We are all elated, but South India is proud and pleasantly surprised that it's not butter chicken or paneer tikka but their humble masala dosa that has made it to the New York-based online daily, Huffington Post's list of top 10 dishes from across the globe that one must try before dying.
“There’s just one Indian dish in the list and that’s our masala dosa! Incredible!” gushes executive chef Praveen Anand of Sheraton Park Hotels and Towers, Chennai. “It's not just Westerners, I often find even the Chinese and the Japanese hooked to it. Guess it's the simplicity that attracts them,” he adds.
A slice of history
Dosa or dosai is the staple food of the four south Indian states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Though adai, a similar crepe made of urad dal, channa and moong dal, was popular in the early 18th and 19th century, the modern version of dosa rose to prominence in the early 20th century.
“It is said to have originated in the town of Udipi near Mangalore, which is famous for its vegetarian food — the origin of which is linked to the Krishna Mutt temple, where different dishes were cooked using local ingredients, and offered to Lord Krishna,” says chef Alok Anand of Taj Coromandel, Chennai.
Spoilt for choice
Today, there are over a hundred varieties of dosa available in India — right from the regular plain, masala or rava dosas to ragi and multi-grain dosas. “The taste of each dosa varies depending on the ingredients used and the proportion of spices used,” says chef Praveen, who’s also the brand ambassador of Dakshin.
“You can even create variations with the same batter like the onion dosa, family roast, paper dosa or with different batters such as in neer dosa, jaggery dosa, Kerala dosa, wheat dosa, uppu puli dosa, muttai (egg) dosa etc. The simple masala dosa also has a whole lot of variations — instead of the regular spiced potato filling, one can go for spicy paneer, chicken, mixed vegetables, cheese, and many more,” adds Alok.
Authentic dosa recipes from Chennai
Soft spongy dosas that taste a tad sweet
15 overripe bananas (mashed), 50gm curd, 100gm cashewnut (broken), 30gm ginger (chopped), 1tsp baking powder, 50gm milk, 300gm sugar, 250gm maida, ghee for greasing
Put all the ingredients together in a handi or shallow bowl, and mix well to form a thick but smooth batter. Drop a small ladle full of this batter on to a non-stick pan and using ghee, cook on both sides till the surface turns golden. Serve hot with kootu.
Alok Anand, Taj Coromandel, Chennai '
1 cup rice, salt to taste, ghee for greasing
Soak the rice in water for about two hours. Drain, wash and grind to make a fine thin batter. Add salt. Heat a non-stick pan, sprinkle little water, and wipe with a slice of potato or onion. Grease the pan with a little ghee and pour a ladleful of batter on it from a height. Do not try to spread the batter with the ladle. Let holes form. Cook on one side only and do not let it brown. Fold it in half twice to form a quarter circle. Serve hot with pachadi.
Dosa hotspots in town
P15/9, Connaught Circus, Connaught Place, and 46, Janpath
Though located in the bustling Connaught Place, the moment you enter this place, it gives you the Chennai feel. From the staff to the food, everything is authentic South Indian. A total of 18 varieties of dosas are available here. The must-tries are the ghee roast dosas and the rava dosas.
Rs 70 onwards.
The Taj Mahal Hotel, 1, Mansingh Road
On the menu you'll find Masala dosa and Plain dosa but on request the chef will happily toss up a rava, Mysore, multi-grain, egg, onion, ghee or a chicken tikka dosa. You can in fact request for any filling of your choice.
Rs 625 onwards.
The Courtyard by Marriott, 27, B Block, Sushant Lok, Gurgaon
Though this place is popular for its European cuisine, the dosas are surprisingly delicious. Don't miss the paneer dosa that comes with a tangy tomato chutney apart from the regular coconut chutney.
Rs 350 onwards.
1, Ashoka Road, Connaught Place
Though this place is more popular for its meals, the crispy dosas served with unlimited sambar, during breakfast from 7:30am till 10:30am, could be a great way to start your day with. You could also try the MLA Pesarattu, a type of soft dosa made with batter of green gram, served with a spicy pachaddi, a type of Andhra pickle.
Rs 30 (inclusive of 1 idly, 1 vada and coffee/tea)
Ground Floor, India Mall, New Friends Colony
This humble outlet serves 24 varieties of dosas right from plain to paper, ghee, rava, ragi, podi and set dosas. Most people however come here for the Malleswaram 18th cross dosa that's delicious, addictive and instantly transports one to the locales of numma Bengaluru.
Rs 75 onwards
Munirka market and ITO
Popular street-style dosas easy on the pocket and popular with students and office-goers.
Price: Rs 30 onwards.
The world's longest dosa
Twenty chefs led by chef Damoranan aka Dhamu, a 61 feet dosa pan, 1500kg batter and hundreds of spectators - all this for the world's longest dosa that was made in Madurai in February this year. The result was a 48.25 feet dosa, which found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Now that sounds like a BIG treat, no?
It's healthy too
Packed with carbohydrates, sugar-free and low on fat, dosa is one of the most healthy food options. While the lentils add protein, the fermentation process increases the vitamin B and C content.
While Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh use more rice for their dosas, in Karnataka, the lentil proportion in the batter is more. Mysore dosas are generously greased with ghee, while Kerala dosas are mostly tossed in coconut oil. Shallots are a common ingredient in the Chennai sambar, while a spicy tangy pappu (dal in Telugu) is more popular in Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka prefers a bland sambar and Kerala loves their dosa with avial.
Actor Akshay Kumar loved gorging on masala dosas when he was shooting for Rowdy Rathore in Mysore with director Prabhu Deva. “A happy North Indian enjoying South Indian breakfast, a real Mysore Masala Dosa…,” Akshay tweeted from the sets.
Actor Kalki Koechlin, who recently did an ad campaign for PETA posing with her adopted cat, has named the feline, Dosa.
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