The Crispy Crepe of South India

South Indian Dosa

Dosa is a very popular dish in Indian subcontinent. It is a southern delicacy but its origin is still unclear. It is believed that it originated in the streets of Udupi. Udupi is a small temple town in the state of Karnataka. One can find its traces in Tamil Sangam Literature around 6th century AD. It is a crepe made by Rice and Urad dal (black Lentil). Today Dosa is popularly known as the Famous South Indian delicacy. It is a form of anytime snack of crisp paper thin wafers to a filling meal with some delicious stuffing.  Dosa is usually served with sambhar and coconut chutney and at some topped with a dollop of butter. There are various names of this delicious south Indian cuisine. They are dhosa, dosay, dosai, dhosai, tosai, thosai, dvashi Different country spell it in different way. For example In Singapore, it is spell as thosai.

Regular dosa batter is made from urad dal (split skinned) and rice soaked in water for few hours and then blended. The batter is then left to ferment overnight. The next morning 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.
You may have to jiggle a bit because spreading the batter onto the skillet is not an easy task. Sometimes it turns very messy. A lot of patience is required to make a thin and crisp Dosa.

Plain Dosa recipe:

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 omelets 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.

Masla Dosa is another variation of Dosa. The basic procedure is the same and after spreading the batter onto the skillet a potato stuffing is spread over the un-cooked side of the dosa and then folded. There are lots and lots of other variations of the southern delight.

Masala Dosa recipe:

For the Potato Filling:

  • Take 2 large boiled potatoes, peel and mash coarsely.
  • Thinly slice one large red onion, 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
  • 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
  • Add cummin seeds (1/2 : tsp. each)
  • Add 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds.
  • 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 coriander leaves to garnish

Types of Dosa

Though dosa typically refers to the version made with rice and lentils, many other versions of dosa exist and are popular in varying degrees. This is sometimes specific to a region in India. Other types of dosa include:

  • Egg dosa – a dosa spread with an omelete.
  • Chilli dosa – chilli powder is spread on the dosa.
  • Open dosa – chutney powder is spread on the dosa while cooking. Before serving spiced & mashed potato is placed on top.
  • Onion dosa – chopped and sautéd onions are spread on the dosa.
  • Ghee (thuppa/neyyi) dosa – ghee is used instead of oil while frying the dosa.
  • Butter dosa – butter is used instead of oil while frying dosa and a small amount on top of it while serving.
  • Roast – the dosa is spread thinly and fried until crisp.
  • Family roast – a long dosa which can be spread over 2 or 3 feet.
  • Paper dosa – a long and very thin delicate dosa which can be spread over 2 feet.
  • Green dosa – a dosa stuffed with fresh vegetables and mint chutney.
  • Chow-chow dosa – a dosa stuffed with (Indian flavored) Chinese noodles.
  • Cheese dosa – a dosa stuffed with cheese.
  • Masala dosa – a dosa stuffed with spiced potatoes (famous in South India)
  • Rava dosa – made with rava or semolina, which doesn’t need fermentation and is usually considered a fast snack/tiffin.
  • Wheat dosa – made with wheat flour, and served with coconut chutney, mysore masala dosa
  • Vella dosa – a sweet dosa made of jaggery with ghee/neyyi.
  • Ragi dosa – made of ragi or millet flour, usually considered “a poor man’s fare”.
  • Muttai dosa – eggs are added to the regular batter; the word muttai in Tamil means “egg”.
  • ‘oothappam’/Uttapam – Thick round dosa in Tamilnadu.famous variety is onion oothappam.
  • Set dose – 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.
  • Benne dose – similar to masala or set dosa but smaller in size. Served with liberal helpings of butter sprinkled on it. Said to have originated in the Davanagere district of the state of Karnataka
  • Cabbage dosa – a dosa made out of cabbage. Paste is prepared with rice, red chillies, Asfotedia and Turmeric. Once the batter is ready, cabbage cut into small pieces is added to the paste and left for about 30 mins. Once this is done, the batter is poured and the dosa is made crisp.
  • Neer dosa – a dosa prepared from rice unique to Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada 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.
  • Adai – a dosa prepared from a combination of dals namely Urad, Channa & Moong dal.
  • Appam Aappam — a dosa prepared from a combination of patted rice (Avalakki), rice & yogurt.
  • Appam actually its Aappam tamil- Dough differs in ratio of Rice and urud dhal and the well ground than dosa batter, Centre is thicker and outer is very thin.
  • 70 MM Dosa – Similar to Masala Dosa, but it is bigger in size, about 60 cm in diameter.
  • American chopsuey dosa – Dosa served with a filling of fried noodles and tomato ketchup.