Friday, May 13, 2011

Dosas (Indian Rice and Lentil Pancakes)

Dosas, as per the title of this post, are an Indian flatbread made of rice and lentil batter, which is left to ferment overnight before cooking.  I've been looking forward to making this recipe for quite some time, since dosas originated in the southern states of India, where my fiance's father's family comes from.  I found skinned split lentils (called urad dal) at my favorite Indian grocer in the East Village, and could finally experiment.  Regular lentils will not substitute in this recipe, so do make sure to track down urad dal.  Be aware that this isn't a dish you can make last minute; you must start the recipe about 24 hours before you intend to serve it. 

  • 7 and 1/4 cups bottled water, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup urad dal
  • 1 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1. Combine 6 cups of the bottled water with the rice and urad dal in a large bowl.  Cover and let stand for 8 hours.  Although normally I advocate using tap water, bottled water is essential for this recipe.  It ensures that the lentils will soften as they stand, since the hard minerals in some tap water can prevent them from doing so.  

2. Drain and rinse the rice mixture.  Place the rice mixture in a food processor, along with an additional 1 and 1/4 cups bottled water and the sugar; process for about 1 minute, until smooth.

3. Spoon the batter into a clean bowl; cover and let stand some place warm and free from drafts for at least 12 hours, and up to overnight - a closed, unheated oven is a great place to let the batter sit.  Stir in the salt at the end. 

4. Heat 1/2 teaspoon canola oil in a medium cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Spoon 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan.  Flip the pancake after about 1 minute - the top should be covered with bubbles and the edges should look cooked - and cook for an additional minute on the other side.  Remove the pancake from the skillet, and repeat with the remaining oil and batter (you'll have enough for 8 pancakes). 

You can serve these pancakes with any Indian entree, or bottled Indian pickle or chutney.  Tonight, I went with the store-bought vegetable korma from Amy's brand of frozen foods.  The dosas work wonderfully as a wrap around the filling of your choice. 

Note: I have a few tips that weren't included in the recipe instructions, which I learned by trial and error making these pancakes.  First, it's useful to spread the canola oil with a paper towel so that it covers the entire surface over which you will pour the pancake batter.  Not doing so causes the batter to stick or burn.  Secondly, don't let the heat go past medium; again, doing so will mean burnt pancakes.  Finally, having made the recipe according to directions, I was a little surprised to realize that this recipe is really for uttapam, and not dosa - although made of the same batter, uttapam are thick like a pancake, whereas dosa should be thin like a crepe.  If you want to cook the batter thin like true dosas, you might check out this website.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 pancake), Calories 197

Tasting Notes:
On their own, the dosa taste like a thick, soft rice cake - a little salty, but a little bland, so nothing too special.  But as a vehicle on which to scoop up an Indian entree, or to serve with a yummy chutney, they quickly transform from mediocre to delicious.  I kept the rating below for just the dosa, but that rating quickly climbs higher the instant the dosa has a topping or stuffing.  Tomorrow night, to follow up on the idea, I intend to give you a chutney recipe to serve alongside these pancakes. 

Update: as promised, here's a photo of the chutney and dosa together - a great combination.  See post for Fig and Pistachio Chutney for full details.. 


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