A Dosa is a wholesome food! A healthy man(Ok,ok, woman!) needs a healthy breakfast – declare the dieticians, perhaps because our digestive system is at its peak in the mornings. But then what is the fare for the breakfast? This is a very baffling question! The trendies and the dandies amongst us may settle for corn flakes soaked in milk. But it looks synthetic and devoid of life to me. It also symbolises laziness. Breakfast (at least) must be eaten hot-hot, although Mr.V.Gangadhar of “slice of life”, with his native wisdom has canvassed so eloquently for the cold rice with “Veppilai Katti”. I hope he has not so far dealt with dosas in one of his ‘slices’. Anyway dosas surely deserve a second look ! Oh! What an aroma ! I will give half my kingdom for a mildly steaming, pimpled, gold complexioned wafer-roll-dosa (Dosai for Tamilians) on any day of the week. A dosa is the key-note of any tiffin-menu. Iddlies may come, bondas may go but dosas are here for ever !
The Role of Dosa!
It is one of those occupational hazards where one is forced to throw parties on any pretext – even as silly as having a hair-cut (a long overdue one at that!). Sometimes vital information on any big purchase or children scoring first rank etc. is withheld, but intelligence is always gathered through some fifth columnists and a “Treat” is forced upon the sucker(after a bit of haggling, of course!). Puritans, as we are, we do not go high, but merely settle down to “SKCs”(acronym for Sweet,Karam (Savories) and Coffee). Karam is the real spread, performing the satiating role, while the sweet adds respectability to the occasion. The coffee merely concludes the event. The Karam usually consists of a light snack – vada, bajji, bonda etc. immediately followed by the inevitable dosa. It has several incarnations: The Sada Dosa, the plain vanilla one is for the ordinary, Masal dosa is for the choosy one. But in Karnataka, a dosa is a Masala Dosa with a thick layer of butter glistening on it!
The Variety Fare!
There is a class distinction on dosas as also with their predators. There are plebeian sada dosas and patrician special dosas. But the regal one is the “special-Onion-Rava – Dosai”. My wife always suggests to me to have Rava Dosas in hotels since they are not usually made at home. A restaurant in Madras used to flaunt a 8-foot-long dosa with a challenge to eat it whole and win a prize ! Some eating joints conduct dosa festivals with mind boggling variety of this delicacy for the adventurous ones. The broad based term dosa embraces its close cousin ‘Oothappam’ also. Some pessimists frown at Oothappam with disapproval, with the misconception that Oothappams are made from stale and sour dough. But don’t believe them – Oothappam has really carved a niche among gourmets ! Onion Oothappam da jawab nahin !
I ate delicious Dosa’s!There is an old mess at Chennai (a k a Madras) wherein the waiter quizzes your preference – whether you will have a “Gingely – oil – dosa ” or “Ghee Dosa”. If you are prompted by your snobbish trait and order for a Ghee dosa with a stiff upper lip, you are missing something!. Dosai and Gingely oil are made for each other. Connoisseurs always prefer this combination over the ghee variety.
Dosa’s don’t go alone!
We are making to the restraunt to eat delicious Dosa’s! Now, for the accompaniments. Though staple ones like chutney and sambar come in handy, with a piece pinched off and given a holy dip in a catorie of sambar before being transported to the palate, it is the connoisseurs’ considered view that dosas always go better with ‘Milagai Podi’ – the treated chilli-powder with a liberal puddle of gingely oil. The veterans of my village used to devour a pile of several dosas ( there is a taboo against counting them!) for ‘palakaram’ meaning a light snack (sic). The Milagai Podi is laid on top of the pile with a liberal flow of oil. The juice percolates down the layers through the honey-combs duly entering into the requisite chemical reactions. The result is a virtual trinity of dosa, podi and oil in a complex molecular linkage (or a spiritual unison!) that will make any mouth water !
Dosa’s help Research!!
There is nothing to equal Dosa!A friend of mine did a bilingual research and found out that the dosa derived its name from the two “c-h-o-I-n-g” sounds that it makes on the pan. “Do” (Hindi) – “choing” – become “Do-sai” and ‘dosa’ in Hindi since the last syllable is always chopped off in that language.
There are some innovative ones who continually experiment with different ways of dosa-making. One of them is the “Kal-dosai” made by sautÃ©ing the unfermented dough on one side only with a hood placed over it for the steaming effect on top. A few prefer this Katcha variety. My mother tells me that “Kal Dosa” was made with very little oil mainly for taking as packed snacks during long journeys in olden days. It is made a wee bit soft and plump. Take my word, it tastes good!
Dosas have entered high-tech automation nowadays. An entrepreneur has come up with a gadget that makes masal dosas automatically and delivers them as snack rolls. The day is not far off when the shape, size and the stuffing of dosas will be designed by a computer! Then they will be called CAD (Computer-aided-Dosais!).