Food is a funny thing, essential to survival yet very rarely consume it in a fashion that is purely for fuel. It’s become so much more than fuel. Through food we can invoke memories and people, certain foods can remind us of special travel adventure and places.
For example, despite not lining up to have Durian again anytime soon, the shear mention of it on TV can vividly take me back to Vietnam and a day tour around Nah Trang where with the help of a tour guide I managed to get my hands on the flesh of an entire Durian, which subsequently became his property after I realised I didn’t care for it. Food can also link people to their cultures and counties, and act as a way for outsiders to understand more about them. Particularly when different cultures/counties can have such different diets with flavours, ingredients, processes that can be so foreign to the food you may have grown up with.
This intro leads me towards how I came to really experiencing Indian cuisine in a whole different light than your regular Butter chicken picked up at the local take-away, not through a book or a cooking show but through people and their connection to their food. My wife is half Indian, within our courtship sooner or later she was bound to cook for me and when she did my understanding of Indian food was changed greatly, and later as her extended family showed me their special dishes my education just continued.
Prior to meeting this, in my mind, Indian curries took a long time to make and from a share timing factor was better left to a meal out. They were almost always creamy, something to be had with Naan. However, I quickly learnt that my mother in law would whip up all manner of curries with a very short time period, and they needn’t be creamy.
These Curries were the first steps down the rabbit hole, soon the naan was replaced a chapatti, I’d never heard of it before but it was awesome and it could be made very quickly and fried off in home pan with amazing results no need for a tandoor to be installed
Condiments soon came into the picture while the local Indian did normally have the option of a chutney, I’d never tried them because they had seemed pricy to me, and I didn’t really understand what part they were playing. While the price at the takeaway is steep, they definitely have a part to play and I’d strongly suggest going to the local Indian supermarket and picking up a mango pickle, or lemon pickle so you can add a little pickle/chutney to the side of the curry it can really lift it, also you can use them add a kick of spice to a mild curry.
All these findings as they happened, increased my appreciation of Indian cooking.
But finding Dosa was something else… it first happened while staying at my in-laws one morning. I woke to find my mother in-law cooking breakfast but she wasn’t on the eggs and bacon, Dosa, savoury pancake, was being whipped up. Made from fermented rice and urad dal, a process that takes over a day, and imparts little bit of magic to the final product. The simple rice and dal it started out as turns into a soft and crisp hot breakfast. It should be noted the wait it definitely worth it.
To start First soaking the Rice and Lentils in water over night, then blending the mix into a thin paste. Note for beginners an Indian blending isn’t like you regular western blending, and one blender has died in the creating of Dosa at my house. Which means I suggest if you want to make this amazing item your best to invest in a blender that can handle the jandal of the rice/lentil mix in this case.
The mix is then left for more time so it can start to ferment. This fermentation gives the Dosa a slightly sour note to the pancake. If the mix is a little grainy at this point give it another blend before its ready to cook.
Warm a frying pan with some oil or if you can get it a Dosa pan, then using a ladle add some mix to the oiled pan. Spread the mix around, if you make small gaps don’t worry too much they will turn into crunchy, crispy bits once cooked.
While cooking you can put a little oil on the edge of the pancake, which will help the edges crisp up.
To serve add a couple of pickles or chutneys, particularly coconut chutney, which is also a revelation, but that will need to wait for another post.
Hopefully, this sparked your interest to try some new Indian cuisine. If you feel like trying Dosa check out the recipe for detailed instructions, or if you want to try it but without the lead time and broken blenders you can buy pre-mixers, which aren’t quite as good but they are a more accessible way to try Dosa.
If you get a chance to experience other cultures cuisine through someone for who the food holds meaning, grab the opportunity it’s an awesome way to taste something special and learn from them so you can test things yourself.
If there is a particularly food you think I should try and/or experiment in making let me know.