Your Ultimate Dosa Reference

Cone Dosa WM

Jump to “Your Ultimate Dosa Reference” straight if you’d want to skip reading my story.

It was a nice and memorable evening of the first day of my hostel life  This beautiful town Tirunelveli of southern India that I had to call my home for the next four years was a few hundreds of miles away from my family. After taking care of all possible arrangements to make my stay comfortable there, my parents bid adieu. There were a few other girls that also had arrived the same evening from different parts of the state. The sun was starting to set  and the parents were all leaving one after the other. There was a profuse exchange of smiles, tears and hugs for some time and the drama ended finally.

We started to slowly interact with each other. Some were too shy to even to say out their names while some others had started to crack jokes already. Some were pretty neutral and poker faced that it was really hard to even frame any kind of an initial opinion about them. It was for sure a mixed bunch of interesting and beautiful girls. I did not think for a wee bit at that moment that I’d be enjoying an everlasting friendship with almost all of them.  After exchanging niceties and getting to know a little bit about each other, we broke for dinner.

Rolled dosa with chutneys WM

Food was served in a place called ‘mess’, a block away from where our rooms were. We walked along the long corridor lined with small courtyards on either side that led us to the dining area. It was a very simple and unadorned place that would accommodate a little over one hundred students. There were huge windows on every wall letting inside gentle and comforting breeze. A big cold water dispenser (called a ‘cooler’) was kept  in one corner.  Pairs of long concrete benches (tall and short)  with black stone (kadappa kal) surfaces were our dining tables and chairs. Every aspect of that dining hall  signaled quite strongly that it was a government run organization.

We were looking for a spot for our little group to sit while several pairs of eyes were staring at us. From their body language and gestures it was not hard to figure out that they were our seniors. Back then, the seniors were known to give the freshmen a real tough time before they got settled. As we were trying to pacify and drive away the butterflies in our stomach,  a young lady swung by carrying crispy masala dosas. Everyone called her Lakshmi ‘akka’. Akka is the tamil word for older sister. Who’d cared about the seniors or the butterflies anymore? The attention of all our senses were directed towards those beautifully rolled thin and crispy sheets of gold. We had to gaze and gawk at those heavenly rolls with heavy drool for a while before we got ours served.

Dosa with Steam WM

When Dosas are served fresh, it takes time for you to get your turn but it is  absolutely worth the wait. Finally, there came my turn. As Lakshmi akka was about to serve one on my plate, I asked her if it was made with ghee (brown butter). She raised her eyebrows, gave me a very strange look and asked ‘What? Can you say it again?’. I repeated it with a louder voice “Is the Dosa made with ghee?”. She and all the seniors that sat around our table burst into laughter. One of them looked at me and said with loaded sarcasm “Your highness, this is not your home, this is a government run mess”. I gave them a sheepish smile, bent down and did not dare to look anywhere beyond my plate. My senses had become dead and numb until the dosa, potato masala and the coconut chutney started their party between my palettes. Ah! What an unforgettable evening it was !!

Dosas in tray WM

Your Ultimate Dosa Reference

Dosa is a  savory crepe/pancake of South Indian origin made with  fermented batter. It is typically considered as a breakfast food, however Indians can have it at any time of the day. Dosa figures in our menu at least thrice a week, if not more. Making a big batch of dosa batter every weekend is a very common practice in every South Indian family.

I’ve provided guidelines, tips and tricks for the following topics/steps. Feel free to chose or skip a topic based on your need/interest.

1. How to make dosa batter?

2. What is the right consistency for the batter?
3. How to ferment the batter?
4. What pans/griddles make the best dosa? How to season your pans?
5. How to make crispy and golden dosa?
6. What are some variants/varieties of dosa?
7. What are the some good condiments for dosa?

1. How to make dosa batter?

The multipurpose batter makes my life much easier. You get spongy soft idlies with the fresh batter, crispy golden dosas when the batter is 2-3 days old and soft and fluffy uthappams when the batter gets even older. You can make paniyarams also with this batter at any time. This is such a life saver for me.

If you fancy crispy dosa only and don’t care about Idli or uthappams much, skip over to the next recipe.

Multipurpose Batter for Idli, Dosa and Uthappam

Ingredients

4 cups idli/parboiled rice
1 cup whole urad dhal (skinned)
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds
salt

Preparation

Add the fenugreek seeds dhal (or rice). Rinse the rice and dhal well separately until the water runs clear.  Soak them in water separately for a minimum for 4 hours.  Grind them individually until you get a nice and smooth batter.  I always use a wet-grinder to make my batter. If you are planning on making idlies with your batter, you’ve got to use wet grinder.

Add salt and mix both the batters well together. Transfer the batter to a large container and let it sit undisturbed in a warm place for 8-10 hours. The batter rises on fermentation and becomes almost double in volume. Make sure to use a container that is large to hold the batter when it rises.

You may also want to check Uma Raghuraman@MasterChefMom’s Idli Dosa batter recipe and her tips to make crispy dosas. Her’s is a multipurpose batter as well like mine.

Easy batter for crispy and golden dosa

I stumbled upon this recipe from Kannamma Cooks recently and have fallen in total love with it. This has become my go to recipe if I want to make just dosas. It is a breeze to make this batter and you get unbelievably golden and crispy dosas. I’ve used my own words to write the recipe. Please check  here if you’d to read the original recipe. She has shared an awesome video also with it.

Ingredients

1 cup idli/parboiled rice
1 cup raw rice (ponni, sona masoori or any short grain rice)
½ cup urad dhal
2 tablespoons toor dhal
¼ cup aval / poha (thick or thin)
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1½ teaspoon salt

Preparation

Combine all ingredients (except salt) in a wide bowl and rinse well until water runs clear (2-3 times). Let them soak in water for at least 4 hours. Transfer to a mixer/grinder and grind until you get a nice and smooth batter. Add salt, mix well and leave it undisturbed in a warm place for 8-10 hours to ferment.

2. What is the right consistency for the batter?

Add water as needed while grinding the batter. It should neither be too thick nor runny. The consistency quite similar to pancake/waffle batter works well. It is usually a good idea to make the batter slightly thick. You can always dilute it to the desired consistency by adding just enough water right before making the dosa.

3. How to ferment the batter?

This is a fuss free process for people living in warmer places throughout the year. It becomes really tricky for people like us that get to enjoy the warmth of the sun for four months only in a year.

During the months that are colder (fall, winter and spring), I turn the oven on for a couple of mins to bring it slightly above the room temperature. Then, I leave the batter overnight with the oven lights turned on. The batter ferments and rises well within 8-10 hours under this condition.

In summer, I still use the oven, but with just the lights on as the room temperature will still be in the 70s only. As we turn our central air on through the night, keeping the batter in the oven ensures that it gets the warmth it needs. Preheating the oven may not however be required. If your room temperature is consistently in the upper 80s, you can leave your batter on the counter itself.

4. What pans/griddles make the best dosa? How to season your pans?

It has become very common for people to use nonstick pans to make dosas, but best dosas are always made with iron pans. It takes time to season the iron pans, but once they are ready you can get dosas of such superior quality

Seasoning nonstick pans 

Do you wonder why nonstick pans needs to seasoned? They need to be, as the new pans tend to be too waxy. The batter must slightly adhere to the pan initially to get cooked/roasted and then should come off of it slowly. Newer pans don’t allow the batter to adhere to them at all, making it difficult to get nice golden brown dosas. You may have noticed that the dosas get better as the pans get older. It is because of this same reason.

I use the pans to make chapathis for a few times before I start making dosas on them. This takes care of getting the pan ready to make perfect dosas.

Seasoning iron pans 

It helps to keep the new pan oiled for a few days before starting to use it. I’ve heard of other ways to season iron pans too, but I haven’t been able to get details about them yet. Will come back to update this section once I have it.

Shankari Bhagavathi of ‘The 6 Tastes‘ shares this tip:

“I wash the dosai kal (pan), apply oil over it and keep it covered overnight. When I use it the next morning, the dosai kal works like a non- stick one.”

5. How to make crispy and golden dosa?

  1. Make sure the batter’s consistency is perfect
  2. Use a well seasoned pan
  3. Pour a ladle of batter right in the middle, start from the center and spread it really thin with the back of the ladle without taking much time.
  4. Immediately, pour drops of oil/ghee around the dosa. You can sprinkle a few drops of oil/ghee in the other areas as well where you need it to get crisper.
  5. You need the pan to be maintained at high heat throughout. I use the large burner that allows good heat to reach the entire pan. My burner setting is usually at 7-8 over 9-10 (electric and gas) from start to finish
  6. Allow the batter in contact with the pan to get beautifully browned before your flip the dosa. You wouldn’t need to flip it, if you’ve spread the batter really thin.
  7. Before making every dosa, I wipe the pan with a damp paper towel. This will remove the extra grease from the pan that may prevent the batter from making contact wit the pan. Some use a cut onion head also for this.

Note: Sesame/gingelly oil gives the most authentic flavor for dosas. Of course, the flavor that good quality ghee can give is beyond any comparison.

6. What are some variants/varieties of dosa?

There are umpteen number of types of dosas and the varieties keep growing everyday. People have been creative beyond our imagination and are coming up with amazing dosa varieties. Here are a few interesting varieties that some of my awesome blogger friends have shared with me.

Binjal Pandya @ Binjal’s Veg Kitchen
Masala Dosa

Jyothi Rajesh @ Curry Trail
Aval Dosa(Poha dosa) 
Pesarattu | Moong Dal Dosa
Instant Wheat Dosa | Godhumai Dosa

Priya Shiva @ Priya Kitchenette
Mini Ghee Roast Dosa
Dosa Toast

Sandhya Hariharan @ Sandhya’s Kitchen

 

Shankari Bhagavathi @ The6Tastes

 

Simi Jois @ TurmericnSpice

 

7. What are some good condiments for dosa?
Sambar, Coconut Chutney and Milagaipodi  are the traditional condiments for dosa. The condiments shared below also pair wonderfully with dosa

 

Uthappam WM
Ah! That’s the longest post I’ve ever made. I hope it serves as a useful reference for you. Feel free to ask away your dosa questions here, if you have any. I’ll be much happy to answer them for you. Do you have more tips and tricks to make lovely dosas? Please share them in the comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

23 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks dear for including my masala dosa link! loved your post! really gorgeous clicks ❤

    1. Thanks much. Thanks again for sharing your recipe Binjal.

  2. Vidhya says:

    Awesome post as always…..lovely memories & lovely recipes too!

  3. Raichel Antony says:

    I have never seen dosa so sumptuous before and now I am totally in love with it after reading your post. You have an exemplary writing skills and the photos look great! Maybe someday you should try your hands in writeups or stories 🙂

    1. That’s such a lovely comment. Thanks so much for taking time to read the post as well as leaving a comment. 💕

  4. Priya says:

    Such a beautiful post! Gorgeous clicks of dosa and as you say ultimate guide for does. Loved all the tips shared here. Thank you for including my recipes too ❤

    1. Thanks much for your contribution Priya. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Radha says:

    First of all my apologies for not responding in time as am on a hectic vacation . But hats off on a brilliant post and answers every doubt for the beginner as well as the seasoned chef . Loved all the points raised and answered . Fantastic clicks and don’t think anything left unsaid about the dosa ! Even the expert dosa maker will find useful points here . All the best for your future cackling posts!

    1. Thank you very much Radha mam. I have seen your dosa posts go viral. Please share your links whenever you can and I’ll include them in the post.

  6. Ramya Menon says:

    Lovely post Meera! And so useful. I never manage to spread the batter thin enough. I think imay be pressing the back of the ladle too hard.

    1. Thanks much Ramya. Yeah, don’t press hard and also if you can spread it really quick (before the batter starts to get cooked) you’ll get very thin and crispy dosas.

  7. What a lovely post!! I am a big Dosa and Uttapam fan. Your photographs are quite tempting and makes my mouth slurp. You really love the dark corner of your table, right? 😉

    1. Thanks so much Dolphia ❤️. I’ll make you all kinds of dosa when you visit me. Yes, I love the corner. There is not just one, but a few facing different Windows in my dining room. Love them all . Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment 💕

  8. jyothicurrytrail says:

    The effort you put in compiling this post is commendable Meera. This is ‘the guide’ anyone would need who wants to look for dosa information! Great work and a very useful post for all. thanks for adding my links too

    1. It’s so kind of you to say that Jyo. Thank you. Yes, it was a lot of effort, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Thanks so much for contributing some of your lovely recipes, much appreciate it. ❤️

  9. Seena Koshy says:

    wow, Meera, nice descriptions, clicks and its so tempting too..

    1. Thank you Seena. Appreciate you leaving a comment!

  10. I am pinning up this post… I always enjoy dosas though never made them at home… somehow the thought of making them at home gives me jitters. It is only very recently that I started getting my idli batter right… Thank you so much for lot of details, going to refer to this again and again… 🙂 Meanwhile, loved the anecdote… Yes, dosas are best when done in oodles of ghee… 🙂

    1. Thank you Rafeeda. Making dosas is less trickier than idlis. If you’ve gotten your idlies right, it will be a breeze to make dosas. Good luck and feel free to check with me if you have any questions.

  11. Aslin says:

    Wow . Sooooo good Meera.. I’m able to make a very nice crispy Dosai..

  12. Sowmya says:

    Hi five. I totally loved the story here. Is the Dosa made of ghee? 🤣 Meera! Rofl with tears in my eyes. Story la ye best athu thaan. Naanum nei illatha Dosai saapda maatten and to my surprise hubby and baby girl are the same. Nei illatha oru samayala!? Never.:.. ( Saying it like Gouravam Shivaji Ganesan)

    1. Thank you Sowmya. There was a time when I was thinking about going vegan, but ghee and curd rice kept me away even from the thought totally 😀😀.

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