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What Is a Dosa?

Dosa is offered in many Indian restaurants.
Dosas are often served with coconut chutney.
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  • Written By: Dorothy Bland
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2014
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A dosa is a crispy fermented flatbread that resembles a French crepe or pancake in appearance. Often pronounced or spelled as dosay or dosai, dosas have been a staple item in south Indian cuisine for centuries and are popular throughout all of India. The savory pancake is eaten for breakfast, dinner, or even as a snack item. Dosas are usually considered appropriate for vegetarians and individuals with wheat allergies or gluten intolerance. They may also appeal to the health conscious, as they are usually high in carbohydrates and low in calories and fat.

Black gram, a type of lentil-like bean grown in southern Asia, and rice boiled in its own husk (parboiled rice) are generally the main ingredients in a traditional dosa. Both ingredients are washed and then allowed to soak in water for several hours or overnight. After being drained, the ingredients are finely ground. Water is added to form a smooth paste, and salt can be included for flavoring. To allow the batter to ferment, it is covered and allowed to sit at room temperature overnight.

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To cook, a small amount of the batter is ladled onto a preheated electric tawa, a flat pan that is used in Indian cooking. A crepe maker or griddle can also be used. Although dosas are usually cooked on a non-stick surface, a little oil or clarified butter is typically added to the pan to create the crispy texture desired. Starting at the center, the batter is quickly smoothed out in a circular motion to form a thin crepe, and a small amount of oil might be spread over the top. The pancake is then allowed to fry until the side in contact with the pan turns a golden brown.

Due to its paper-thin texture, the fermented crepe is usually only cooked on one side; however, it may also be flipped over and cooked on the other side for a little longer. Once cooked, the dosa is folded in half or rolled to serve. It is usually stuffed with savory ingredients such as potatoes, mixed vegetables, or meats such as chicken. Side dishes such as lentils, coconut chutney, or vegetable curry will usually accompany the dosa.

Indian restaurants selling dosas can be found in many large cities around the world, and gourmet restaurants that focus only on offering the dosa may also be available. Although these restaurants usually offer the main type made with black gram and parboiled rice, other popular variations are also commonly available. One popular variation is muttai dosa, which adds eggs to the regular batter. Variations using semolina flour, brown rice, and wheat flour can also be found.

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