Seems super weird to be a white girl writing how to make dosas. And when I get uncomfortable I use lots and lots (and lots) of words. But here's the deal. I love Dosas. No one I know is from South India to help me avoid the pitfalls of writing about dosas, and I really really really want YOU to make dosas because they are incredible and I didn't even know they existed before June of this year. (Goes on the short list of good stuff that happened in 2020). So here it is. Dosas by a white girl who doesn't actually know what she's doing, but is muddling about and trying to figure it out because these are too delicious not to.
But first, resources from people who do know what they are talking about.
1. The article that started it all: https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-make-homestyle-dosas-article. (then click here to read about her hesitation in writing that article and was my first thought venture into who is writing my recipes and why…but this is not an article on that, this is an article on how I make dosas… https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/the-color-of-my-skin-confused-with-the-scope-of-my-talent-article)
Then I saw this video and it cleared up some of the details that I didn’t get from the article above and copious amounts of google research: https://www.bonappetit.com/video/watch/it-s-alive-with-brad-brad-and-sohla-make-dosas
Based on all this, I now have a *thousand words on how to make what is actually the simplest thing in the world.
*For those of you that really can't stand all the words, scroll down to the bottom for the barebones version.
Making and fermenting the batter:
- As long as you are using a long grain rice, it doesn’t matter which rice you use. Sure, you could use special dosa rice, or substitute some parboiled rice…but in all my research of how simple or complicated you can make your dosas, I chose simple. So take some rice. Probably basmati or jasmine. Now, grab the lentils. Black lentils (urad dhal) seem to be “best” but I can’t get those for money or a prayer at my local, so instead I use the ones that come in a 1 pound bag, that are helpfully labeled “Lentils” that I suspect are green lentils (french). They aren't at all like urad dhal...but after spending a week in internet rabbit holes learning about lentils and dosas, I learned that my ubiquitous green lentils should work, and they do!
- There’s a wide variety of lentil to rice ratios you can use. More rice will make them crispier, more lentils will make them softer. Anything from a 1:3 to 1:12 ratio will work. I use a 1:3-1:4 ratio of lentils to rice. I normally don’t measure, just eye ball it, but seeing how it’s your first time, go ahead of grab some measuring cups. 1 cup of rice, 1/4 heaping cup of lentils. Put into separate containers and cover with water. Put more water in the lentils than you think you need.
- Let the 2 containers sit for a couple of hours. Ideally I like to start soaking in the early afternoon.
- Now it’s time to blend the rice and lentils to a smooth creamy texture. Without over heating the mixture. This is tricky because if you are like me, you have to do this in a blender. Not even a very good blender. If you have some sort of fancy vita-mix or grinder thingy, then you dump your drained rice, drained lentils, and some of the lentil juice altogether and puree away. If you are cheap like me, blend your rice first with as much of the lentil juice as needed. You want it as smooth as possible, but you don’t want to heat it up. When I rub it between my fingers, it’s a little gritty, but smooth. Dump that out. Blend the lentils together. You usually need less water to get the lentils smooth. Dump that into your rice mixture. Add enough lentil soaking water to get a consistency the same as thin-ish pancake batter.
- I never have fenugreek seeds. If you do, shake them in. Otherwise sprinkle in some baking soda to raise the pH a bit. How much? beats me. Perhaps a teaspoon. Add a generous pinch of salt, and let the batter sit. This is the fermentation step. It may or may not double in bulk, you will see bubbles, and it will smell fermented. I usually let this step go over night. I live where it’s hotter than hades so I try not to expose my fermentation products to the horrors of my daytime summer temps.
- In the morning I give my dosa batter a stir. It’s ready to use! Or pop a lid on your container and store in the fridge 7-10 days. It’s such a special treat to be able to make a dosa on a whim for breakfast or as a side for dinner. They don’t keep well, so I tend to make what I want and save the rest in the fridge.
To make a dosa:
- Cast iron. Don’t use nonstick unless you truly don’t have a choice. You need the batter to stick to the bottom of the skillet in the first moments in order to spread it properly. Heat it up to a med-high, melt some ghee (or butter or olive oil….but serioulsy, just buy some ghee if you aren’t avoiding dairy. It keeps for a year, it stays in your fridge. It’s worth it) in the skillet. Remember, cast iron gets hot and stays hot, so as you go along you probably need to turn the heat down to medium-ish.
- Take a flat bottom metal 1/3 cup measuring cup (yes, I suppose you could use something else, but I promise this is perfection and you should just do it) and scoop 1/3 cup of the mixture. Pour into the center of your hot skillet with ghee. Using the bottom of the cup swirl the batter outward. It should be thin and lacy on some circles and a bit thicker in others. put some more ghee on top, spoon hot ghee from the side of the pan over the up side.
- It’s done with the dosas is golden brown on the bottom and cooked through. You can leave it longer than you think! I like mine thin enough that I don’t flip to cook on the second side. It will be incredibly crispy, but also flexible enough to roll.
- Eat either by itself, or fill with something.
Bare-bones, less-fun version:
Baking soda or fenugreek seed
Ghee, butter, or olive oil
1/3 cup flat bottom metal measuring cup
Git 'er done: Take 1 cup of rice, 1/3ish cup of lentils and soak separately. Then grind them as smooth as you can, using water from the lentil soak to make into pancake like consistency. Let ferment overnight with some baking soda and a pinch of salt. Then cook them in a skillet. Then throw it away because it didn't turn out at all, go back and read a thousand words on how to make a dosa because this is one food that's more than its ingredient list :).