Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday Morning Pancake Breakfast, South Indian Style

The Maharajah & I were having a convo with the in-laws regarding these three brothers who own push carts in the Wall Street area. How each brother takes a three month turn at manning the push cart. They sell kebabs and such. Each day they take in roughly $10K. We looked at each other, and I came up with an idea of creating a business called "Chop-teengla?" (In Brahmin style Tamilian, it means, "Have you eaten?") Pushcarts selling dosai and pre-packed tiffins for all of the south Indian IT guys in the downtown area... I'm sitting on a gold mine...

For those not in the know...

Dosa or "dosai" are quintessentially south Indian. Dosai are crisp, delicate crepes made from pooni rice (converted or cooked rice) and urad dal (a white lentilly thing), which have been soaked and hopefully "fermented" overnight.

They can be stuffed with a spicy potato mixture to then be called "Masala Dosa" (spicy dosa) or they can be served plain, which would then be referred to as "Sada Dosa" (plain or ordinary dosa). Either case, they are fabulous.

Basic Dosa Batter:

1 Cup (raw) urad dal (split or whole, doesn't matter)
2 Cups (raw) pooni (or Uncle Ben's) rice

Rinse and drain well. Cover with two times the amount of warm water (3 cups dal/rice = 6 cups water). Set out overnight in a warm place.

Drain well. In a food processor grind until the texture of fine cooked, creamy grits, scraping down the sides twice in the process. Put in a large bowl and set aside until ready to make dosa. (At this point the texture is fluffy and thick like canned cake icing, and perfect texture for idlies--however, this needs to be thinned out for dosa.)

Basic Aloo Masala (Spicy potato mixture for inside dosa):

2 Large potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cubed
1 Teaspoon turmeric, ground
1 Teaspoon coriander, ground
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne
1/2 Teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix spices together. After boiling, peeling and cubing potatoes, toss to coat. Set aside until ready to cook aloo masala.

In a large skillet on medium heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or ghee if you have it), and toss in this masala mixture:

1 Teaspoon mustard seed (I use black)
1 Teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 Whole, dry chile pepper, crushed
1 Tablespoon split moong dal
1 Tablespoon split channa or yellow peas (dry)
Optional: 2 Tablespoons cashews, chopped
1/8 Teaspoon "Hing," aka asafatoeida

Once the seeds begin to splutter and pop in the oil, add:

1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, cut into match sticks

And cook until the onion is somewhat translucent and garlic gives off its fragrance. Add 4 more tablespoons of vegetable oil, and toss the spiced potatoes to the masala, tossing to coat, and cooking until potatoes start to brown. Set aside.

You're now ready to make the dosas.

Getting back to the batter...

If you are in a cool climate, and the batter hasn't fermented and bubbled (think: sour dough starter), add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and a squirt of lemon juice. This ought to make the batter fluffy. Add as much water as it takes to make a thinned out pancake batter. Not too watery, not too thick. Those familiar... we're shooting for the same consistency as you would make french styled crepes.

In a hot pan (medium high), add a tablespoon oil and about 1/2 cup batter, taking the back of a big spoon, smooth out batter as thin as it will go without splitting or making holes. Cook until bottom is golden and crispy.

This is sada dosa.

For masala dosa, spread out the batter as thin as it will go without splitting or making holes, and let the bubbles turn dry, then add a spoonful of the spiced potato mixture down the center of pancake. When ready to serve, fold dosa over itself. Some prefer "omlette style," flip one side up then the other. And others prefer the french crepe style (fold in half, then half again). I don't think the technique matters all that much, provided the dosa are crisp, and if they are masala dosa, they are filled. But most of all... they are DELICIOUS.

Dosai should be crisp without being brittle, and should fold with ease without breaking. They are very delicate and don't tolerate much handling.

Dosai can be served with coconut chutney, sambar, or molagapodi. Traditionally if you have masala dosa, you have it with coconut chutney or sambar. Sada dosa can be eaten with molagapodi.

Coconut Chutney:

1/2 Cup coconut powder or grated fresh coconut
1/2 Cup plain yogurt
1 Handful cilantro stems/leaves
1 Dry chile
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seed toasted in 1/2 teaspoon oil

Grind everything except mustard seed until well blended. Add mustard seed at end and stir to mix.

Quick Molagapodi (aka Gunpowder)
(which is a misnomer, as this isn't JUST chile powder... molagapodi literally means chile powder)

This is my take on a podi recipe:

In a dry skillet, toast over medium heat, ensuring not to burn:

1/2 Cup Split yellow peas, dry
1/2 Cup Urad dal, dry
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon white poppy seeds

Remove and place in grinder, and grind to a medium coarse grind (somewhere between sand and couscous).

In a skillet place 1 tablespoon of oil and these items:

8-10 Curry leaf
2-5 Dry chiles
1/8 Teaspoon hing/asafatoeida
Optional: put in 2 cloves of garlic sliced

Cook until curry leaf sizzle. Add to grinder, and grind with everything else to a sandy coarse consistency. Place in a big bowl and add two teaspoons salt. Place in storage container.

Can be served with sada dosa, rice, idlies etc. Ratio is 1 spoon of podi to one spoon of gingelly (sesame seed oil).

Store in an airtight container.

Now for those adventurous... SAMBAR.

This is not for the daunted. This IS a south Indian staple. And unlike things like curd rice, sambar has a complex flavor palate. Salty. Tangy. Spicy.

Sambar is an interesting device. It can be served on top of rice. It can be served with fried vadas or steamed idlies floating in it. Dosas can be dipped in it. And unwitting Americans might even eat it like a spicy soup.

Maven's 3 Vingayam Sambar

1 Cup dry toor, rinsed
4 Cups water
1 Teaspoon turmeric

Boil until toor is cooked and soft. Skim any foam off top. Add:

1 Teaspoon tamarind paste
1 Chopped tomato
2 Tablespoons sambar powder (MTR or 777 is good)

In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons oil, and over medium heat, toast:

1 Teaspoon mustard seed
1 Teaspoon cumin seed
2 Dry chiles, broken up
2 Tablespoons ground coconut
1 Teaspoon split moong dal
1/8 Teaspoon asafatoeida
8-10 Curry leaves ripped up

When seeds start to splutter and pop, add:

1 shallot, diced, 1 small onion, diced, and 6 pearl onions peeled and cut in half; and 1 large potato peeled and diced small. Cook until potatoes and onions start to turn golden brown. Add to dal/tomato/sambar powder broth. Bring to a full boil then drop temperature to a simmer until potatoes are soft. Check for saltiness and tang. It should be well salted, but not excessively, and tangy without being bitter. This is up to each person's taste. After 30 minutes, it should be done. Serve garnished with plenty of cilantro leaves.

No comments: