After the homemade version of India’s much-loved ‘Naan’ bread, this week the Indian-Breads Fest takes on south Indian savory breakfast favorites, crepe-like ‘Dosa’ and its pancake version ‘Uthappam’.
Moving from delectable Indian bread dough to delightful Indian bread batters, let’s look at south India’s answer to Chapati-Roti and Naan; thin crisp Dosa and its thicker softer version Uthappam, both made with an airy fermented rice and lentil batter.
Making the Batter
My refrigerator always has a tub of fermented Dosa batter on hand; it’s a great convenience for creating quick wholesome meals, by adding a variety of toppings to the versatile batter. My toppings guide below, will have you coming up with your own ideas.
A homemade Dosa batter needs four ingredients: rice, lentils, salt and water; plus patience (read: inactive time for soaking and fermenting,) and is totally worth the wait…And, it’s gluten-free.
Traditionally, it’s recommended to use parboiled rice and de-skinned Urad lentils, also called Matpe or Beluga beans; but I’ve made this rice-n-lentil batter with every kind of rice, including brown/white Indian Basmati and Italian Arborio, along with my pantry staple lentils, yellow split Toor or Moong.
The result is always a delightfully light and airy, well-fermented batter.
Alternately, look for a tub of pre-made fresh Dosa batter (or Idli batter which needs to be thinned down) at your local ethnic Indian store, or buy a dry mix like this one online.
Cooking Dosa and Uthappam
Dosa and Uthappam are commonly cooked on a flat cast iron griddle ‘Tawa’ placed on the stovetop, with a flat square metal spoon used for handling the crepe/pancake.
The traditional technique for making south Indian Dosa calls for the same level of expertise as making a French crêpe. Since this takes some practice, try the simpler pancake version ‘Uthappam’ first, if you’re new to it.
Today’s recipe for Dosa and Uthappam has one of my favorite toppings made with shredded cheese, chopped fresh parsley, rock salt and cracked black pepper.
Enjoy one of India’s most interesting breads for breakfast, high tea or an accompaniment to your meal.
- 1 cup raw rice, parboiled rice works best (or use any variety you have on hand)
- 1/3 cup de-skinned Urad lentils/Matpe/Beluga beans (or yellow split Toor/Moong lentils)
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional, if you have some on hand)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast* (optional)
- * Yeast is not really a requirement for this batter, but it will speed up fermentation in cooler temperatures. If you're in no rush and the weather is fairly warm, I'd suggest letting the batter ferment naturally.
- 1/3 cup shredded cheese of choice
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley leaves
- ¼ teaspoon each of rock salt and cracked black pepper
- Measure, wash and soak the rice, lentils and fenugreek seeds (if using) in a large bowl, for 5-8 hours or even overnight. The longer they soak, the quicker the process of grinding.
- Mix the yeast, if using, in ¼ cup of water preferably taken from the soaking liquid of the rice and lentils. Drain water from the grains, and add them to a food processor bowl, along with the ¼ cup of yeast water and salt.
- Grind the batter in a food processor for 6-7 minutes on the clock, stirring occasionally to make sure all the grains are being ground (brown rice needs more water to grind, add water only one tablespoon at a time as needed.) The batter will have a crepe batter consistency at this stage.
- Pour the batter back in the large bowl. Cover and let it ferment in a warm spot overnight up to 24 hours. The oven, when it’s NOT ON, is one such warm spot in your kitchen. Remember to remove the batter before you turn the oven on.
- Fermenting times are based on the ambient temperature; warmer temperatures mean quicker fermentation.
- The fermented batter will have a light airy look and a slightly thicker pancake batter consistency. At this stage, it's ready for use. Stir well, adding water as required to thin it down at any stage.
- The batter can be refrigerated for up to a week. Use this batter to make Dosa and Uthappam with your choice of toppings from the list below.
- Mix the ingredients for the cheese topping in a small bowl.
- Heat a cast iron griddle or heavy bottom flat pan on the stove top. When the griddle is hot, use a paper towel to sparingly grease the surface of the pan (too much oil hampers the process of making Dosa crepes.)
- To make crepe-like Dosa: Drop two tablespoons of thick batter on the hot griddle. Starting at the center, use the back of your spoon in an inward-to-outward circular motion to create a thin crepe. Sprinkle the cheese topping mix over the Dosa. Cook for about a minute on one side only, the cheese topping will have melted and the sides of the crepe will lift off the griddle. Dosa doesn’t need to be cooked on the other side.
- To make pancake-like Uthappam: Add a small dab of oil to the griddle and drop 2-3 tablespoons of thick Dosa batter on the hot griddle, based on desired size for the pancakes (my kids love mini pancakes, since they’re much easier to handle.) Sprinkle the cheese topping mix over the Uthappam. Cook for about a minute on one side, and flip to cook the other side only for 30 seconds. The cheese topping will form a delightful crust.
- Serve south Indian Dosa or Uthappam just as-is, or as a bread accompaniment to your choice of entrée like this 5-Step Chicken Curry .
- Freshly roasted and crushed cumin seeds
- Indian Chaat (tangy) masala
- Plain with cracked black pepper and flavored salt
- Finely chopped garlic and sage mix
- Dry herb mix of your choice
- Choice of fresh herbs in oil
- Traditional Uthappam topping: chopped onion, tomatoes, cilantro and green chilies
- Traditional Dosa topping: diced potatoes cooked in sliced onion and spices
- Cooked spiced ground meat
- Shredded mozzarella mixed with Herbs de Provence
- Crumbled herbed goat cheese
- Drizzle of honey over the warm crepe-pancake
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