A Dosa Lesson From a Professional

I hadn’t even considered making the dosa I’d sampled at Pondicheri, a restaurant in New York City.

The crisp lentil and rice crepe, thin as newsprint but far more delicious, was stuffed with a pumpkinseed chutney and sautéed greens. It was a little sweet from coconut, fragrant with curry leaves and mustard seeds, and gently sour from the fermented batter.

It probably would have remained in the category of restaurant-food-best-left-to-professionals, had the restaurant owner, Anita Jaisinghani, not offered me the recipe when I couldn’t stop effusing about the dish.

Making dosas at home is not hard, but there is a learning curve.

The batter required a trip to an Indian grocery for ingredients, then 24 hours to soak, grind and ferment. But it was easier than making bread dough since I didn’t have to knead.

After my batter puffed up into a glorious pale froth, I pulled out my favorite nonstick pan and started frying.

Kitchen wisdom says that, when it comes to frying crepes, the first few should be fed to the dog.

In the case of my dosas, it took about a dozen tries to get anything resembling a smooth crepe. The rest clumped or ripped or simply sloshed off the pan. I’ll admit that, having no hungry dog at my ankles, my husband and I ate them ourselves. Ugly and floppy, they were still extremely tasty — especially topped with the pumpkinseed chutney, which would probably even make newsprint taste good.

A week later, while my second batch of dosa batter was fermenting, I went back to Pondicheri for a frying tutorial.

One counterintuitive trick, Ms. Jaisinghani said, is not to use too much oil, which encourages the batter to slide around the pan instead of setting.

Also, when she poured the runny batter onto the griddle, she let it set for a heartbeat before spreading it with the bottom of a measuring cup.

Taking that extra beat before spreading was what really helped improve my dosa technique at home. My next batch all looked like crepes, turning golden and crisp on the bottom while the tops stayed nicely pale.

They still weren’t paper thin. But, as Ms. Jaisinghani pointed out, thicker dosas allow you to fully appreciate the flavors of lentil, rice and fermentation. It also doesn’t hurt that thicker is also easier for a novice dosa cook like me.

Recipe: Dosas With Mustard Greens and Pumpkinseed Chutney

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