Monday, January 3, 2011

3rd Annual Christmas Extravaganza: South Indian Dosa to Scoop Up Your Pork Vindaloo or Saag

Dosa is the easiest wrap to make ever. I don't know why more people don't eat it. It's a little coarse from the ground lentils, a little tangy, and deliciously sponge-like. Lots of people buy tortillas at the grocery store that come with so many preservatives and things you wouldn't really want to put in yourself if you looked at the ingredients list. Then other people buy things like tortilla presses, or even crepe pans and combine either hard to find ingredients or just lots of ingredients. Most people with wheat sensitivities just stick to sad, sad rice cakes.Traditionally dosa are eaten in Southern India with breakfast and lunch, but I keep having it for dinner. Kind of like having cereal for dinner, but less refined sugar and a lot more protein. It's just lentils and rice after all.

Dosa has 3 essential ingredients. Sure, it won't be as sweet as a crepe (though you could add sugar, I suppose), but it's about the most natural gluten-free wrap you'll ever make. Now "raw" food dehydrating, no kneading, no pressing, and it's as easy and fun as making pancakes. You can make the big elaborate cone-shapes one like you get in restaurants but actually making them pancake-sized helps them cooperate and be less brittle and fussy.
3 cups basmati rice
1 cup urad dal ("black gram", but the black skin is removed, leaving you with something that looks like a very small split pea. It's easily confused with other kinds of dal such as moong dal, so make sure you ask)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fenugreek (optional)

Soak the rice and dal in separate bowls for at least 6 hours on the counter. Add 1/2 tsp fenugreek (optional) to each bowl. The rice and dal should be covered by at least 1 inch of water.

Drain the water, rinse the rice and dal thoroughly, and place them in a blender or food processor along with 1/2 cup water. Add more water if you need to so you end up with a thin batter somewhere around a thin pancake batter or thick crepe better. I think too thick is worse than too thin, but there'll be lots of opportunity to add more water later, so for now err on the side of too thick. If the batter won't blend because it's too thick, don't be scared to add more water.

Pour the batter into a bowl and add the tsp of salt. Now cover the batter and leave it to ferment at room temperature for 12 hours. After that you can put it in the fridge if you don't use it right away. I haven't noticed any problem with keeping it a few extra days in the fridge. It doesn't go bad that quickly. I also figure that in India it would go bad more quickly, but this seems like the kind of batter you just leave lying around fermenting and it's okay for a good while.

Heat a skillet or electric frying pan like you would for pancakes and add a tiny bit of oil to the pan. In my last dosa recipe I used a much more complicated system of wiping down the pan with water and all but I don't think it's necessary. Instead, just pour out the batter a tablespoon at a time and then use the back of a spoon or ladle to swirl the batter outward in a circular motion rom the middle of the circle of batter to the edges. If holes appear that's fine. You can try to fill them in with drops of batter but the fine, embroidered look of the hole-y crepes is beautiful.

Cook for about 5 minutes or until you can get a spatula under the dosa to flip it. The edges should be slightly browned. The bottom should be a light brown. Cook a few more minutes. Done. You can do a few dosa at a time if you make them small enough and your frying pan is big enough. Normally you'd do big dosas for each person but the small one is more like giving soft-shelled tacos to your diners instead of a big burrito shell. that way you can also put different fillings in each one. Especially for the Christmas Extravaganza, it made sense to do smaller ones, so no one took a whole meal's worth of pork vindaloo or saag. I think I probably took a meal's worth of saag...but it is my heaven, after all.