What’s Cooking? Dosas

Rashmi and Kabir Sharma eating Dosas in their apartment just north of Delhi. | Photo by Mary Stucky
Rashmi and Kabir Sharma eating Dosas in their apartment just north of Delhi. | Photo by Mary Stucky

This piece was written by Mary Stucky, founder of Round Earth Media, before the Next Generation Journalism model was established. To read more about the model, visit the main site here.

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Originally broadcast on The World on May 3, 2009See Original Version.

Dosas are a a sort of thin crepe wrapped around a filling — often potatoes — as popular in India as pancakes here. Savory. Crispy. Eaten all day long. Making the perfect dosa starts days before it’s eaten.

The following is a transcript of Mary Stucky’s radio report. To listen to this broadcast, please click on the play button above.

Mary Stucky: Rashmi Sharma and her husband Kabir are doctors — they live in an apartment above their clinic, just north of Delhi and they come upstairs to have lunch together nearly every day. On this day Rashmi is cooking dosa – the thin Indian pancakes with a savory filling. She began the process several days ago. It starts with black lentils that are shelled revealing the white kernel beneath the skin.

Rashmi Sharma: “We soak this white lentil one part of this and three parts of rice. There are Fenugreek seeds also we put one teaspoon in I want to show you that also. This is the Fenugreek. One teaspoon Fenugreek tastes a bit like burnt sugar. This has special flavor which you will enjoy when you eat the dosa.”

Mary Stucky: Rashmi covers the mixture with water and leaves it to sit overnight. And in the morning….

Mary Stucky: “So you’re grinding the soaked rice and lentil together with a little water.”

Rahsmi Sharma: “Yes a little water and it becomes a paste to make a pouring consistency like this.”

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Mary Stucky: Rashmi sets this batter aside in a warm dark spot for at least day, sometimes two. After it’s fermented she stirs the batter. And then readies a hot skillet with a little oil or ghee which is clarified butter.

Rahsmi Sharma: “So I can spread the dosa batter on it. On a flat skillet. Very thin.”

Mary Stucky: “This looks tricky to me.”

Rashmi Sharma: “It is tricky, even for people in India it’s tricky.”

Mary Stucky: That’s because the dosa is so thin it can break apart when it’s lifted from the pan.

Mary Stucky: “Tell me what you have waiting in the skillet next to it.”

Rashmi Sharma: “This is onion and potatoes with some green chilies and coriander, that’s it. We boil the potatoes, peal and cut and fry first onion and put the spices and salt and potatoes. It’s almost coming up.”

Mary Stucky: “This dosa kind of pops up from the pan.”

Rashmi Sharma: “Yes if the technique is good and if it is not proper then it’s going to be messy.”

Mary Stucky: “This is very impressive.”

Rashmi Sharma: “The main thing is it has to be fermented for the proper period of time and the ratio should be proper.”

Mary Stucky: Rashmi spreads the potato filling on the dosa and rolls it up.

Rashmi Sharma: “Now you taste it and tell me how is it. Come. Sit.”

Mary Stucky: Rashmi’s husband Kabir joins us for lunch.

Mary Stucky: “So we can think about millions of Indians with us right now eating their lunch of dosa.”

Kabir Sharma: “Absolutely. Dosa is very popular as a meal as a snack as everything.”

Mary Stucky: “Mmm, isn’t this great. These are good.. Very crispy. In the south you were telling me sometimes the dosa is six feet long.”

Rashmi Sharma: “They have 4 or 5 burners and a very long platter, like they do it on some festival to get popularity that they have made a six foot dosa and it comes on the television and they are excited about that. They enjoy it.”

Mary Stucky: “In the United States we’re rushing around eating fast food but in India you’re taking time.”

Rashmi Sharma: “So it is time consuming, we don’t open the tin and mix this and that. No. This is the type of love and affection we have for each other.”

Mary Stucky: With that she heads back into the kitchen to make another batch of fresh crispy dosas.

Mary Stucky: “Rashmi, I think I’m catching on to something. Is it true the dosa cook can never sit down?”

Rahsmi Sharma: “Yes, Exactly, I can’t sit down with you. It gets soggy. The dosa cook is stuck in kitchen cooking. Exactly like me and you can very well see. (She laughs.)