Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Masala Dosa

When my mother took my brother and I to live with her in India, we were your typical food phobic children. Never having so much as had a curry back in the U.S., I was not buying into the idea that Indian cuisine was edible. I stubbornly resisted eating anything Indian for quite a while. I survived off imported Kit-Kat bars, Masala Lays and Fanta orange soda.

You wouldn't think that would be great diet for weight loss, but wow did it strip off what few pounds I had to my frame back then. Maybe I should pursue a career as a diet guru? Ms. Humble's Kit-Kat-Spicy Chip diet! 10 weeks to a more emaciated you! You know, I bet that diet book would actually sell.

Anyway, eventually hunger got the best of me and those strange dishes were beginning to look appealing. The simple Masala Dosas was the first thing to break my Indian food fast and after that, there was no turning back...

Once I moved back to the U.S. it was hard to find my favorite foods, particularly the southern Indian dishes. It would be years before I actually tried making dosas. Urad dal typically isn't something one can find at your corner grocer, but most Indian food stores have it on their shelves. In fact, your local Indian or Pakistani market can be a great place to stock up on all your rice, grains, flours and legumes in bulk.

Dosas, for those unfamiliar, are essentially a light, crispy crepe. Dosas stuffed with spiced potatoes are probably one of the most common forms of this dish, but really they can be filled with just about anything. Best of all, with a Cuisinart (or similar food processor) the dosa is very easy to make.

Not so Humble Masala Dosa:
makes roughly a dozen
1 1/2 cups dry basmati rice
1/2 cup dry urad dal
1/4 of a large yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced green chili
salt to taste

Place the urad dal and basmati in two separate bowls and cover with several inches of water. Cover and allow the bowls to sit out at room temperature at least overnight and up to one day.

In the morning, drain and rinse the rice and dal and add to your food processor. Grind the two together into a paste, add the onion and chili and salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and continue to grind. Start adding water to the mixture, until you get a smooth creamy and slightly thin batter (just a tad thinner than your typical pancake batter). Continue to mix this in the processor until you can rub it between your fingers and the grit remaining should be a little finer than cream of wheat.

Heat a large flat, oiled griddle over medium high heat, or your largest flat bottom non stick pan. Pour 1/2-3/4 cup of batter into the center of the griddle and working quickly with a large spoon or heat safe silicon spatula, swirl the batter outwards into a very thin flat pancake. The thinner the better. Don't be too concerned about holes or getting it perfectly round, just focus on spreading it thin.

Cook the dosa until the underside is golden brown and the top is no longer glossy. This will only take a few minutes and do not flip the dosa. If your dosa seems a little thick, too chewy or not quite crispy enough, blend the batter again and add a little more water.

Remove the dosa from the pan and fill with several tablespoons of the following potato filling and a little squeeze of sriracha. Roll up and serve immediately with sambhar or your favorite chutney.

Masala Filling:
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (ideally black mustard seed)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
1-2 green chilies minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
salt to taste

sriracha (optional)

Boil the cubed potatoes until fork tender, drain and set aside.

Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds. They will begin to pop and shoot all over your kitchen within a few seconds so have the chopped onion ready to go. Once the mustard starts to pop, add the onion and green chili, sauteing for a couple minutes. Add the ground cumin and coriander and mix, gently stir in the cubed potatoes as you don't want to turn them to mashed potatoes. Add the turmeric, garam masala, chopped cilantro and mix well. Add a little water (~1/4 cup) to thin the mixture and salt to taste.


  1. This looks particularly deliscious but since I'm not a big fan of Masala wine I was wondering about how much of that flavour you end up with.

    I NEARLY have everything to have made it for dinner tonight so now I'm a bit bummed.

  2. If you don't like Marsala wine, you're in luck since there isn't any in this dish. This is Masala (minus the 'r') which refers to the mixture of spices used in the dish.

  3. Wow, I am SO excited to try to make this! I didn't know making dosas wasn't a super complicated process. Thanks, it looks delicious!

  4. Wow! How wonderful to have the experience of living in India...These look and sound wonderful...thanks! :)

  5. That looks wonderful! I've seen dosa on the menu at Indian restaurants but was never sure what it was. Thanks for clearing up the mystery. I also want to let you know I've given you an award on my blog: http://fuzzykoalacakecompany.blogspot.com
    I really enjoy reading your posts! Keep the science cookies coming; I love them! :)

  6. Oh wow! Thanks Dorothy!

    I'll add that to my blog and do the 'who am I' meme. That should be fun.

  7. I had these at a corner Indian take-out place when I lived in England as a college studen. Once I got back to the States wasn't ever able to find them again, and by that time completely forgot what they were called or what was in them LOL. Thank you for refreshing my memory. My stomach will thank you tomorrow.

  8. omg, YUM. i might just make the filling and eat that straight out of the pot.

    (damnit for looking at your site around dinnertime.)

  9. T. The Destructor,

    Yes! Dosas are so hard to find in the US. Though, I did find them eventually. There is a place east of Seattle that has dosas with every filling you can think of. They also do 6 foot dosas!

    Thats right! Six feet! You know, I could probably eat at least my own height in dosa...

  10. looks great! I've never had dosa and now I want to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  11. thank you so much! this is probably the only Indian food I haven't tired to make & don't even have a recipe for... & I love Indian food - growing up in northern Ontario on typical Canadian food, Indian soon became my favourite after moving south to Toronto. Though these don't seem quite as easy as you say, I will enjoy trying them none the less. Lucky you for th experience of living in India when you were young; thank goodness you cae around and decided to try the food!

  12. thats a really a delicious food of South India....but the best dish enjoyed by everyone all over India...thanx for make Dosa known to other ppeple too who are not the natives of India...
    we make twice every month...and enjoy it with Sambhar and Chutney....

  13. My god I LOVE dosas......I have to try this one for my vegetarian friend!

  14. Ms. Humble - you have no idea how much I love these things. With some coconut chutney, they are divine.

    Snag - no processor. Could I put the mixture in my Kitchen Aid blender? That thing crushes ice!

    BTW - my Lamington competition is open to EVERYONE. I will ship internationally, so fret not. And I can't wait to see your entry! :)

  15. Mr. P,


    As for the blender... most likely. Though I would do the first stage of mulching the rice and lentils in 1/2 cup batches with a little water.

  16. I sense a full Indian meal on the horizon if you keep posting tasty, tasty treats like this. Looking forward to trying it out!

  17. WELL. Next you're going to tell me you have an idli cooker and are steaming some right now. If so, I will be seeing you. *gets in car, drives to your kitchen*
    If you haven't, you need (NEED!) to go to Udupi Palace in Crossroads (Bellevue? Redmond?), and order one of everything.

  18. I really need to try this! My husband and I love Indian food and Masala dosa is one of our favorite Indian comfort food!


  19. I DO have an idli cooker but I've never used it. I got it as a gift last month and I can't wait to test drive it.

    Oh, and I love, love, love Udupi Palace in Bellevue. I'm going to order that 6 foot dosa they offer someday...

    Someday... *drool*

  20. For people without the ginormous griddles they all seem to make dosas on- do you think they'd be just as good in a smaller size?

    Also- for those without food processors or (functional) blenders, would an immersion blender also work? Thanks!

  21. Size really doesn't matter for these. A small dosa is just as good as a big dosa... though you're going to want to eat more of them.

    An immersion blender could work, if it is good quality and chews through ice etc. Certainly worth a try.

  22. SO SO MAKING THIS! An excuse to use my new food processor. YESSS!!!

  23. Sigh. Dosa disaster . . . filling was fine, but I couldn't get the dosas to fry well. They were very fragile and kept breaking apart. I used a blender for the "mulching" (happy word!) and added more water and used an electric skillet. I may try blending the mix more. Couldn't I add some wheat flour??? Sigh. Jane

  24. Hmmm, breaking apart. Was the batter very thin? If it was too thin it would turn into a cracker rather than a crepe.

    Did you find that the blender ground the rice and lentils sufficiently? too corse a grind or too much water could be the problem.

    Wheat flour unfortunately won't do the trick. If you needed to save a batter that was a little watered down I would add rice flour.

    Alternatively, there is a a rava dosa recipe that is much easier. That is, if you can get ahold of rava flour (a coarse semolina). It requires no grinding and uses rice and all purpose flour in addition to the rava:


  25. Typically are dosas are allowed to ferment, atleast overnight, to develop flavor. That adds that bit of tang to them..

    Btw where were you in India? Not too non-Indians are familiar with south indian food :)... Glad to know you like it:)

  26. Let the batter sit overnight too? In addition to the urad dal and rice soaking overnight at room temperature. I did not know that, thanks!

    I lived in Bangalore for a while so I developed a taste for southern style Indian cuisine. I love the stuff and it is a pity there are so few South Indian restaurants in the U.S.. I've had to learn how to make all the foods that I miss.

  27. Yep.. the natural yeast ferments the batter.. much like in a yeast bread, the flavor develop as does the texture.. you'll find the batter better to work with as well.. :)

    Oh my! am from B'lore as well! LOL.. small world! :)

    true.. S.Indian is not the flashy cuisine and neither are many immigrants from that part of the country.. where in the US are you?

  28. I'll let it ferment next time, see if I can up the tangy flavor. Hopefully I can wait that long...

    Do you know if Dosas can be made with rice flour instead of the soaked rice? I'm trying to streamline my dosa making and using rice flour seems easier.

    Bangalore too! How neat. I'm now in Seattle, Washington.

    True, S. Indian cuisine might not be as flashy as some of the northern dishes, I never saw gold leaf on idlis after all. However, it does have the best vegetarian cuisine in my opinion.

  29. Hmm.. i would think you can.. I have never tried it.. the issue I see is texture and the fermenting part.. rice flour and urad dal flour tend to be too fine to give that batter like consistency.. well.. perhaps I'll try it and let you know :)

    Ah! am on the other side, NY :)

  30. Y'know, I started this recipe with conviction but it ended in epic failure. But I link to you nonetheless!


  31. Last night i make some tomato chutney for tonight's dinner...Masala Dosa. But my mom is in India and i'd have to wake her up at 3:30 in the morning to get the recipe for the masala filling so instead i decided to search the internet for it instead :) That's when i found notsohumblepie...I love your blog and your innovative little cookies!!! I hope the family loves your masala filling too! I'll let you know how it turns out!

  32. Yum - beautiful pic too. I used to hate Masala Dosa as a kid but absolutely love it now. xx

  33. I had a friend from India who introduced me to both Masala Dosa and Idli many years ago. We were in Milwaukee at the time, and would make occasional trips to Devon Street in Chicago for massive ingredient shopping expeditions. Lunch was always Masala Dosa - wonderful dish. Idli continue to be one of my favorite foods.

  34. This wasy favourite breakfast food at Bakery Cafe in Nepal! My husband is Indian and would love this!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Now to impress mom-in-law with my desi dosa skills! :)


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