Monday, January 18, 2010

Crispy Dosa

The perfect antidote to dreary foggy winter days? A classic South Indian brunch of dosa slathered with potato masala and dunked into eggplant sambar.

I had my eye on Shilpa's butter dosa recipe for some time. The story of the crowded restaurant that served these dosas was so vivid, and the batter is very interesting in the way it uses wheat flour and rice flour in addition to rice and urad dal.

I made the batter exactly in the proportions described in the recipe (using sona masuri rice instead of dosa rice), and now my biggest mixing bowl is taking up half my fridge and holding enough dosa batter for the next 10 breakfasts! Not that I am complaining, but for a small family, the recipe could be easily halved. Placed in a warm oven overnight, the batter rose beautifully.

Here's how I make my potato masala. Have you noticed how vegetables taste different based on how you cut them? I like using thickly sliced onions in my potato masala, and lots of them, for a high onion:potato ratio.

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil and temper it with
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. chana dal
1 tsp. urad dal
pinch of asafoetida
1 sprig fresh curry leaves

2. Add 2 medium-large onions, cut in half and sliced thickly. Cook until translucent.

3. Add salt, turmeric, minced green chilli and a small dab of ginger garlic paste.

4. Add 3 medium boiled potatoes cut in small dice.

5. Stir around, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.

6. Garnish with lots of cilantro.

The final ingredient for making proper dosa is the cast iron pan. I know a lot of people like using non-stick pans for dosas. Non-stick pots and pans do play a small role in my kitchen, but my dosa-making was revolutionized when I bought my heavy cast iron tawa. In the US, these are sold as cast iron griddles and are quite inexpensive and built to last a lifetime. They heats to a high temperature and distributes heat evenly helps to make beautiful crisp dosas (I also use them for rotis, parathas and thalipeeth). I wash the pan only with water and a little salt if required, and over time, it is more of a non-stick quality than any non-stick pan I have ever used.

And just as we finished eating this brunch, the sun came out of hiding. Dosa always leads to good things.

I got a sweet "Kreativ Blogger" award from Ruchikacooks. Thank you! So here goes, 7 random things I am reading/watching/doing.

1. I read a wonderful book last week- Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Sitting down to a meal no longer feels like a simple act, with issues of food safety, food politics, the environment and the consequences of our choices weighing heavily on our minds. I am struggling to work these complex issues in my head, as are so many of my blogger friends. There are many books written on these subjects, and I confess that the complexity of the issues sometimes makes me so weary and vaguely guilty that I avoid reading the books for as long as I can. And that's why this particular book, where Kingsolver writes about her family's year-long experiment with eating local, was on my "I don't want to read it so much as I want to have read it" list ever since it came out. Last week, I finally checked it out the library, only because it was the book of the month in an online reading group that I participate in. Well, I started to read it, could not put it down, and finished it in a day and a half! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is written with such gentleness and humor, I would highly recommend it to everyone who wants to enjoy a great read while also becoming better informed.

2. A book that I am savoring in small bites, one chapter at a time, is Eating India by Chitrita Banerji. Thank you for the superb gift, Bong Mom. The book has essays on trips to different parts of India and tales of the cuisines the author encounters. The essays are transporting me to different lands and are a joy to read for anyone who loved Indian regional food.

3. On a whim, I decided that one of my reading goals for 2010 would be to read all the Pulitzer prize fiction winners from 1979-2009. We talked about 2010 resolutions at a work meeting; everyone's goals were to eat healthy and exercise while mine was to read more novels! The one I'll start next is March by Geraldine Brooks. I loved Louisa May Alcott's Little Women as a kid, and this novel is the story as imagined from their father's eyes.

4. I'm also doing some lighter "comfort food" reading with At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. Does anyone know of other books that are light and uplifting, like the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series?

5. V and I enjoy watching British mysteries on DVD. Right now, we are watching the Inspector Morse series (although I prefer his successor, Inspector Lewis myself) and the Rosemary and Thyme series, where the two gardeners Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme work in lush gardens that make my eyes swim and solve murders while they are at it.

6. My super-talented sister made my day by mailing me a huge package full of cute things she sewed herself. I got a custom-made knitting bag so I can tote my UFOs (unfinished objects) around town in style, another cute bag, a belt and an apron. Dale got this personalized scarf in tiger print! Whee, I love getting presents, and handmade ones are priceless.

7. Instead of directly donating money for Haiti relief, I did something that was more fun for me. I knitted a baby hat and donated it to an Etsy shop to be sold, with all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders. Some kind person bought my wee tomato hat for 20 bucks!

If you want to buy something handmade for Haiti relief, please visit the Craft Hope Etsy shop (keep checking frequently, because cute items are added all the time and sold literally in minutes). If you are a crafter and want to donate an item you made, visit this page for details. I'll be making more items for the shop as well, as I get time.

Have a wonderful week, everyone! And if you made it to the end of this ridiculously long post, congratulations.


  1. OMG - your dosa description and picture literally had me licking the screen!! I am so making the batter this week.
    Have u read the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? I am only part way through it, but it is just ADORABLE and very light-hearted and "feel good" kinda like the No 1 Ladies Detective series. You will love the characters in the book.

    I loved the Rosemary and Thyme series too. Have to watch the Inspector Lewis/Morse series - I LOVE PBS and Masterpiece.
    Ok I better stop or this comment will be neverending. But thanks for sharing the books - I love reading recs!

  2. Nupur, I love reading your blog. Your writing style is very engaging.

  3. Dear Nupur,
    The dosa's look really inviting, feel like having it right away, as I am a big Dosa fan:)

  4. Masala dosai and happiness go hand in hand.

    I had the same reaction when I read the review for Barbara Kingslover's book and have avoided reading it so far. Inspector Lewis is a favorite of ours too. We are big time PBS watchers since there is no cable TV at home. Not complaining no.

  5. ooh- I have been meaning to make this dosa based on Shilpa's recipe! I have eaten the benne masala dosa at Vidhyarthi bhavan and it is truly to die for!! (as is the one in CTR at the other end of town).

    #3- what a coincidence! I made a similar sort of resolution about reading nobel laureates. I currently have a list of 13-14 books I want to read. We shall see..:). I loved Little Women too(and the whole series infact) so I can't wait to hear how you like March.

    #4- I had a similar question when I finished the detective agency series(and his sunday philosophy club series and the 44 scotland street series- have you read those?). I searched around and found this trilogy: It is by Celestine Vaite and the three books are breadfruit, frangipani and tiare in bloom. It is about a professional sweeper in Tahiti and the stories are quite heartwarming and reminiscent of the ladies detective agency.

    The tomato hat is sooo cute- I will check out the etsy store

  6. Amen! Dosas always lead to good things! Such as this wonderful recipe, the books on your shelf and that adorable tomato hat! It's too cute for words!

  7. U know Nupur, I used to read your blog even couple of years back and the egg rassa of A-Z marathi food is my fav..If I remember well, you started the MeMe-Me to get to know more about other bloggers...Strange that I ended up asking you to write more :D

    Dosas are welcome any day here..Loved the hat also, cute! I started knitting too and made a messy cap.. Rosemary and Thyme was a hit series in UK, even Mr.Bean..
    Dale looks so comfy all wrapped up..

  8. The tomato hat is so cute. Crafting for Haiti is a wonderful idea. When I was into jewelry making I often wondered if there was something I could do with the jewelry. And your reading list is so ambitious! By the way, I'd love to see what you come up with for your lemongrass.

  9. That reminds me, I have to soak rice tonight for dosas. I only recently started making dosas on a cast-iron pan and I absolutely love how crisp they turn out.

    All your books and TV series sound great Nupur. I've been meaning to get hold of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle myself, hopefully one of these days.

    Talent really runs in your family, doesn't it? That's such an adorable scarf. LOL@UFO's - I have quite a few of them floating in my closet. And thanks for the Etsy link.


  10. 1. dosa looks yumO!
    2. To read 1979 - 2009 Pulitzer winners?! Wow! Thats a hefty resolution. I hope you achieve it.
    3. LOVE the hat!
    4. You are super girl! How else canyou find time to cook, read, knit and work?

  11. I was looking at the pulitzer list link that you'd posted, and realized Olive Kitteridge is on my 2010 list of books to read too- but it is perenially checked out of my library (with multiple holds), so I should probably place a hold on it now if I plan on reading it in the next few months. Thanks for the reminder..:)(I began it a few months ago but somebody else placed a hold on it and I had to return it).

  12. What an interesting post..!! Loved the dosa and the tomato hat.. and even more, loved peeking at the books you are reading!
    what online reading group do you belong to?

  13. That dosa will beat any restaurant dosa hands down!!! And you are so right about the cast iron tava, non stick is easy but will not give that colour.
    That tomato hat is just like the eggplant cap you made for Atri - he is still an expert at whipping it off the minute i put it on his head - so no pic of him in that one yet!

  14. That masala dosa looks perfect.

  15. Dosas look so inviting, with masala inside am sure anyone wud finish it off! And the hat looks very cute!

  16. Masala Dosa – perfect but Seven Interesting things you did – more perfect! I am being frank I am not THE Vivid Reader type but I always have one Book which I say I am currently reading :P (though that might be the same book going on for days-weeks or … ) anyways But I totally admire and respect people who read books of all types, my younger BRO does read – read and read. So loved your collection of books will check if I get hand of any of those!!

    Keep on posting dear – such posts are refreshing :)

  17. Hmmm... I have resolved to read a lot this year and am onto my 3rd book in 2010.

    Quite thrilled at myself. (That explains my languishing blog!)

    The dosa looks great, but the tomato is cuter!

  18. umm yummy,,,and the cap looks too cute,..

  19. Sold, Nupur! I'm going to make the dosa batter tonight, soaking time and all, although it's a weekday! Mission Dosa for Tuesday night! :)

    I've got a new cast-iron tava too, and I'm rather thrilled about it. (I've thrown away my non-stick, peeling-at-the-edges pan forever!).

    Re the books - you know, you should do a regular list of what you're reading, or good books that you've come across. I love to try new authors/books, and it's better still coming on recommendation from people I like :) I read Chitrita Banerji's book in one gulp, as it were. I love all food-based writing, although Indian food writing always trumps any other cuisine.

    And on that note, I will end this comment before it becomes longer than your lovely post!

  20. Priya- Yes, I did read the Guernsey Literary... and loved it, it was a touching and wonderful read!

    Mona- Thank you for saying that!

    Rachana Kothari- I am a dosa fan too!

    indosungod- I think you will actually enjoy Kingsolver's book, please read it if you get a chance because the stories are very engaging (not just a long lecture) and talk about the very things you are discussing in your recent posts, which I love by the way :)
    We are big time PBS watchers too, but I watch my fair share of cable also!

    Lavanya- This recipe results in very crisp dosas, I'm glad I tried it (and thankful that Shilpa posted it).
    Thank you so much for mentioning Celestine Vaite- I'll certainly look for those books!
    I read Olive Kitteridge a couple of weeks ago (yes, after waiting for several months in line at the library) and I did enjoy it. I can identify with Olive's personality.

    Sheetal Kiran- LOL glad you like the tomato hat, I love making these silly bitty hats :)

    ruchikacooks- I don't think I have ever started a meme, but have done many of them over the years! Thanks for tagging me, it is fun to do these once in a while.

    Lisa- The Haiti craft shop is doing so well, and I hope I can make more items to sell there. I made mushroom soup with the lemongrass, will post the recipe tonight :)

    Mamatha- Doesn't the cast iron pan make all the difference? I think you will enjoy Animal, Vegetable, Miracle once you get started on it.

    Sangeetha- 1. Thanks :)
    2. Not really, only 30 books, and I won't force myself to finish those that I don't enjoy!
    3. Thanks, it is really fun to knit too.
    4. Not at all, just doing what I enjoy!

    Nisha- Thanks! It is the book challenge group on

    Nandita- Exactly, cast iron gives such a beautiful color and taste to dosas! I'm still drooling over your last post...

    Meera- Thank you!

    Sharmilee- Thanks!

    Kanchan- So what book are you currently reading? Yes, sometimes I can savor a book over weeks too.

    Raaga- Are you reading anything interesting? Do you read books in Hindi or Konkani or other Indian languages as well?

    notyet100- Thanks.

    Shyam- Yes, sometimes making dosa does feel like a mission! :)
    And I agree, it is a relief to stop using non-stick pans for dosa, I had the same problem with them with flecks coming off at the edges.
    I'll certainly share good books that I come across. And I hope you'll do the same :)

  21. Dear Nupur,

    Your dosa looks delicious yummy and is making me so hungry even when i m writing this comment :))
    i definately have to make that
    Your reading is looking great too.... being an avid book reader myself i hv bookmarked some of the books to read(esp detective ones)thanks for sharing ur reading list too......
    Your sister's knitting seems great as well...... so talent runs in the entire family........

  22. Hi Nupur,

    Dosa's offer so much of comfort especially durng cold winters.I love reading your blog as always. I like the usage of Wheat flur instead of Rice. Good creative recipe.

    I will scout through my library for the books specially the one by Chitra. I adore her simple writing.

    Time I get my hands on knits and needles. Do let me know if you have a site for beginners.

  23. Fantastic post as usual! I saw this recipe today and immediately thought of you.

  24. Lovely post. In case you are interested in food history check out Curry :a tale of cooks and conquerors by Lizzie Collingham.
    I have a question for you and your readers. How does rice affect a dosa batter? You mentined dosa rice and sona masoori rice in your write up. Once I had used parboiled rice for dosa and it was a disaster, I ended up making uttapa as it was impossible to spread the batter.

  25. Hello Nupur,

    Wish you and your family a Very Happy New Year!!
    I have been visting your blog for a while now and just love your recipes and everything else on your site. As I am a fairly new cook, I have been experimenting a lot in my kitchen offlate. Thanks to you for inspiring me to try different recipes.
    While growing up I always wanted to learn knitting but never did as something else would take up my free time.I am from India,at present residing in USA. I would love to learn knitting can you tell me how did you learn to do such pretty knitwear....
    Love Dale, he looks so adorable. I miss my four legged friend in India, he is a GS breed and very handsome guy :)Keep posting more about Dale.
    Before I forget, must say that I tried your Pav Bhaji recipe and turned out Yummmm!!!!I cooked Pav Bhaji for the first time ever and it is a hit. Thanks a Ton!!
    It is very encouraging to try few more recipes as I would get threatened by the long list of ingredients and method but not anymore........hope to keep it that way :)
    Thanks Nupur!!


  26. Will try this out soon. I regularly read ur blog and most of the time, I feel like trying out the recipe immediately :) It might be the power of ur writing and the recipes you choose :)
    Also really admire you for keeping up with ur varied interests while working and caring for ur family.

  27. How do you get your urad dal and rice to grind to a smooth paste?
    I have a regular Cuisinart chopper/grinder - would that work?

  28. Finally I got to the end of the long post Nupur!!! And Congratulations to me!! Yohoo!!
    HEy dont mistake ..just
    kidding..on whatever you said!!

    Nupur,Whenever you make more batter you can always divide your batter in two halves before fermenting ..keep one half in the refrigerator and ferment another half for immediate use. After another 10 days you can take the other half from the fridge and ferment it to use again. Hope this tip helps you..bcoz it works out great for me every single time!!CHAO!!!!!

  29. Rujuta- Thanks!

    Ashwini- Wheat flour is not used instead of rice, just that a little wheat flour is added along with rice flour to a batter of rice and urad dal.
    If you are interested in knitting, become a member of (it is free); they have tons of resources for beginners.

    Holly- That curry looks good! I love chickpeas.

    Anonymous- I have had nothing but disasters with parboiled rice, just like you, so I am not the right person to ask about parboiled rice. But I can say for sure that brown rice and sona masuri work well in dosa batters. That's what I use.

    Sheela- Happy New Year to you too! Thank you for taking the time to say hello.
    I'm so glad you are enjoying new recipes, that's how I learn, one new ingredient and new method at a time, slowly building my skills.
    If you want some resources for learning to knit, please feel free to e-mail me (link is in the right side-bar) and I will mail you a list of resources that might help.

    Nikita- This recipe is certainly worth a try :) Thank you for your sweet words!

    Anonymous- I'm afraid a small chopper will not work at all. For making dosa batter, you need heavy-duty equipment like a wet grinder (which uses stones for grinding) or an Indian-style mixie. A Western food processor works well for grinding urad dal but in my experience won't grind rice well.

  30. BDSN- That is a very good tip, I'll keep that in mind. Thanks for sharing it!

  31. I am glad you liked benne dosa Nupur. I haven't made them in a long time and it looks like I need to make them soon....

    Love that baby hat. So cute

  32. Nothing like a homemade masala dosa. And looks so inviting.

  33. Nupur,the dosa sounds yummy. you mentioned using warm oven to rise the batter. can you elaborate on exactly what you did.

  34. Shilpa- These dosas are so crispy and sturdy, this will be my standard dosa recipe from now on!

    radha- Thanks!

    Supriya- I heated my oven on the "warm" setting (lowest setting, less than 200F) for 10 minutes, then turned the oven off and placed the batter in the warm oven. Repeated this every 3-4 hours 2-3 times until the batter rose.

  35. Nupur,

    The hat is awesome! Where did you get the pattern? Would love to try my hand at it.

    swmqta at gmail

  36. Nice dosas...I too love using cast iron pans but somehow never tried it for dosa.....cap looks beautiful, saw your yarn work on ravelry longtime back, like it.... & thanks for the info on HAiti relief via etsy....I might knit up something.....

  37. Hi Nupur,

    I am a long time reader of your lovely blog and have tried lots of recipes with great results ( pav bhaji, egg rassa, different amtis, dum ki arbi... the list goes on).Thanks for the recipes.
    I am a voracious reader and recently read two India based books, Vish Puri-India's most private investigator: Case of the missing servant, in the genre of the ladies detective series, and Marriage bureau for rich people, both good reads


  38. Shuba- The pattern is here:

    Spice- Yes, cast iron works beautifully for crisp dosas.

    vij-Thanks for mentioning Vish Puri, I had not heard of these books and they sound interesting. I'll definitely look for them.

  39. That is a cute post Nupur! Dosas look really crispy n yummy!

  40. great post - I am in awe of your dosa - they look so fluffy and crispy. I love your 7 things - that hat is so cute - no wonder it was snapped up - and I loved march and the barbara kingsolver book - have you read her fiction - I love prodigal summer but poisonwood bible is great too.

    AS for light uplifting reads - there is an Australian author Kerry Greenwood who writes a light hearted mystery series about a detective baker called corinna chapman - I think you might enjoy it if you like the alexander mccall smith.

  41. If you like Mccall-Smith's style you might like his other series, the Isabel Dalhousie ones. They have a philosophical theme which I love.
    - Uma

  42. Hi,

    When we got married and started living separate from my parents, we invested in a large expensive non stick pan around 1978.

    My wife, Krishna and I tried to spread the batter on the hot non stick pan, and the batter would not come off the ladle at all. It kept on sticking to the ladle.

    We realised that for spreading thin, initially the batter has to stick to the griddle. We saw it happening on the street dosa sellers and learned.

    We quickly bought a cast iron one, which is about 20 inches diameter, and has proven itself!

  43. Wow! Your dosa looks really crispy and yummy. I have tried using a cast iron griddle for dosa a few times, and it sticks every time. :(

    I don't want to give up. Is there any trick that you might want to share? Would really appreciate any/all suggestions.


  44. A cast iron griddle is absolutely necessary. The batter has to stick a little bit to the griddle, otherwise it won't get brown and crispy, and this just doesn't happen with non-stick griddles.

    But even a cast iron griddle can become too much non-sticky for a dosa. Here's how you can make it a bit more sticky to produce the perfect dosa:

    1. make sure the griddle is really hot, then rub a tsp of oil onto it with a paper towel (oil should be smoking a little)
    2. spray some water from a spray bottle onto the griddle. this cools it down and makes it less sticky
    3. spread your dosa batter and pour some oil all over it

    After a few minutes you can remove the perfect dosa from the griddle with a spatula.


  45. Awesome recipe, at what heat should i set the stove top? #4?


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