at the Janta hotel at Vijayanagar(near my parents house), At MTR and also at vidyarthi bhavan ( Gandhi bazaar). Here the chutney is served with mint flavor, though of late I find the standard of taste at vidyarthi bhavan has detiorated.
Benarsi masala dosa: Few Bread croutons spread along with the red chutney, filled with potato curry and served with sambar and chutney.( a must try at dosa corner, ganesh darshini)
Butter masala dosa: Masala dosa made with butter and topped with a spoonful of butter.
Cucumber dosa: Along with the batter cucumber is also ground and then made into dosas.
Ragi( millet dosa). Ragi is mixed with the regular batter to make dosa
Gobi masala dosa: Dosa with cauliflower curry.
Peas masala: Dosa with peas curry filling
Vegetable dosa: Dosa layered with mixed vegetable curry made with carrot,cabbage etc.,
Upma dosa: dosa with upma as filling.
Cocktail dosa: mix of all the curries and upma as stuffing.( famous at sindhi colony,sec'bad)
Tiranga dosa : Dosa having tricolor chutney, Ginger and tomato(red), green chutney (made with mint and coriander), and white chutney made with coconut.
Paneer dosa: dosa with paneer curry.
Rava dosa: made with riceflour, maida/wheat flour and rava in the ratio 1:1:1/2 and to this batter are added pepper corns,curry leaf, coriander leaves and finely chopped onions and chillies. This should not be ladled on the griddle like a regular dosa. You have to simple go around dropping on the hot griddle here and there with, you will find lots of spaces in between , you should’’nt fill them. This is best eaten hot and crispy.(this tastes excellent at Arusuvai, Mayajaal, Chennai)
Steamed dosa aka Chiranjeevi dosa --- famous at chutney’s, Hyderabad. This dosa was named as Chiranjeevi dosa since the recipe came from the Telugu actor. He tried to recreate the set dosa he ate at mysore.
Medal sized dosa: This is famous at Saravana Bhavan, T.nagar- 7 small medal sized dosas topped with different chutney and milaga podi.
MLA dosa – I hav’nt tasted this, saw it on Chutney’s(Hyderabad) menu card. This is supposed to be bigger and have a rich filling(like a MLA).
Spring roll dosa, Manchurian dosa ,sczhewan dosa --- our neighbor china’s gift to our desi dosa and not to forget all those western influence like peanut butter dosa, pizza dosa, chocolate dosa, Mexican dosa, Salsa dosa etc.,.. Each passing day the humble dosa is redefined.
Many more like uttappams, pesaruttu, adai etc., just unleash your imaginative skills and fill it with any edible curry and you have a dosa. I know, I am leaving this list incomplete.
Having said all the above, nothing to beat the home made dosa to the accompaniment of milagi podi and nallennai( sesame oil) made on a seasoned iron tava. ( a seasoned iron tava needs little oil and is better than a non-stick).
Dosa in its original form is the ultimate - an anytime dish in our home.