Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Masala Dosa, Sambar, and Chutney

I still remember when I got married and came to this country, one of the first gifts I got was a blender.  A few good friends of ours –all grad students, gave it to me and said, now make dosas for us.  I will never forget those days.  Those guys were my scapegoats.  They would land up almost every weekend and eat whatever I put in front of them.  Sorry guys!

I have come a long way from those days, and haven’t used a blender to make idli/dosa batter for over 15 years.

I had a lot of batter left over from making idlis for a friend on Sunday.  So was thinking of making dosas for dinner with that.  I was really excited about making dosas yesterday because of a new addition to my kitchen.  I got a brand new 14” cast iron pan!  Amazon is selling it as a pizza pan, but to me, it looks perfect for paper roasts.  My younger son can’t understand why I’m so excited about a pan – but hey – to each his own.

Anyway, I asked him if he wants plain dosa or masala – and of course, he picked masala dosa.  He will only eat idlis or dosas if there is sambar to go with them. He won’t eat it with chutney or molagai podi (gun powder). 

He took most of the pictures for this post.

When I am making batter and it is not for a party, I use the same proportions for both idlis and dosas.  It is pretty straight forward and comes out well every time.  I know there are as many recipes for batter as there are South Indian households.  So here is one more to add to your collection.

Idli/Dosa Batter:

Here's what you need:
  • 2 cups raw rice (any raw rice is fine – I use Sona Masoori for my everyday cooking and that is what I used for this)
  • 2 cups idli ric
  • 1 cup whole, skinned urad dal
  • ½ tsp. methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • salt to taste

Here's how I make it:

  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water.
  2. Wash the dal and methi seeds also in several changes of water.
  3. Soak them separately for at least 4 hours.
  4. I use my Ultra Pride wet grinder to make my batter.  Add a little bit of water to the grinder and start it.  Add the urad dal with methi seeds.  Grind it to a smooth, fluffy paste.  You may need to add water if the batter is getting too thick.
  5. You will also need to keep scraping the batter from the sides of the grinder, to make sure that it is all uniformly smooth.
  6. Remove the urad dal paste into a big bowl.
  7. Now add more water to the grinder and add the rice to it.  The rice gets done much faster than the dal.  When you have a mixture that is not totally smooth, but is not coarse either, stop the grinder.
  8. Remove this and add it to the urad dal batter.
  9. Add a tiny bit of water to the grinder to clean the sides and pour this also into the bowl.
  10. Add salt to the batter and mix it well with your hand.  My mom says that the heat from your hand starts the fermentation process.
  11. Cover the batter and leave it in a warm place overnight.  I leave it in my oven (no heat or light)

Your idli/dosa batter will be nice and bubbly and ready for you in the morning.

To make the dosas:

  1. Heat a tawa or a griddle.   
  2. Pour a ladle full of batter onto the heated tawa and spread it out as thin as you can.  If you don't like crispy dosas, you can make it slightly thicker.
  3. Drizzle oil around the dosa as will as a little bit in the center. 
  4. Wait for a few minutes – maybe about 2 - 3 minutes and then carefully flip it over.
  5. Cook on both sides till the dosa is crispy.

Simple sambar with arachuvittufied taste (in other words, tastes like a more time consuming sambar)

Here's what you need:
  • ½ cup toor dal
  • lime sized ball tamarind
  • 1 ½ tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ½ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 red chili, broken into pieces
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • 2 tsp. sambar powder
  • salt to taste
  • few curry leaves
  • 2 – 3 tsp. of fresh masala powder (recipe below)
Fresh masala powder (Radha’s mother-in-law’s recipe)
  • 3 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. channa dal
  • ¼ tsp. methi seeds
  • ½ tsp. black pepper corns
  • 4 red chilis
  • 2 Tbsp. dry coconut (I don’t buy this and so don’t add this to the powder, but it was in the original recipe)
Dry roast all the ingredients.  Powder and store in an airtight container.

This powder is Radha’s mother-in-law’s secret to awesome sambar.  She adds a little bit of this after the sambar is done.  It adds great flavor and aroma to the sambar.

Here is how I make this quick sambar:

  1. Pressure cook the toor dal until soft. 
  2. Soak the tamarind in a cup of so of water for ½ hour.  Squeeze out the pulp from the tamarind and save the liquid.
  3. Heat oil in a pan or kadai, add mustard seeds, methi, hing, and red chilis.
  4. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the onions and fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and fry till it gets mushy.
  6. Add the sambar powder and mix well.
  7. Add the extracted tamarind juice and salt.
  8. Bring to a boil and let it simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes till the raw tamarind smell goes.
  9. Add some water to the toor dal and mash it up well.  Add this to the sambar
  10. Let the mixture simmer on medium heat for five more minutes
  11. Turn off the heat. Garnish with curry leaves and the freshly ground powder.

Potato Masala:

Here's what you need:
  • 2 – 3 large potatoes
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp split urad dal
  • ½ tsp. channa dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 1” piece ginger, minced
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon

To make the potato masala:
  1. Boil potatoes in a pressure cooker.  Peel and mash them. Set aside
  2. Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal, channa dal, and hing
  3. When the mustard seeds sputter, add onions, green chilies, ginger, and curry leaves.
  4. Sauté on medium heat till the onions turn translucent
  5. Add the potatoes, turmeric powder, and salt.
  6. Cook for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and add the cilantro and lemon juice.
  7. Mix well.

Coconut Chutney

Here's what you need:
  • 1 cup frozen or freshly grated coconut
  • ½ cup pottu kadalai (my Indian store sells it under the name dalia)
  • 4 – 6 green chilies
  • ½” piece ginger
  • a few sprigs of cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing
To make the chutney:
  1. Grind the coconut, pottu kadalai, green chilies, cilantro, ginger, and salt with a little bit of water into a smooth paste.
  2. Heat oil in a small pan.  Add mustard seeds, urad dal, and hing.
  3. Remove from heat when the mustard seeds start sputtering and pour this over the chutney.

Note: you can add a clove of garlic too.  I made this for people who don’t eat garlic – so did not add it.


  1. what is idli rice?any other option

    1. We get idli rice in the Indian stores. You can use parboiled rice instead.

  2. What type of pottu kanakas do you use for this recipe, is it roasted or soaked in water?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...