It’s a multi-billion dollar industry in India, not to mention the rest of the world. It is breakfast, lunch, dinner, fast food and health food, all in one. The dosa is, well, the dosa.
The idli isn’t really Indian in origin, but the dosa is totally desi. Dosa making goes all the way back to 600 AD, somewhere in south India.
The masala dosa on the other hand, was invented in the 1960’s, at Woodlands Hotel, Udupi, by Kadandale Krishna Bhat. Potato curry was usually served separately with plain dosas. During a potato crisis in the 1960’s, Krishna Bhat served dosas with a layer of pureed potato curry applied inside the dosa, to save on potatoes. Thus was born the masala dosa.
In its classical form, the dosa is made with parboiled rice and urad dal (black gram), ground together in a ratio of 3:1, and fermented overnight. As with the idli, the process of fermentation increases the dosa’s nutritive value, making it a super-food. There are several dosa versions without rice, like the ragi dosa, adai, pessaratu (made from moong dal), wheat dosa, cabbage dosa, and what not.
The traditional dosa is a powerhouse of nutrition. The normal dosa has about 80 calories only. It has significant amounts of vitamin B, carbohydrates, protein and almost no fat (provided it is not fried in ghee). Instant dosa mixes are simply not as good. And hotel dosas are generally bad for you. Instead, make them at home, with parboiled rice and urad dal. Add some home-made potato curry, or better yet, add a lightly spiced paneer or soya curry, and you have one terrific low-cal, high-protein meal.
There are almost as many dosa variants as there are cooks in India. Onion dosa, banana uttappa, pineapple uttappam, set dosa, benne dosa, neer dosa, and some weird ones like Amitabh dosa (six feet long. I’ve eaten one such), Punjabi dosa, and Schezuan dosa and chop suey dosa (of all the things!).
My personal favorite: Kheema dosa – traditional dosa stuffed with chicken mince. Superb stuff. (My mom would be scandalised!).
Cheers … Srini.