Dosa by dino
Notes from Dino
There are a couple of things that I don’t document in this process, because they vary so wildly.
- I’m not showing the grinding process, because you need to use your blender to its ability. I have a Vitamix, so how I do things will necessarily be different from how you do things. Suffice it to say that you need a blender with a reasonably powerful motor. Not a food processor. Not a handheld stick blender. A blender, with a jar, and a lid. If you have a heavy duty blender with a tamper, you can get away with a lot more product than if you have a standard department store blender.
- I didn’t show you the adding of water to the final batter. The reason is that each batter will behave differently, depending on your humidity that day, or how well your ground product hydrates with your water. You want the consistency of the final batter to be like a thin crepe batter.
- The reason you can’t have the batter too thick is because then it won’t spread nicely and create a crispy exterior.
- You can’t have the batter too thin either, because then the bubbles won’t stay suspended, and you’ll end up with a mess.
- The actual spreading of the batter onto your skillet isn’t illustrated here, because I only have one hand with which to film, and this is really an operation that you’ll need some level of dexterity and concentration to pull off. This’ll be something you’ll want to google online, and look at.
This is one of the few recipes where I actually measure things. You can use any combination of rices that you have. This was what I had in my pantry, so this is what I used. If you can’t find idli rice, any short or medium grain rice that’s been parboiled will do the job. If you can’t find that either, use regular long grain rice, and it’ll work fine. My mom did that, and her dosas always came out well. Ideally, you want a 50/50 ratio of parboiled to raw rice, and the ideal scenario is idli rice and ponni rice. If you use brown rice, the ratios are the same, but the soaking process will be different. Use lukewarm water for soaking, not cold water.
- 2½ cups idli rice (or other parboiled rice)
- 2½ cups sushi rice (or other white rice)
- 1 cup urad daal (note: this is either the split hulled urad daal, or the whole hulled urad daal (called “urad gota”); do not use the type with the skin on, because it’ll be a whole different process)
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- Water, for soaking and thinning the batter
- ½ onion (NOT for cooking with)
- Vegetable oil
Rinse the idli rice and sushi rice thoroughly in water. You want to ensure that there is no cloudiness when you go to soak the rice in filtered water.
I used filtered water for soaking (not rinsing) because my locality has a very high chlorine content in the water, and chlorine can interfere with the fermentation of the batter. In India, we’d be using boiled water to soak the rice, so if you don’t have a water filter, boil as much water as you need for soaking, bring it down to room temperature, and then soak it. Once the rice and the water are both situated, add the fenugreek seeds.
You want the water to be room temperature at the highest, or cold from the fridge. Why? Because the grains of rice should rehydrate slowly. You can use warm water if you’re soaking brown rice, but not hot water. Why? You want any wild yeasts that are in the air to survive, not die. Depending on the ambient temperature of your home, this can take anywhere between 3 and 8 hours. What you’re looking for is for each grain to go from translucent to fully opaque, and for the grain to break easily between your fingers when you try to break it.
If you’re using urad gota, you need about an hour to an hour and a half. Much like the rice, you want the urad daal to go from hard to hydrated. It should be easy to break with your fingers as well.
You want to rinse the urad daal well, but you don’t have to be as thorough as you are with the rice. Why? Because you’ll be discarding the soaking liquid. Once the rice and urad daal are soaked, it’s time to grind the batter.
Strain the urad daal in a strainer to get rid of any soaking liquid. Give it a quick rinse to take off any residual soaking liquid. Use the soaking liquid from the rice to help grind the urad daal down to a paste. Add water as needed. When will you need it? When your blender starts to struggle with the urad daal in there.
You want to grind it down to a paste with as little water as you can get away with. Why? If you add too much liquid, the friction is reduced too much, and you’ll take a longer time to get the daal ground down to as finely as you need it to be ground. Same goes for the rice.
Once the urad daal is ground down, remove it from the blender into a large bowl. Don’t rinse the jar. You’re going to grind the rice now, and you don’t want to waste any urad daal. Add the rice in small batches to the jar of your blender, and add water until the rice gets ground down. Again, you want to use the least amount of water possible. As the rice grinds down to a batter, add each batch to the waiting urad daal.
When you’re done grinding, rinse out the jar with a little bit of water (no more than a cup), and run the blender to get the batter stuck on the blades of the blender and the bottom of the jar suspended in the water. Swish out the jar to catch any leftover batter, and add it to the rest of the batter. Stir the batter together until it’s a homogenous batter, with no streaks of urad daal. Now, you will let the batter set, lightly covered, for as long as the fermentation takes.
Depending on the ambient temperature of your home, this final fermentation step can take anywhere between 3 hours and 12 hours. I keep my apartment relatively cold with the a/c, so in my place, it took about 8~ish hours to ferment. What you’re looking for is for the batter to have lots of little bubbles in it. You will notice it puff up a bit, but not so much that it increases in size significantly. Why? If it gets noticeably bigger, to the point where it tries to escape the container you’ve kept it in, you’ve likely gone too far. At this point, the batter should be relatively thick, like a waffle batter.
The Importance of an Onion
When you have bubbles and fermentation is done, heat up a 9 - 12” skillet over medium heat. You can use a griddle (electric or cast iron over your stove) for this, but I never have. Here is the one thing I will insist on: you cannot skip the dosa pan onion, period. Take an onion, and cut it in half cross-wise so that you have the stem attached to one side and the root to the other. Take whichever end is smaller (I use the other half for regular cooking), and stick a fork into it to make a sort of handle for yourself. When the pan is at heat (as in, it’s evenly heated) add a few drops of oil to your skillet, and use the onion to spread the oil around the pan in a very thin, even layer.
For one thing, you should not have too much fat down on the pan. You need the dosa batter to adhere to the pan initially, so that you can spread it out thinly enough. However, you can’t have a bone dry pan with no fat on it, because you need the dosa to release when it’s done cooking on that side. A paper towel could work, but it’s not the same as an onion. I said onion, and I mean onion. One more benefit is this: if the onion doesn’t sizzle, then you know your pan isn’t heated up enough. If the onion gets burned, you know the skillet is too hot. Neither scenario is ideal. You want the onion to sizzle ever so slightly, and the oil to spread in an even layer without smoking very much. The onion thing also prevents that wasteful meme about “The first one is garbage”. No. No it isn’t, not if you are experienced. If you screw up the first one, your dead ancestors will collectively smack you upside the back of your head for wasting food.
You can, if you want insurance, do the onion spreading in between each dosa, and I will certainly do so if I’m on a cast iron skillet or something where it doesn’t have a reliable nonstick coating. Yes, I do use nonstick, as do most of my family when they’re making dosa. It means you can get away with way less oil than traditional dosa pans, and your dosa will still release. It doesn’t mean you don’t add any oil.
Cook a Dosa
When you’re ready to make dosa, take out a couple of cups of batter from the big bowl, and put it into a smaller bowl. To this bowl, and only this bowl, add just enough water, so that the dosa batter goes from waffle batter to a thin crepe batter.
Pour in about ⅓ cup of batter (for a 12” skillet) and use the back of your ladle to spread the batter around in concentric circles, until it is as thin as you’d like it. I didn’t want my dosa to be paper thin, so I kept a combination of hills and valleys, so to speak. As soon as the dosa is spread out, you should see countless little bubbles breaking the surface.
You’ll notice that when I put this batter down, I accidentally tore a piece. This happens, and you’re fine. Just patch it with some fresh batter, and keep going. If you zoom in on this dosa, you’ll also notice these subtle cracks that are developing on the surface. This is because at this point, the batter was too thick. This is also what caused that tear when I was spreading the batter around. Let’s thin out the batter, and try again.
Immediately add oil to the edges and top of the dosa where there’s deep valleys. Why? Because the oil around the edges helps the dosa to release on the edges, and the oil in the “valleys” helps release the middle bits. You want just a few drops of oil scattered over the dosa.
Anyway. Once the batter goes from bright white and opaque to translucent, you’re ready to flip.You’ll also see the valleys get a darker brown.
Let it cook on the second side, flipping back and forth until it’s browned to your liking. Serve immediately, as dosa is best when it’s piping hot off the skillet.