Why It Works
- Blending the batter with the dal-soaking liquid encourages fermentation.
- This recipe steers clear of chlorinated water and iodized salt, which can hinder fermentation.
- Allowing the batter to double in size twice produces an extra-tangy dosa.
- Baking soda increases the alkalinity of the batter, speeding up fermentation and aiding in browning.
- A well-seasoned cast iron griddle will cook the dosa quickly and evenly.
- Fermenting the batter with an immersion circulator or multi-cooker offers a quicker and more consistent fermentation.
Dosa are fermented lentil-and-rice crepes found throughout South Asia, and especially prominent in southern India. This griddled batter cooks up crisp, chewy, and light, with a sourdough-like tang thanks to a double fermentation. They can be served plain or stuffed, rolled or folded, and with any number of chutneys. This recipe uses a 3:1 ratio of rice to lentils, but you can adjust the ratio to your taste, increasing the amount of rice for a crispier dosa or using more lentils for one that's supple and soft.
For a nontraditional take on this classic dish, mix and match grains and pulses, omitting the fenugreek to allow the flavor of the other grains to shine. Rye and chickpea make a hearty crepe for a spin on a pastrami wrap, while a mix of semolina and fava begs for Italian fillings. This recipe can easily be multiplied to suit your needs.
The fermented batter will keep in the refrigerator for 10 days or frozen for up to three months.
- 2 cups long-grain white rice (14 ounces; 400g); see note
- 2/3 cup (4.8 ounces; 135g) urad dal (split husked black gram, a type of lentil)
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) fenugreek
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt (not iodized)
- Neutral oil, for cooking (optional)
- Ghee, for drizzling
Soaking the Rice and Dal: In a small bowl, combine rice with 4 cups (960ml) distilled or bottled water and set aside to soak, at least 4 hours and no more than 12. In another small bowl, combine dal and fenugreek with 2 cups (480ml) distilled or bottled water and set aside to soak, at least 4 hours and no more than 12.
If Blending the Rice and Dal in a High-Powered Blender (Such as a Vitamix): Drain rice and discard its water. Drain dal and reserve its water. In the jar of a high-powered blender, combine soaked rice, soaked dal/fenugreek, and 1/2 cup (120ml) reserved dal-soaking water. Blend until completely smooth, adding more soaking water only as necessary to get a completely smooth texture. Transfer batter to a medium bowl.
If Blending the Rice and Dal in a Wet Grinder or Standard Blender: Drain rice and discard its water. Drain dal and reserve its water. In the jar of a standard blender or the bowl of a wet grinder, add drained rice, along with 1/4 cup (60ml) reserved dal-soaking water. Blend until completely smooth, adding more soaking water if needed to get a completely smooth texture. Pour rice batter into a medium bowl. Repeat with soaked dal and an additional 1/4 cup (60ml) dal-soaking water. Add dal batter to rice batter and stir until fully combined.
Adjusting the Batter's Thickness: Combine rice-and-dal purée with baking soda and kosher salt. If needed, thin purée with reserved dal-soaking water until it is just thinner than pancake batter. The final yield of the batter should be about 5 cups (1.2L).
To Ferment the Batter Without Special Equipment: Cover bowl of batter with a moist kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Put bowl in a warm place, such as near a radiator or in an oven with the pilot light on. Ferment until batter has doubled in volume; this can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. After batter has doubled, stir it with a wooden spoon to release the gases and allow it to double in size once more, an additional 8 to 24 hours. Once fermented, the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or frozen for 3 months.
To Ferment the Batter With an Immersion Circulator: Set up a water bath with an immersion circulator and set the circulator to 110°F (43°C). Transfer batter to one or more glass jars, metal bain-maries, or metal hotel pans, filling each up no more than 1/3 full to give the batter room to rise (the number of containers you'll need will depend on their size). Lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in water bath. Allow batter to ferment until doubled in size, about 6 hours. (The time the batter takes to ferment can vary depending on the vessel it is fermenting in and the amount of batter in each vessel, so let 6 hours be a rough guide.) Once it has doubled, remove from bath and stir batter with a wooden spoon to release the gases. Cover and return to bath to double in size once more, about 6 hours longer. Once fermented, the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or frozen for 3 months.
To Ferment the Batter With a Multi-Cooker (Such as an Instant Pot): Fill the insert of your multi-cooker 1/3 of the way full with batter. Cover and select the yogurt setting for 6 hours. After the yogurt cycle is complete, the batter should have doubled in size. Uncover multi-cooker and stir batter to release the built-up gases. Repeat another cycle of the yogurt setting to allow the batter to double in size once more. Once fermented, the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or frozen for 3 months.
Cooking the Dosa: Preheat a 10-inch cast iron griddle over medium heat. (If your griddle is well seasoned, then no cooking oil will be necessary; if it's not, add 1 teaspoon/5ml neutral oil to the griddle once it's preheated.) Using a 1/4-cup measure or 2-ounce ladle, pour batter onto center of griddle. Using the bottom of the measuring cup or ladle, spread batter, using circular motions, until it thinly covers the entire griddle bottom. Cook until the surface of the dosa is just set, about 1 minute. Brush or drizzle with 1 tablespoon (15ml) melted ghee. Continue cooking until bottom of dosa is golden brown and edges are crisp, about 4 minutes longer. Serve right away. Repeat with remaining batter until all dosa are cooked.
For an extra-crispy dosa, substitute some or all of the long-grain rice with parboiled rice.