Lessons From the Grid­dle

A South In­dian cook im­parts her se­crets to per­fectly re-cre­at­ing the re­gion’s sig­na­ture potato dosa at home


it’s never surprised me that, in In­dia, there are restau­rants ded­i­cated to dosas. One of the coun­try’s most fla­vor­ful, sus­tain­ing, and com­fort­ing foods, th­ese thin, some­times mas­sive crêpes made from a fer­mented bat­ter of ground rice and dal (dried, split beans) are typ­i­cally filled with spiced veg­eta­bles and served with re­fresh­ing chut­neys. Though they orig­i­nated in South In­dia as a break­fast food, dosas have be­come so pop­u­lar that they’re served at all times of day through­out the coun­try.

Un­like French crêpes or Amer­i­can pan­cakes, which are cakey through­out, the ideal dosa is crisp and golden on the out­side, with a slightly spongy in­te­rior. The best ones glis­ten with­out be­ing greasy, and, by way of a wellfer­mented bat­ter, have all the fla­vor of an ex­cep­tion­ally funky sour­dough. Grow­ing up in Dal­las, when I craved a dosa that checked all the boxes, I’d pay a visit to Guna Raj, a close friend of my mother’s—whom I af­fec­tion­ately re­fer to as Guna Aunty. She learned to make dosa grow­ing up in Kar­nataka. Guna taught me her se­crets, and though as­sem­bling them just like she does has taken a lit­tle prac­tice, they have be­come a reg­u­lar sta­ple in my kitchen.

“Dosa is re­ally just a ve­hi­cle for eat­ing chut­ney and pota­toes,” Guna Raj says, re­as­sur­ing that the crêpe­mak­ing part need not be in­tim­i­dat­ing. You can fill and roll dosas into airy cylin­ders, or for ease, fold the cooked wrap­pers in thirds like a let­ter and serve the fill­ings on the side. One of the most widely loved ver­sions in In­dia is the masala dosa, which fea­tures a fluffy, turmeric-tinged potato

sabzi (fill­ing) and fiery gun­pow­der chile paste. At Guna Raj’s house and else­where, it is al­most al­ways served with a side of lightly sweet, bright co­conut chut­ney. The whole thing is a meal so match­less, it’s worth keep­ing your grid­dle at the ready.

1. Shred­ded unsweet­ened co­conut: The star of dosa’s most pop­u­lar com­pan­ion, co­conut chut­ney. The sweet­ness and spice are a per­fect part­ner for dosa’s sour­ness.2. Turmeric: Adds color and earthy fla­vor to fill­ings.3. Urad dal: The nat­u­ral yeasts present in this In­dian lentil, also called black gram, kick-start fer­men­ta­tion, which is key to the dosa’s spongy in­te­rior and sour fla­vor.4. Chana dal: This nutty-tast­ing dal adds crunch to fluffy potato sabzi. 5. Gun­pow­der chilepaste: Smear this onto a dosa be­fore lay­er­ing on top­pings.6. Rice: Soaked and ground, it helps pro­duce the crisp,lacy dosa tex­ture. Rice-to-lentil ra­tios vary among cooks, but Raj opts for 3-to-1. 7. Roasted chanadal: Roast­ing gives dal a puffed tex­ture, eas­ier to pound into chut­ney. 8. Black mus­tardseeds: Raj rec­om­mends black over yel­low or brown mus­tard seeds for the strong­est fla­vor and a pop of tex­ture in the fill­ings. 8 6 7

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