Red Lentil Dosas (Adai) Made Easy!

Cookbook Stack Photos 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!

Dosa Training

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 Baking

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.

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Red Lentil Rice Soak

Making dosa batter is a simple 3-step process. Follow this txp:permlink id=“179”>Red Lentil Dosa recipe :

Graphic No 1 Soak whole lentils and rice for 8-hours in a Pickl-It
Graphic No 2 Grind the soaked lentils, rice and soaking water, into a smooth batter; I prefer my VitaMix Blender
Graphic No 3 Return the batter to the Pickl-It and ferment for an additional 12-hours

I use the 1.5 liter Pickl-It container from start-to-finish, first soaking the lentils and rice for 8-hours, and then returning the pureed batter to the same vessel. I like the fact the lentils and rice are loaded with rich lactic acid bacteria, and have “inoculated” the interior of the Pickl-It.

  • The Pickl-It 1.5-liter works great for a single, double and even triple batch of the Red Lentil Dosas!
  • The final batter stores up to 7-days, refrigerated, if we don’t eat it all! My 9-year-old has informed me, he could “live on nothing but dosa with every meal!”

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Frying Dosa Photo Tools I Use

  • Cast iron tortilla pan – flat – well-seasoned!
  • Liberal use of grass-fed organic ghee. Love ghee!
  • 1/3-cup stainless steel ladle; not only does it measure out the perfect amount? But you can also use its bottom to gently spread the Dosa batter out in ever-widening circles until your Dosa is 6-8-inch in diameter.
  • The batter stick to the pan surface the minute it touches it. Use the lightest touch and let the batter tell you where it wants to go!
  • I like using a 10-12 inch narrow-width stainless steel spatula. After the Dosa has cooked for 1-minute on the pan, I “work” the spatula under the Dosa, loosening it before flipping.
  • Before flipping, drip 1 tsp of melted ghee (or coconut oil!) across the surface of the dosa. That way, when you flip it raw-side-down, it will already be “greased” and won’t stick to the pan when it is flipped over to cook.
  • Total cooking time for the Dosa? 1 1/2-minutes first side, 1-minute the second; you should have crispy, not cracking, and golden brown, not dark brown surfaces.

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Red Lentil Dosa recipe