I was lucky to attend a fermentation workshop this past summer. One of the best revelations was dosa (or dosai, or thosa…there are many variations of spelling).

Dosa is a delicious South Indian pancake made simply from rice, lentils, and good ol’ wild yeast. It is gluten free, dairy free, and the consistency allows it to be cooked with out any fat, if desired. I omit salt as well.

The workshop participants were given a batch of dosai batter to inspect. With an eyebrow raised, I stuck my nose in the jar, unsure of what to expect. The batter looked a bit strange, but the smell wasn’t bad. Not what I had imagined.

The finished product was fried up in coconut oil. It was fantastic. The dosai had an almost sourdough-esque quality. Tangy and earthy.

When I got back home I looked up some recipes and began to experiment.

There’s some prep time, but it’s not involved. Just begin preparation a few days in advance if you’re planning on serving it to others.

Here’s what has worked for me:

I take 2 C of long grain white rice and 1/2 C lentils (traditionally urad dal) and soak it overnight. Some recipes call for a 2:1 ratio of rice to lentils, which could be chosen instead if you want the extra protein. I have found other recipes calling for 1 1/2 C. rice and 1/4 C. lentils. It’s always okay to experiment, I promise.

I’ve strayed beyond traditional recipes, trying many types of dal (lentils). You could even use split peas if desired. Or not. I prefer golden lentils in colder weather; they seem to cause the dosa batter to ferment faster. Maybe it’s not true, but I think it works.

The next day I strain the water and rinse the rice and dal mix. Then I place the strained mix in the blender.

Sometimes I add fenugreek seeds at this point.

Next, I add unchlorinated water until it covers the top of the mix.

Pop on the cover and blend, starting on the lowest setting, progressing gradually towards the highest speed.

When it’s relatively smooth and frothy I pour it into a glass jar or into a non-reactive (non-metal) bowl and cover. Make sure there’s some extra room for the dosa batter to rise, whichever receptacle you choose.

It usually takes a day for the batter to ferment if it’s warm out. The batch might need some encouragement via warm oven if your home is kept cool.

Typically it’s two days for the dosai batter to develop into the taste I prefer. It takes on a flavor that’s reminiscent of sourdough the longer it’s left to ferment.

Once it’s fermented to the point of peak flavor into the fridge it goes where it will keep for up to a month, but best used within a week. Some old funky batter I found hiding in my fridge took on the odor of cheese which was more akin to gorgonzola than parmesan. In any case it wouldn’t have killed me if I cooked it and ate it, but I wasn’t feeling that adventurous.

In any case, what you do with your dosa batter is up to you. I like to make curried potatoes as a filling (masala dosa).

This morning I took my batter and put a small amount in a mixing bowl along with some cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. I added some water to thin the mix. I heated up my flat frying pan to a medium heat and spread the batter as thin as I could to produce a crepe.

I guess as I find and try out more recipes I will post them up here. There are many different versions that are traditionally made, but I can think of some interesting fusion dishes that could be prepared.


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