There comes a time in every cookbook lover’s life, when overflowing shelves demand the culling of books to, well, make room for more books! Heading for the garage with a towering, swaying stack, I didn’t see the remote-control truck in my path….
Hearing the crash, my daughter rushed in, helping with the clean-up. We were down to the last book, when she paused just before tucking it in under my chin. “No, no, no”, I said, “don’t be like me. Let it go. Put it in the pile!”
“Mom, I can understand you giving away the church cookbooks – they’re filled with Jello-O and boxed cake recipes – but why are you giving this away?”, she asked, holding “The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Baking”, open for me to see a full-color photograph of red lentil dosas.
A treasure, hidden away! What a smart 13-year-old!
We’ve always loved East Indian food, a cuisine richer in cream, butter and yogurt, than French food. Julia Child would surely have cooked her way through India, had she had another lifetime!
Most people are familiar with naan, a pita-style East Indian bread, always served in East Indian restaurants. Naan is good! But we prefer dosa, a crispy, savory crepe-like flatbread often described as a “pancake”.
Dosa (pronounced dosai and dosay) are sourdough flatbreads with a tender texture, strong, but not like the elasticity of a properly-made flour tortilla; thin, but not as delicate as a crepe; and they’re not nearly as thick or cake-textured as a American-style pancake or flapjack.
They’re extremely easy to make, requiring little more than soaking whole lentils and rice for 8 hours, then fermenting the ground mixture in a Pickl-It for about 12-hours. The problem is most modern dosa recipes skip the fermenting part, instead substituting backing soda, or heaven-forbid, adding self-rising flour! Dosa make a truly wonderful gluten-free food, so that alone makes it a travesty to add flour. Even if gluten isn’t an issue, traditionally-made dosa provide a good dose of healthy legumes – the lentils – into the diet, which are lacking in most modern diets.
Before I made my own dosa batter from “scratch”, I bought an already-made batter from a local East Indian grocery store. Made by a 75-year-old gentleman who uses his family recipe which, “…goes back many, many, many generation, I don’t know how many, but this is real, real, real”, it was a good way for me to speed up my learning curve on correct battery-density and the final dosa texture. Every once in awhile, it’s good to borrow someone’s life-experiences!
Just as he instructed, before frying the dosa, I let it sit on the counter until it warmed up to the room temperature. This is common practice for not only sourdough flatbread recipes, but also when making popovers, souffle or oven-style pancakes where steam provides the “lift”.
Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner
Dosa is typically a breakfast food, but we prefer to eat them for lunch and dinner with our sauce-rich East Indian entrees – usually lamb & spinach, with its heavenly-scented yogurt, cardamom, ginger and garlic sauce.
Dosa, like the Ethiopian fermented flatbread, injera – made from ivory teff, an impossibly tiny grain – is used as an eating tool. Rip off a chunk, then scoop or wipe up every last drop of the delicious sauces, or dip pieces of bread into condiments, capturing bites of chutney and yogurt.
Because Dosa batter is lacto-fermented, there’s a nice “bite”, a sourbread back-of-the-throat “tang” that comes from lactic-acid formed during fermentation of the grains. The “tang“is from the lactic-acid created during fermentation, and like other acids, “cuts” the fat molecules in rich foods, so they don’t coat the tongue, restricting the other flavors.
Did you know...
In South East Asia, tea leaves (Camellia sinensis) are fermented to make a sour-tasting snack. In Myanmar the product is called leppet-so, in Thailand it is known as miang. In Burma, slivered green tea leaves are fermented to make a salad.
I'm heading out of town and will feel confident that my ferment will be fine sitting on my counter. I wouldn't feel that way if I didn't have the Pickl-it jar. I'm looking forward to getting more!