Dosa with Sambar and Chutney

Dosa with Mixed-Vegetable Kuzhambu and Coconut-Coriander Chutney
Being married to a Tamilian, I learned long ago to love Tamilian food. It was not a hard thing to do, by any means: Tamil Nadu cuisine is chock-full of such palate-pleasing delights as sambars, rasams, dosas and idlis. This South Indian state even gave the world the popular Mulligatawny Soup (milagu tanneer, or “pepper water” in Tamil).Desi, my hubby, has a particular love for the food of his native land. While he enjoys anything I put before him, his eyes do light up just a little bit brighter when the food happens to be something he remembers his mom cooked for him when he was a little boy growing up in Chennai.

I feel a little guilty then that in all these years, I’ve very rarely tried making dosas, something most of us have enjoyed at one time or another at least at an Indian restaurant. Crispy and delicious, they are usually served up with a small bowl of steaming, spicy sambar and another bowl of green chutney.

But making dosas can be intimidating even to an otherwise experienced cook. While making the batter is quite easy–you do have to pay attention to the consistency–it is spreading the dosa into that perfectly thin round on a hot griddle that is the most daunting part. In fact, each of the handful of times I’ve tried in the past, I’ve messed it up.

This week I finally decided I had to take up the challenge of making a dosa at least as close to, if not as good as, the one Desi remembered from his childhood. To my own surprise, all it took was for me to shed my incredible fear of making mistakes while spreading the batter on the hot griddle. Once I did, I found that it was not that difficult, after all, and even some small mistakes in my novice technique did not ruin the end result. The dosas came out crisp and very delicious, and Desi was impressed!

To dunk the dosas, I made a mixed-vegetable sambar and green coconut-cilantro chutney. It was a perfect meal.

Delicious Crispy Dosa!

1 cup rice (I used a regular long-grain rice but you can even try this with parboiled rice, which is the traditional choice, or brown rice).
1/3 cup udad dal (black gram)
2 tbsp chana dal (bengal gram)
1 tbsp fenugreek (methi) seeds

Mix all ingredients and cover with water. Let it soak at least six hours or overnight.

Drain and then grind to a smooth paste in a blender, adding some water if necessary. The batter should be thin enough to spread, but thick enough to coat the back of a ladle. (You can let the batter stand for several hours, if desired, to allow it to ferment slightly, the way it would be done in a regular Tamilian kitchen. I skipped this step because Desi doesn’t like the taste of fermented batter.)

Heat a non-stick or cast-iron griddle. Test to see if it is hot enough by sprinkling a few drops of water on the griddle. The water should sizzle and evaporate immediately.

Spread a thin film of oil on the griddle.

In a round ladle, take about 1/2 cup of the dosa batter. Pour the batter into the center of the griddle. Then, quickly, use the back of the ladle to spread the batter in a circular motion, moving rapidly outward. The dosa has to be very thin in order to be crisp. If you’d like a softer texture, you can make the dosa thicker.

Pour a few drops of oil around the dosa and on top of it. Spread the oil with a spatula.

When the underside turns golden-brown, flip and cook for a few more seconds.

Serve hot with chutney and sambar.

Mixed-Veggie Sambar

2-3 cups of vegetables, chopped into a 1/2-inch dice and cooked in a microwave oven until tender(I used daikon radish, white pumpkin and carrots. Potatoes, eggplant, or any other pumpkin squash would also be delicious in this).

1 cup tuvar dal, cooked until tender.

1 lime-size ball of tamarind, soaked in 1/2 cup of water, or 1 tbsp tamarind extract mixed with 1/2 cup water. If using regular tamarind, once the tamarind has softened, crush with fingers to extract all the juice, then discard the solids.

1 tbsp sambar powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

Fry lightly in 1/2 tsp of oil and grind together:

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds

2 red chillies

1 pinch asafetida or hing

1 tbsp chana dal

For tempering:

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

2 sprigs of curry leaves

1 tsp mustard seeds

In a large saucepan, boil the tamarind water and the ground spices along with the sambar powder and turmeric for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the vegetables and dal and salt to taste.

Let the sambar cook on medium-low heat about 10-15 minutes until the flavors merge together.

Heat the oil for tempering in a small saucepan. Add the mustard and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds sputter, add them to the sambar. You can add about 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes to the oil after the mustard seeds sputter, and cook until they start to break down, before adding it to the sambar.

Coconut-Cilantro Chutney:

1/4 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1 green pepper, such as jalapeno, chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

5-6 curry leaves, cut into thin strips.

Put the coconut milk in a blender along with the green pepper, cilantro and lemon juice and salt to taste.

Process until smooth.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the mustard and curry leaves.

When the mustard seeds sputter, add to the chutney.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    Vaishali – this weekend I finally decided that I didn’t want to pay for store-bought dosa batter anymore – and decided to make my own batter at home! Your recipe was perfect for this and my dosas turned out great…I have my own recipe for sambar but I did try your cocount-cilantro chutney and it turned out great…It was pretty watery right after I made it, but overnight it assumed the perfect texture (because of the coconut milk maybe?)! We had a fabulous breakfast this morning thanks to your recipes! 😀

  2. says

    Charanya, lovely to hear that, and thanks for letting me know. You’re right that the chutney is more runny than those made in Indian homes, because I use coconut milk instead of freshly grated coconut–the only grated coconut I get here comes out of a box and is rather dry. For a thicker consistency, you might try adding 1/4 cup of grated coconut to the chutney. :)

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