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While South Indians have eaten this go-to breakfast food for thousands of years
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While South Indians have eaten this go-to breakfast food for
thousands of years


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It was time for Sunday breakfast, and I sprinkled a few water droplets onto
a hot griddle to check if they would sizzle. Perfect. Quickly, I poured a ladleful
of pale batter onto the pan’s centre, gently spiralling it outwards.
Then, raising the heat, I added a generous spoonful of ghee (clarified butter)
around the newly formed disc, which soon began to rise slightly and curl at
the edges. Now it was time to flip it and cook the other side.

 

Although the glistening, golden-brown circle might have looked like a French
crepe or a Russian blini, it was neither. It was a dosai, a thin South Indian
pancake made from a fermented batter of soaked rice and black gram,
a 2,000-year-old dish beloved by millions of Indians that can now be found
in almost every part of the planet, from Parry’s Corner in Chennai to Paris’
La Chapelle neighbourhood (also known as “Tamil Town” or “Little Jaffna”).

 

With no time for admiration, I carefully slid a spatula under the hot pancake
and plated it alongside a small heap of idli podi, a spicy lentil-based powder.
After making a slight crater in the heap, I filled it with gingelly (sesame) oil
and mixed them together. Finally, I tore a piece off the crispy dosai, dabbed
it in the mixture and popped it into my mouth, enjoying a pleasant burst
of tart and spicy flavours followed by an earthy aftertaste of sesame.

 

 

This is how millions of South Indians eat this wholesome and satisfying
vegetarian dish every morning, sometimes opting for a side of chutney and
sambhar (a tangy lentil-based broth) over the idli podi. However, over time,
the dosai – also known as thosai, dose or attlu, depending on the Indian
region, and as the anglicised “dosa” around the world – has evolved to
include different ingredients and fillings such as spicy potatoes as in
the globally ubiquitous masala dosa.


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