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The dosa dilemma

It may have got a global honour, but the birthplace of the delicacy remains a mystery. Santosh Kumar writes.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2012 21:08 IST

A simple pancake made out of rice and lentil batter fried on a skillet with masala-coated mashed potatoes as a filling has been hoisted on to the world cuisine map with a flourish. According to the seven-year-old Huffington Post, which won its first Pulitzer this year, masala dosa, the breakfast staple from the south of India, is among the 10 foods that must be tried before you say goodbye to the universe. And the humble masala dosa rubs shoulders with the Peking duck, France's Escargot, the Greek Moussaka, Italian Zucchini flowers and the traditional American BBQ ribs as well as Asian cousins Japanese Teppanyaki and Malaysian seafood curry Lakse.

The Huffington Post's criteria for picking the 10 varieties of food remains a mystery, but it is an honour indeed for the 'delicacy' that has continued to adorn the rickety tables of the iconic Maveli Tiffin Rooms in Bangalore and scores of Madras Tiffins, Shree Ayyapa hotels or Sri Venkatesa cafes across south India for decades.

Though the etymology of the masala dosa and its birthplace remain a crucial field of study in the light of this significant honour, food expert Priya Girish, who has researched 155 varieties of dosas, has this to say: "The dosa has been able to adapt to changing cultures. It can be made on a non-stick pan with no oil or with oil sprays so that it becomes crispy and not soaked in oil. It can be had for breakfast, lunch or dinner with its many side dishes, or just as a snack."

Strangely, none of the four sisters in the south has staked claim to the masala dosa so far. It is also not clear if the Huffington Post's choice will succeed in solving the Mullaperiyar issue between Kerala and Tamil Nadu or the Cauvery tangle between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Perhaps the MD, as it is affectionately known by its legion of fans, can be a brand ambassador for Telanganites and a propagandist for the much run down Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

But one thing is clear: the honour for the masala dosa has rekindled the North-South divide. Though northerners also relish the dosa, grumblings are being heard about kebabs and butter chicken missing the cut. However, the MD has certainly had its day out in the sun.

But here's a small request. Next time the Huffington Post blogger goes about his business, he should please consider puttu kadala from Kerala, adai from Tamil Nadu, bisi bele bhath from Karnataka and pesarattu from Andhra Pradesh. That will herald a healthy working relationship among the four southern states.

And what about the tangy accompaniment for the MD; can one really eat it without the spicy chutney? Incidentally, where does chutney come from?

Santosh Kumar is a senior journalist

The views expressed by the author are personal