Note: This is a long and detailed post on how to make plain dosa at home with lots of tips and FAQs at the end.
Dosa is soul food for me. I often tell TH how I can make and eat dosa every day for a long time and still not be bored with it. It's probably because we ate a lot of dosa growing up. Our family, or rather the Reddiar community in Kerala, always has homemade dosa batter in the fridge, ready to whip up fresh dosas on demand or for the unexpected guests whom we always insist stay for dinner. My mom has been using an industrial sized wet grinder for many years now and it's run about twice a week to keep the idli/dosa batter supply ongoing and fresh. She makes idlis as soon as the batter ferments and then dilutes the batter further to make dosas for the next 3-4 days.
Dosa with Sambar and Chutney from my Mom's kitchen
The batter we make is the same for idli and dosa and uses only whole skinned urad dal (ulutham paruppu or uzhunnu parippu) and idli rice or dobbi ari. Apart from salt, nothing else is added to this. The proportion of rice to dal remains almost constant in the batter, only altered if the the dal is old or doesn't seem to do its job properly. This variable is successfully eliminated in most cases by sourcing the rice and dal from trusted grocery stores only (my dad ran one for many years so we directly sourced the best quality stuff from dealers in Andhra and Tamil Nadu directly).
I don't know why I never shared dosa recipe and method we use before, it's such a comfort food for us and a constant in our lives. So as I was saying, the idli-dosa batter is made about twice a week and idli is made immediately after the first round of fermenting. Nowadays, amma makes idlis in bulk and stores them but back in the day, idlis only made an appearance the day after the batter was ground. From day two onwards, it was dosa time - soft, fluffy and slight thick for the adults, roasted and crisp for the kids and young at heart (my grand mom loved her dosas crisp).
This would go on for about 4 days until the next round of batter was made. Dinner was almost always dosa with different kinds of chutneys and side dishes to shakes things up a bit.
As soon as I got settled in Singapore, I brought back a wet grinder from India - the Ultra tabletop one. It does a great job of grinding my batter and I have rarely bought batter from stores after buying it. It does take some planning to make your own dosa or idli batter at home but obviously is well worth the effort. You can check my detailed post on making idli batter at home for more info on that. Today we are going to look at how to prepare plain dosa at home. This is not a paper roast dosa or an uthappam, but somewhere in the middle, perfect for everyday breakfast or dinner with some dosa podi. I will share the method to prepare crispy hotel-style dosa soon.
HOMEMADE PLAIN DOSA RECIPE
Preparation time: 8 hours
Cooking time: 10 minutes
FOR THE DOSA BATTER
1 cup whole skinned urad dal
3 cups idli rice*
Salt as needed (see notes)
Soak the rice and dal separately for 3 hours
Grind dal first into a smooth consistency adding enough water
Grind rice into a smooth batter by adding just enough water to get it going
Combine the two, add salt, and let it ferment in a large enough bowl lightly covered, for about 6-8 hours in a warm place
* You can increase rice to four cups if using good quality urad dal but it takes experience and practice to tell if that's the case so go with these proportions as you start out
TO MAKE THE DOSAS (~8 Nos)
4 cups of fermented dosa batter
1-1.5 cups of water
4 tbsp of gingelly oil (Indian sesame oil like Idhayam)
1. Add enough water to the fermented batter until you have a smooth, pouring consistency. Make sure the batter is not too watery though, it should be thick-ish but fall off your spoon easily.
2. Heat a tawa or iron griddle and grease with the oil lightly. Pour about 1/2 cup batter to the centre of the tawa.
3. Using the back of your ladle, gently spread the batter with a circular motion from the centre towards the sides of the tawa.
This requires some practice but is not hard at all. As you can see, I have made dosas enough times to actually do a decent job with my left hand while taking pictures with my right. Ok, I'll stop showing off now.
Since we are not making very crispy dosas, don't spread it too thin. The dosa should be more or less evenly thick.
4. Drizzle about 1 tsp of oil around the edges of the dosa and add a few sprinkles on the top as well.
5. If your tawa is greased adequately and is not sticky, the edge of the dosa will start to come off the pan in about 1 minute or so. Use a spatula to gently lift the dosa
and flip it over. Cook the other side for another 40 seconds or so and remove from pan.
Serve with dosa podi, chutney, sambar, tiffin sambar, or anything that takes your fancy. I can eat dosa with pretty much anything!
NOTES and FAQs:
Q: Why does my dosa stick to the pan?
A: There are a few reasons for this:
Use a well-greased pan - if your tawa is new, you need to season it to make sure it's ready to make dosas. Using a non stick pan works but in my opinion, the dosas turn out dry. Use a pre-seasoned iron tawa and you will be fine.
To grease a dosa pan properly, use anything you can dip into oil - like a piece of onion, potato, a wooden spoon, etc. Dip into the sesame oil and rub generously all over the tawa. If you pour drops onto the tawa, then spreading the dosa will be difficult so always grease fully and don't pour the oil before spreading dosa.
Also, never use a dosa tawa to make rotis. Keep one tawa exclusively for dosa. I have noticed that people who are new to making dosas add way too little oil. Be generous, a few drops are not enough.
Batter has too much water - this makes cooking time is longer. If you have more fermented thick batter in stock, add it to the batter you are using, or, just lower flame and be patient. Make sure your flame is not very high. Medium-low heat is perfect for cooking dosas and you may need to adjust this on and off as the pan gets hot and cold during the cooking process.
If the above two are checked, then it's possible that your batter is too old and sour. That's another reason why it would stick to the pan.
Q: Why is my dosa batter grainy?
A: You didn't grind the batter to a smooth consistency, that's why. Remember to soak the rice and dal for enough time and grind it to a very smooth consistency before fermenting. An Indian mixie is good to make small quantities but a food processor does not give you a smooth batter. A wet grinder is obviously the best option for making dosa batter at home.
Q: My dosa is white even after it is cooked. Why?
A: Couple of reasons that could be contributing to this - your batter is too cold - just bring it to room temperature before making the dosa* - or, the proportion of rice in your batter is too high. Adjust proportions next time you make the batter. Conversely, too much dal in your dosa batter will contribute to dosas that are too red in colour. Adjust accordingly in your next batch.
*We never follow this rule at home though. For years, we have been taking batter right out of the fridge and making dosas immediately with no issues.
Q: My dosas are very sour. Why?
A: Your batter is over-fermented or too old. If you have some wheat flour (atta), add it to the old batter and make semi-wheat dosas. Another trick is to add equal amounts of fresh batter and make dosas. Masala Paniyaram is another way to use up old dosa batter.
Q: How much salt should I add to the dosa batter?
A: I actually don't measure salt each time but noticed that I end up adding a heaped teaspoon of salt to the above-mentioned quantities of ingredients. You can taste the batter and see if it seems salty enough. Adding enough salt is important for right amount of fermentation.
Q: How do I ferment dosa batter in a cold place?
A: I didn't have to ask myself this question when living in India and Singapore but in Sydney, it's a whole different situation. I reached here late winter and have made 3 batches so far. Each time I tried a different method. The best option was to leave the batter in a bowl covered with a plate in the oven with the light turned on. Do not turn on the oven itself. The heat from the light is enough to give it that extra push.
Once, I just left the batter on the kitchen counter overnight. It didn't rise at all but was bubbly and seemed fermented. I didn't risk making idlis with the batter and dosas turned out just fine.
It also helps if you mix the batter for 2-3 mins with your hand. Just don't investigate too much into the science of that ;)
Q: How do I use store-bought dosa/idli batter?
A: The quality of store-bought batter really varies a lot. I have tried a few different brands in Singapore and have had different experiences. One thing that's common is, although they all claim to also make good idlis, they don't. So don't waste your time making idlis with store-bought batter. Dosas, however, have turned out good for me. Most batters need you to add some water to bring it to the right consistency. Use up all batter within 3 days, they don't last as much as homemade batter.
Q: What about variations to the dosa batter - like adding poha, cooked rice, quinoa, brown rice, etc?
I make dosa batter the plain and simple way as mentioned above. I do plan to experiment a bit though but be patient with me, will share them as I get to it.
If you have any more questions on making dosa at home, please leave it below in the comments and I will get back to you. Between my mom and me, we should be able to answer them :) The above questions were compiled after a short poll I did on my Facebook page and hopefully they represent most of your personal questions on making dosa at home.
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