Here comes, the Dosa!!
A healthy man(Ok, woman!) needs
a healthy breakfast - declare the dieticians, perhaps because our digestive
system is at its peak in the mornings. But then what to have for breakfast? 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 !
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!
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!!
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 sautéing 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!).