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NY Dosas' Pondicherry Dosa from 'New York a la Cart'

[Photograph: Clay Williams]

Until picking up Alexandra Penfold and Siobhan Wallace's new cookbook, New York a la Cart, I didn't know the first thing about making dosas at home. I didn't even know you could make dosas at home. The tangy, ethereally light and crisp oversize Indian pancakes seem like the kind of dish unwise to attempt on a tiny stove, in a tiny kitchen with little practice at spreading gloppy, sticky batter. But with a little practice, dosas pretty darn close to what you'd be served at food cart NY Dosas can be had in your kitchen. The batter takes some time to ferment, and you'll probably need to go to a specialty store to find urad dal (a special kind of split lentils), but it'll be worth it for the satisfaction that comes from ripping into your own hot, crisp dosa.

Why I picked this recipe: I honestly had no idea how to make a dosa at home, so I was eager to try this recipe.

What worked: Once you get the hang of spreading the batter (it's stickier than you'd expect), dosa cookery isn't harder than making pancakes or crepes. And the filling couldn't be easier to put together.

What didn't: My dosa batter didn't ferment as quickly as written. An extra overnight rest did the trick. Look for tiny bubbles forming in the batter as well as a domed top (it may not double in size) and slightly sour smell. I also thought that the curry could use more oil to properly brown the spices. Next time, I'd increase it to 3 tablespoons or even 1/4 cup. The ginger and the first addition of turmeric are nowhere to be found in the directions, so I added the ginger with the onions and turmeric with the rest of the spices.

Suggested tweaks: I had the easiest time making these in a nonstick skillet, but a well-seasoned cast iron pan should work as well. The best option would be a large griddle, which would allow you to make big dosas like you'd get at the cart. Still, mini dosas made in a small-ish nonstick skillet are still tasty and just as fun to eat. My small-but-powerful 1960s blender had a hard time blending the lentils. If your blender is on the small or weak scale, I'd recommend blending at least the lentils (and maybe the rice) in small batches. Penfold and Wallace suggest buying premade sambar and coconut chutney for serving.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of New York a la Cart to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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