Southern Dosa Delights


A very popular Indian Dish, is a South Indian original. Similar to a crepe, it is served with a variety of fillings that will offer you the most authentic and tantalizing flavors of South India. from an anytime snack of crisp paper thin wafers to a filling meal with wholesome stuffing, and served with chutneys and a dollop of butter, the dosa has made a place in the heart of connoisseurs of food in spite of the current pizza, French fries and burger fast food culture. The Dosa is also known by different names like Dosai, Thosai, Dhosa and Dosay across India…but Dosa is the most popular.

So How is a Dosa Made?

Regular dosa batter is made from lentils (mainly urad dal) and rice blended with water and left to ferment overnight. A modified form of the same batter can be used to make idlis (steamed rice cakes) another Southern specialty. The batter is ground very finely making it easier to spread. The batter is then ladled in small amounts onto a hot greased skillet, where it is spread out into a thin circle and fried with oil or ghee until golden brown. The dosa may then be folded or rolled and served, it is sometimes even flipped and fried on both sides.

Sounds easy? Well it’s not. Making dosas is really an art. Speading the batter to on the griddle to get that oval, light and crispy dosa is far from easy. It take a whole lot of practice and patience to make a perfect dosa.

Dosas are typically served with Sambar -a vegetable and lentil stew/soup/curry and a wet chutney, often a coconut chutney – a semi-solid paste usually made of coconut, dal, green chilies, and mint or coriander (cilantro).

Types of Dosa

There are ‘n’ number of Dosas based on variations in the batter or fillings. A simple regular dosa is called ‘Sada dosa’ which has no fillings. The ‘Masala Dosa’ which is stuffed with a spiced potato and onion semi dry mixture, is easily the most popular Dosa of them all. Here’s a list of some other Popular Dosas.

Sada Dosa: A basic Dosa shell with no filling.
Masala Dosa: A regular dosa stuffed with spiced potatoes and onion.
Ghee Dosa: A Dosa fried in ‘Ghee’, a clarified butter.
Rava Dosa: A dosa made with rava or semolina, which doesn’t need fermentation and is usually considered a fast snack/tiffin.
Paper Dosa: A long and very thin delicate dosa which can be spread over 2 feet.
Mysore/Banglore Dosa: A dosa lined with a red or green chutney on the inside surface.
Green Dosa: A dosa stuffed with fresh vegetables and mint chutney.
Onion Dosa: Chopped and sautéd onions are spread on the dosa.
Cheese Dosa: A dosa stuffed with cheese.
Egg Dosa: A dosa spread with an omelette.
Set Dosa: A popular type of dosa in Karnataka, which is cooked only on one side and is served in a set of two, hence the name.
Muttai Dosai: eggs are added to the regular batter; the word muttai in Tamil means “egg”.
Neer Dosa: A dosa prepared from rice unique to some Karnataka districts.
Pesarattu: A dosa prepared from moong dal; Andhra special. The variations include a) making from soaked whole moong seeds (along with green cover), which gives a greenish tint to the Dosa, and, b) making with yellow coloured moong dal (green cover removed and dal is refined), which gives a fine golden yellow tint to the dosa when roasted. Both these forms are famous in Andhra Pradesh, and are typically served with chutney made from Ginger and Tamarind.

Basic Dosa Recipe

This recipe forms the Base for most filled dosas. It takes a lot of preparation and time to make the batter. But once the batter is done, it doesn’ take much to make the dosas.

Ingredients:(Makes approx. 20 Dosas)
3 cups rice
1 cup skinless split urad daal (skinless black gram)
3/4 tsp fenugreek(methi) seeds
Salt to taste
Vegetable/sunflower cooking oil or Ghee (Clarified butter)

– Wash the rice and urad daal well. Add the fenugreek seeds to the mix and fill enough water in the rice-daal bowl to cover them about 2″ deep.
– Soak overnight.
The next morning, drain all the water from the rice and urad daal. Now put some in a food processor and grind – adding very little water if necessary – to a smooth yet slightly grainy paste.
-When all the rice-daal mix is ground, put it into a large mixing bowl and add enough water to make a batter(the batter should not fill the bowl as it will rise). The consistency of the batter should be such that it thickly coats a spoon dipped in it.
-Now add salt to taste and keep the Dosa batter aside, covered, for a couple of hours (at least 4-5). The batter will rise. when it reaches the top of your bowl it’s ready to use. You can also refrigerate the batter to make dosas the next day.

Making the dosas:
– Put some cooking oil in a small bowl and keep ready. You will also need a bowl cold water, a large, flat nonstick pan, a small onion cut in half (without cutting the ends),a fork, a ladle and a spatula.
– Use the fork to pierce the half onion from the top of the onion. Now you have an onion stuck to the end of a fork which you will use to grease your pan by dipping it in your oil bowl and over the surface of the pan to grease. The correct amount of oil is such that it is barely visible on the pan. Now turn on the heat/ flame at medium high.
– Fill the ladle upto the 3/4 level with Dosa batter. Gently pour this batter onto the center of the pan – just as you would for a pancake – till the ladle is empty.
– Now begin to spread the batter in sweeping circular motions with the ladle to form a pancake of roughly 8″ diameter. Do not be alarmed if the Dosa develops tiny holes as you spread the batter. This is normal.
– As soon as you have finished spreading the batter out on the pan, dip the onion in cooking oil again and drizzle the oil over the surface of the dosa and also around its edges. Now hold the pan by its handle, lift up and swirl it so as to make the drizzled oil spread all over the Dosa.
– When the upper surface begins to look cooked (it will no longer look soft or runny), and gets a light golden color on the thinner parts, you can fold the dosa carefully in half like you would an omelette or If you want it even more crispy you can flip the Dosa and do the other side as well. Ideally frying one side is enough, so if you are flipping the dosa don’t do the other side as much.

Masala Dosa Recipe

Here’s a traditional spiced potato recipe for the stuffing of a masala dosa. You can make any type of filling you like by adding some vegetables and whatever spices you want.

The dosa recipe is the same as the basic dosa given above. The Masala (potato mixture) is added just before folding the dosa and serves as a filling.

For the Potato Filling:
-Take 2 large boiled potatoes, peel and mash coarsely.
– Thinly slice one large red onion, 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
and 3 or 4 green chillies (or as many as you like).
– Grate a 1″ piece of ginger.
– Cut up a tomato(optional).
– Take a sprig of curry leaves pluck them off the stem
– Heat some veg. oil, add some fennel seeds, and
cummin seeds (1/2 : tsp. each)
– Add 1/2 tsp of black mustard
– When they crackle, add the green chillies, ginger, garlic
(if : used), and onions and fry them with a little salt for a while, till onions are transparent. Add curry leaves.
– Next a handful of frozen peas, tomatoes (if you choose), and
fry for 5 minutes.
– Add the potatoes, and more salt if needed.
– Stir well till a little mushy
– Add some chopped cilantro to garnish

Dosa Accompaniments

A Dosa is almost Always accompanied by a Coconut Chutney and Sambhar among other things. So here’s the recipe for a Coconut Chutney.


1/2 coconut grated
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp urad daal (yellow lentil)
2 dry red chillies
5-6 curry leaves
Salt to taste
2 tbsps oil

– Grind the coconut into a fine paste in the food processor.
– In a small pan, heat the oil and when hot add the mustard seeds, curry laves, dry red chillies and urad daal.
– Fry till the red chillies turn dark in color.
– Remove from the fire and add to the coconut paste. Add salt to taste and serve.


2 cups Toor or Tuvar (split yellow pigeon peas)
4 tbsps Sambar Masala
1 cup chopped eggplant (cut into 2″cubes)
1 cup chopped potato (cut into 1″cubes)
10 pearl onions, peeled and cored
1/2 cup pumpkin
10-12, 3″long pieces of drumstick (optional)
Golf ball-sized lump of tamarind
3 tbsps ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves
3 dry red chillies
Salt to taste
Chopped fresh coriander leaves

– Boil the lentils and Sambar Masala with enough water till they are soft. The consistency should be that of a thick soup.
– Soak the tamarind in a small bowl of hot water for 10 minutes. – Squeeze well to remove all juice.
– Add this purée to the lentils. Mix well. Add salt to taste.
– Simmer and add the potatoes to the lentils. Cook till the potatoes are half cooked. Now add the other vegetables and cook till done.
– Heat the ghee in a small pan and add the dry red chillies, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry till the spluttering stops and add to the boiled lentils. Mix well.
– Garnish with chopped green coriander and serve hot the Dosa