Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Dosa Problem

I can flip a perfect fried egg. I can cook chickpea-flour pancakes crispy around the edges and fluffy in the middle, and scoop them onto a plate without tearing them in half. I can even make my own idlis (which is a completely different cooking technique, but I needed a third example).

But I can't make a dosa that's anything like a dosa.

This is what a dosa should look like (from Wikipedia, natch):

And these are what my dosas look like:

This was from two nights ago: dosa, coconut chutney, dal, and a sliced Fiji apple. Clearly that dosa has issues.

And this was from last night: dosa, haldi pickle, and steamed (frozen) broccoli and spinach cooked with ginger.

Here are the problems with my dosas as I understand them:

  1. I am not actually making the dosa batter. I'm using MTR-brand Dosa Mix (which is, apparently, sold on Amazon). Maybe this stuff will never actually make a dosa no matter how hard I try.
  2. I'm not getting the batter to spread thinly enough in the pan. Madhur Jaffrey says the technique is to start with the spoon in the center and make circles as you move outward towards the edges of the pan, flattening as you go. My batter hits the pan and goes "clump," and when I try to use the spoon, I just make a spoon-shaped groove in the middle of my dosa. Probably means I need to turn down the heat a bit. Maybe more oil.
  3. I can't get the dosas to flip without breaking. This has to do with the thinness issue; they're too thick, so when one side is done, the middle is still raw and they won't flip over properly. And if I keep the done side cooking in the hopes that the middle will cook too, the done side burns.
  4. White girls just can't cook dosas. Ever. No matter what.
I've got two bags of this dosa mix so I'm going to keep trying... but I'm not sure I'll ever get even close to what the dosa looks like in that first picture. What I'm cooking is not inedible, but it has the look/texture/taste of a Bisquick pancake. Which is not exactly what I had in mind.



ctrlalteredmind said...

mtr dosa mix has worked for me well in the past.maybe try adding a little more water next time? My batter usually borders on being runny, I let the pan get fairly hot (almost too hot), and I cover the dosa for a couple of minutes before attempting a flip.

I should mention that I make mine Uttapam style, sometimes with onions, so they are fairly thick. The steam-cooked taste is what I crave!

Blue said...

Does yours get all golden? B/c mine have only managed that dead-looking brown color.

Interesting that you said more heat rather than less. Will try!

ctrlalteredmind said...

if you want golden, you'll need to use ghee instead of oil on the pan. more heat does the trick if you roll your batter out really thin - if you make it thick like an uttapam it doesnt have to be too hot. good luck!

Avinash said...

I've never had much luck with dosa mixes of various kinds. I have, however, had good luck doing it the semi-traditional way. I buy ground rice flour at an Indian store, grind my own urad dal and mix the two in a 1:3 ratio. I let it ferment overnight (works best in the summer time) and a golden dosa is ready the next day. Generally, the more rice you add, the crispier the dosa will be.

Blue said...

Ooh! Another use for my magic bullet!