Who shrunk my dosa?
From topi dosas to dosa chips in a can, the ever-versatile desi pancake just keeps rolling on...
It’s no secret the dosa has been going places for quite a while now. Right from the time that it was given a PR makeover and described as “a rice and lentil pancake served with two kinds of shredded coconut relishes”, South India’s staple dosa, or thosai, has evolved into something rich and strange. It’s no longer a question of “Breakfast or Tiffinies”, where you can order a crisp dosai, masala or plain, and eat it with your fingers, using the dipping sauces, whether sambhar, or two kinds of chutney. Nor even the architectural variations created by energetic karate-style dosa makers hitting their spatulas onto long metallic counters lit by gas flames and curving them into “newspaper dosas” or “topi dosas” or “family dosas” capable of feeding an entire family at one go. There are even Independence Day dosas in tri-colours.
The dosa has crept up the food chain and gone mainstream. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, micromanage it as finger food during cocktails or create a pizza-dosa by smothering it with cheese and jalapeno peppers. In some mega cities that shall remain un-named, they have even packed the dosa into a dinky McDonald’s box as a McDosa burger. For those who have not heard of this latest twist in the dosa batter, a McDosa consists of a regular muffin cut into half and sandwiched with a compact disc of a fried dosa amalgamated with masala potatoes and shredded onions and chillies.
There have also been attempts to automate the dosa-making process by the same methods used by Japanese pancake making chains. In the case of the pancake, pre-filled nozzles drop the required amount of batter onto a hot griddle as you decide what kind, amongst a hundred options you might want as a filling, from blueberries to chocolate mint. An automated metallic arm that looks like a windscreen wiper twirls the batter into neat circles. Another nozzle squirts a smidgeon of oil and depending on which booth you have chosen for a filling, you get it piled onto the perfect pancake.
It’s only a matter of time before dosas also get this multi-option variation. After all, there have been cookbooks that celebrate the value additions that you can make to the dosas in your own kitchen. South Indian food writer Chandra Padmanabhan’s compendium describes a hundred and one ways of making a dosa. It’s not just a question of adding oats or wheat or semolina to the batter and letting it ferment in the old-fashioned way, but juggling the fillings.
Have you heard of the Hamptons’ dosa for instance, with avocado filling? Or tried a banana flambé dosa doused with brandy and set on fire? Or pressed into dosa chips and sold in cans?
No matter in what shape or form, the dosa simply keeps rolling on.